Forced to choose between honest and open government on the one hand and the prospect of a winning campaign on the other hand, what professional incumbent politician would not choose the latter? Better to be a live elected rat than a dead unelected lion: Such is the overarching rule in the political barnyard. Another barnyard rule, stated by the propaganda pig in George Orwell in “Animal Farm,” goes like this: In the political barnyard, everyone is equal – but the pigs are MORE equal.
In 2014, Governor Dannel Malloy – present approval rating among voters in Connecticut 24 percent and dipping – hoped to get an edge up during his campaign against Republican Party opponent Tom Foley, who lost by a slender 23,000 votes. But because an earlier General Assembly had reacted properly to the political peculation of former Governor John Rowland, the cash poor Malloy first had to surmount a difficulty.
Largely owing to Mr. Rowland’s arrest and imprisonment on charges of theft of honest services, the General Assembly -- with a curtsy to former Governor Ella Grasso, who had inspired Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation that promised to let sunlight into the dank and sweaty halls of political corruption – had passed ironclad anti-corruption legislation that in the future, so it was hoped, would prevent state contractors from contributing campaign funds to incumbents charged with regulating them.
The anti-corruption law passed by a bi-partisan General Assembly said – don’t do it. And for decades, both Democrats and Republicans in Connecticut, proud to be practicing law-making in a state that took political campaign corruption seriously, listening to the angels of their better natures perched on their right shoulders and whispering in their ears, managed to remain on the right side of their own laws. They didn’t do it. Even the much denigrated former Governor John Rowland – had he been able, emerging from the shadow of a prison, to be re-elected to a high political post, such as had present Mayor of Bridgeport Joe Ganim, a Democratic felon – would not have done it. Imagine, a governor agilely side-stepping a law that had been put in place to prevent prior governors from engaging in corrupt activity -- unheard of, impossible!
Ah, but with God, Connecticut’s Democratic Party and Governor Dannel Malloy, all things are possible.
The Malloy administration stepped around the poo-poo anti-corruption legislation, and in due course a political ad promoting the election of Mr. Malloy appeared. The ad included a tiny fig leaf, a notation indicating polling locations, which opened the door to contributions made by state contractors to lawless governors through a federal pipeline.
Down at the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) fire alarms went off. The SEEC supported a complaint issued by then Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola alleging a violation of Connecticut’s stringent anti-corruption campaign law. Suits were filed, lawyers foamed at the mouth, and the mess ended up in court. In a discovery process, the SEEC demanded that Connecticut’s Democratic Party turn over e-mails relevant to the case. The Malloy administration blanched, grew faint, collapsed to the floor and assumed a fetal position. If you want to see the jellied moral center of a politician collapse, ask to see his e-mails. Democratic Party prospective Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton got the bends when her top secret e-mails began to surface before her presidential campaign, and the lady still gets occasional cramps. Perhaps Mr. Malloy wanted to show the Democratic presidential candidate he most resembles how one may with impunity violate a law and still reap benefits the law was designed to curtail.
The recent political “settlement” concocted between the State Democratic Party and the SEEC will compel the disputants to holster their legal weapons, and e-mails that might have shown Mr. Malloy to be every bit as slick as Mrs. Clinton, whose candidacy for the presidency virtually all incumbent Democratic politicians in Connecticut vigorously support, will never see the light of day. The settlement closes the lid possibly incriminating e-mails, and it only cost the Connecticut Democratic Party $325,000 – a fine not to be taken as an admission of wrongdoing, according to the settlement agreement.
Charles Urso, once lead investigator for the State Elections Enforcement Commission, now retired, has called the settlement “a mockery and a sham.” Investigative reporter for the Courant Jon Lender has followed the case through its tortuous permutations. Reviewing Mr. Lender’s disturbing reports, one grinds one’s teeth and mutters under one's breath – “there oughta be a law.”
“There Oughta Be A Law” was a famous comic strip created by Al Fagaly that ran in newspapers during the 1940s and 50s. In Connecticut, there WAS a law, but it was ash-canned by Connecticut's Democratic Party, the least popular Governor in the United States, and a legal wrecking crew, all of whom belong in a comic strip.