Saturday, June 23, 2018

Blumenthal's Route To Trump’s Heart



The members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation, all Democrats, are not dummies. Savvy professional politicians, they know that the way to President Donald Trump’s heart is through the mouth of Ben Carson, Trump’s U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary.

In a Journal Inquirer news report on June 21,2018, we find four members of the delegation – U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Dick Blumenthal, plus U.S. Representatives Joe Courtney and John Larson – thanking Carson for having taken the time at their urging to visit a house in Connecticut the foundation of which was crumbling because the cement used to make the foundation was contaminated with pyrrhotite, a mineral that causes deterioration when exposed to groundwater.

Outgoing Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman nearly dropped to her knees and begged Trump’s factotum to have a word with the president. As many as 37 towns in Connecticut are affected. At approximately $200,000 a pop to fix the problems, homeowners are in dire straits. Carson expressed great surprise that the insurance companies would not cover such catastrophes and vowed  he would tell the President what he had seen in Connecticut, after which the entire delegation, without missing a beat, resumed their caustic criticism of Trump. Both Blumenthal and Murphy voted against the Carson appointment as HUD Secretary, and Blumenthal sometimes appears to be leading the charge for the President’s impeachment. 

A year earlier, Blumenthal had appeared on Fox News The Real Story with Al Terzi and Jenn Bernstein. The two questioned Blumenthal concerning a change in insurance contracts that permitted insurance companies to decline coverage of crumbling basement foundations in Connecticut homes.

Bernstein noted, “From the way that I understand it, the Insurance Commissioner would have to approve that kind of a change, right, because the legislature doesn’t? And that was a time when this was widely known. I would assume this is concerning, right?”

Blumenthal responded, “Very concerning. And in fact I’ll be blunt, Jenn. I think the insurance industry has to be held accountable here. They changed many of these policies without really notifying the policy holders. And they changed the policy to, in effect, alter the definition of “collapse” – to remove it from being covered by crumbling foundations. They did it very purposefully, because they discovered there was this problem, and they wanted to avoid responsibility. They [the insurance companies] may have avoided legal responsibility. They have not avoided moral responsibility, and I think we need to hold them responsible. That was the reason I personally had a hearing on insurance fraud just about a month ago.”

Then, leaning in towards Blumenthal, Terzi asked, “Ah… you know… one of the things that’s come up in the report for the US Attorney’s Office to investigate, now that the owners have been told [by the Department of Consumer Protection] that they have to go to the FBI… one of the things that turned up is that this goes back as far as 2001. When it was first reported, the Department of Consumer Protection got involved, and eventually over the years even the Attorney General’s Office - and I believe at a time when you were serving as Attorney General. Did any of this ever come to your attention back then?”

Blumenthal responded, “It never came to my attention. I have fought for these home owners from the first day I learned about their plight,” which would have been years after one of the homeowners had reported crumbling foundations to the Department of Consumer Protection in 2001. “News to me” Blumenthal was telling Terzi. When he was Attorney General from 1991 to 2011, Blumenthal worked hand in glove with Connecticut’s Consumer Protection Department. It was common practice for the department to refer consumer complaints to Blumenthal’s office, after which, arming himself with thumbscrews and racks, Blumenthal would encumber the assets of the malefactor and proceed to beggar her or him by bouncing cases through the court system under cover of sovereign immunity.

“In fact,” Blumenthal continued, “I began meeting with the insurance companies” -- well after the Consumer Protection Department declined, according to Blumenthal, to refer its complaint on crumbling foundations to the Attorney General’s Office – “and some of them have come to the table. Travelers, for example, stepped up, but most of the others have not. I hope they will voluntarily support the home owners, because they do have a moral responsibility, and if they want their credibility to be intact, they need to do the right thing here. And I’m going to continue to fight for these home owners. The Department of Consumer Protection 18 years ago may have been informed about it, but they never made a referral to the Attorney General’s Office. There’s no written record, at least in the Attorney General’s Office, about any complaints.”

The insurance companies had no “legal responsibility” to cover the crumbling foundations because Connecticut’s Insurance Commissioner had accepted as reasonable and necessary a change in contract language that assigned legal responsibility only in cases of sudden catastrophe.

At best, Blumenthal’s response to Terzi’s question – “It never came to my attention” – is an evasion. Under questioning from a Journal Inquirer reporter, Blumenthal acknowledged that “at least one homeowner met with his staff." Blumenthal is quoted in the report: “The Department of Consumer Protection never investigated as we requested that they do (emphasis mine).” He said, “We presented it to the Department of Consumer Protection, and there was no follow-up.”

“I have no recollection of the complaint back then,” Blumenthal told the reporter. In response to accusations that he met with insurance companies prior to foundation-related language being removed from policies, Blumenthal said, ‘that’s completely untrue.’”

“I have no recollection of” is an evasion often used in sworn testimony by respondents who wish to avoid annoying legal repercussions. It's unlikely that Blumenthal was unaware that his office had presented to the DCP a request to investigate a crumbling foundation complaint. Surely, if insurance companies have a “moral responsibility” to cover failing foundations, the same moral stricture would apply to the evasive Blumenthal -- if he wants his "credibility to remain intact." During Blumenthal’s two decade, godlike reign as Attorney General, not a feather fell from important cases under the purview of his office that did not catch his attention. 



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