|Blumenthal and Harris|
One has to search long and hard to find any negative news reports on Senator Dick Blumenthal, even in Connecticut's media morgues. Blumenthal recently has hitched his star to President Joseph Biden's presidential juggernaut as a consumer protection chieftain in the U.S. Senate. The two are old friends, and Blumenthal during the past four years has become unfailingly partisan.
Just as a rising tide lifts all the boats, President John Kennedy’s formulation, so a rising Democrat election tide has lifted Blumenthal’s dingy. “Blumenthal heads Senate consumer protection committee, giving him key perch for business oversight” screams the headline in the Hartford Courant. Blumenthal has been down this yellow brick road before.
One of the reasons for tender treatment by Connecticut’s press is that Blumenthal has been, over the years, adept at massaging his state’s media, which often dumped Blumenthal’s press releases into their various formats without the usual, critical cross-examination. In essence, Blumenthal was allowed to write his own press stories, nearly all of them, unsurprisingly, positive. It was George Bernard Shaw who said that the only accurate biography of Napoleon Bonaparte would be one written by his butler. Everyone else during the great man’s rise to power was busily bowing at the throne, and his butler, of course, would have been familiar with the great man’s foibles. Blumenthal, though a millionaire, has no butler.
If Blumenthal had made any mistakes during his two decade stint as Connecticut’s crusading Attorney General, they were carefully buried and stowed away in caskets in the deep, overgrown forest of media accommodation. And, of course, his small-fry victims, many of them driven out of business by Blumenthal’s often tendentious news releases, hadn’t the resources to defend themselves after they had been stretched out on the usual AG rack.
For these reasons, it was refreshing – not to say shocking -- to read, way back in 2010, an exceptional piece in the Connecticut Post, “Blumenthal The ‘A' in AG is for Activist,” that might have been written by Blumenthal’s unassuming butler, if Blumenthal had a butler who had, perhaps inadvertently, turned the tables on his boss. The Post piece was the single notable exception that proved the rule, the rule being that no one in Connecticut’s left of center politics has enemies to the right.
The Post story, after noting that Blumenthal had changed the mission of Connecticut’s AG office, “moving away from the traditional role of state attorney to one of citizens' advocate,” noted in passing three of Blumenthal’s small-fry victims.
One case involved Gina Malapanis of Computer Plus Center, whom Blumenthal accused of “failing to deliver on a state computer contract… She was arrested by state police and charged with 5th degree larceny months after her computers, company records and office safes were seized. Initially, Blumenthal “sought $1.7 million in reimbursement and penalties from Malapanis,” a charge that later was “dismissed after the state offered Malapanis accelerated rehabilitation, which she accepted.”
Using the state’s media to soften his targets, over-charging and then reducing the over-charge were common proceedings in Blumenthal’s AG torcher chamber. However, “Malapanis countersued the state, claiming Blumenthal's actions, including huge liens placed against her business and property, destroyed her company. Six years after Blumenthal sued Malapanis, a jury awarded her $18 million in damages. That award was reduced to $1.8 million a few months ago, and Blumenthal continues to appeal.”
Chris Healy, chairman of the Republican Party at the time, said of Blumenthal that he had “wielded the blunt instrument of his office against an entrepreneur, destroying her business and even trying to get her thrown in jail, on accusations a jury found so unfounded she deserved compensation 61 times the amount she was accused of stealing. No one should entertain the hope that other businesses, from small, startup electronics outfits to Pratt & Whitney, are unaware that a job-destroying, anti-business atmosphere pervades Connecticut, or that it wears the face of Dick Blumenthal."
The Post, in a contrarian mood, noted, “Blumenthal's office, by its own count, participates in 45,000 to 50,000 legal cases a year before federal and state courts. There are some 32,000 cases now pending. Although most of those cases relate to child protection and support issues, a sizable number involve consumer protection.”
And the cases involving consumer protection were not Big Tobacco cases. Many of them were small bore complaints, molehills that Blumenthal through his contacts in the media had blown up into mountains. Both the Post and Connecticut Commentary mentioned other cases here.
George Jepsen followed Blumenthal into the AG’s office. The new AG dismissed more than 200 cases that Blumenthal had for years left frying on his burners. These were people, many of them small business owners whose assets Blumenthal had commandeered so that, driven to the point of bankruptcy, they could not properly defend themselves against Blumenthal’s charges and were forced to pay fines in “settlements” that might have been arranged before Blumenthal had stretched them out on a media rack that destroyed their reputations and their businesses.
Stretching his limbs as the Democrat’s Inspector Javert, Blumenthal is quoted in a recent news report on his new responsibilities as head the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade and Consumer Protection.
“The exciting part of this new responsibility is in fact the breadth of subjects that we can go after,” the old fox said Friday in a telephone interview, licking his chops.
Blumenthal brings to his new responsibilities all the instruments of forced persuasion he had deployed so successfully for 20 years as Connecticut’s consumer protection Attorney General. It will be like watching a young boy with two stomachs raiding a candy store and eating up the profits.