It has been interesting for me to read various newspaper articles and editorials about the arrest of Chris Donovan's former finance director. Following the issue closely has revealed just how poorly Connecticut's paper are really doing in covering important state news.
Perhaps the most glaring error is that several newspapers such as The Day are reporting, Donovan to sit out special session as FBI probe continues. The heading is inaccurate. Speaker Donovan will participate in the special session, however, as the article goes on to state, he "will temporarily relinquish his leadership role during the state legislature's forthcoming special session". The Patch is similarly reporting, House Speaker Chris Donovan Won't Take Part in Upcoming Special Session. In The Patch's case, it does not appear that the article corrects the error in the headline.
Matt DeRienzo is also particularly sloppy in his editorial, OPINION: Chris Donovan’s betrayal of Connecticut’s working families. He writes,
On Thursday, the FBI arrested his finance director, charging that Donovan, or “Public Official Number 1,” as he is referred to in court documents, used his position as speaker to squeeze campaign contributions out of businesspeople affected by pending state legislation he controlled and then hide it from the Federal Elections Commission.
However, that's not what the FBI said. The affidavit talks about the conspirators hoping to get the Speaker to oppose a certain bill, but there is no indication that the Speaker even knew of the effort, let alone tried "to squeeze campaign contributions out of businesspeople". I'm fairly disappointed in Matt, because in other cases, he has tended to rely on facts instead of conjecture or hyperbole.
The Day goes on to have an editorial, Malloy should veto law targeting debates. This is one of the most factually inaccurate editorials I've read in a long time. The law they are talking about does not target debates, particularly the debates that they mention in the editorial.
In election campaigns dominated by moneyed interests and misleading and downright dishonest advertisements, there is nothing quite as honest, straightforward and informative as candidate debates.
So our General Assembly has passed what is alleged to be campaign finance reform legislation that does nothing more than discourage, if not eliminate them….
Let's say this newspaper joins with WTNH Channel 8, as it has often done in the past and hopes to again, to televise a debate for U.S. senator and invites the candidates for the office to appear and journalists from the two news organizations to ask the questions….
I tried to add a comment to this. Their system requires that a person be a member to comment, so I signed in, and still it won't allow me to comment, so I'm sharing the comment here.
"In election campaigns dominated by moneyed interests and misleading and downright dishonest advertisements, there is nothing quite as honest, straightforward and informative as candidate debates."
For debates well run debates where the sponsoring organization is not supporting or opposing candidates in the debate, perhaps this is true, however, many recent debates seem to be little more than sideshows in the political circus.
The issue with Chris Donovan's former finance director is about information about donors being hidden. This is the big problem that needs to be addressed. The campaign finance reform bill before Governor Malloy addresses this issue without threatening fair and honest debates.
Unfortunately, the bill only addresses Connecticut state elections, since Federal elections, like the U.S. Congress race that Chris Donovan is in, and a U.S. Senate debate, such as you mentioned in your editorial are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Elections Commission where the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling has precedence.
The Connecticut law, if signed by Governor Malloy, would apply to independent expenditures which support or oppose a candidate. I certainly hope that the debates that The Day is involved with are fair and honest, and not supporting or opposing candidates. Debates that do support or oppose candidates would be a travesty that would even further diminish the reputation of news organizations.
However, given the misinformation in The Day's editorial, I have to question the honesty and straightforwardness of its editors and a certainly hope that The Day provides a subsequent editorial recanting this one and providing accurate information.
The public does need to be diligent to make sure that elected officials cannot be bought and that their staffers properly do the job they are hired to do. Yet the public also needs to be diligent to make sure that the fourth estate is properly doing its job, and so far, it appears as if in several cases, the fourth estate is has not been up to the task.
This evening, Democrats from around the Third Congressional District gathered at North Haven High School to select ten delegates and an alternate to go to the Democratic National Convention which will take place later this year in Charlotte, NC. As I arrived, I ran into a former chair of the Democratic Town Committee from Woodbridge. Inside, I saw many familiar faces; elected officials and Democratic Town Committee members from Woodbridge, friends from various campaigns around the state; all the usual suspects.
I also ran into a woman from West Haven who had read about the caucus in the notice in the New Haven Register. She had never been to a caucus like this before and wasn't sure exactly how things would play out. It became pretty clear, pretty quickly. A 'Unity Slate' was distributed listing five male delegates, five female delegates and one alternate that some group of people had united behind. I found it interesting that the Unity Slate had a union bug on the printing, but no statement about who was responsible for the printing.
Prior to the convening of the caucus many people were politicking, talking about various campaigns. Soon, everyone was writing their selections on the ballot, and the politicking resumed while the ballots were being counted. In the end, the 'Unity Slate' was elected. It included Matthew Brokman of New Haven, Marti Carlson of Guilford, Jayuan Carter of New Haven, Nia Holston of New Haven, Daniel Drew of Middletown, Tessa Marquis of Milford, Paul Wallace of New Haven, Lori Pelletier of Middletown, Gerry Weiner of Woodbridge, Carmen Reyes of New Haven with Walt Spader of North Haven as the Alternate.
Once the voting was completed and the results announced, there was a little more brief politicking and everyone headed home.
(Also submitted to the Bethwood Patch)
This morning, I surfed through Facebook, and found I had been invited to the "Celebration of Hope" Spring Gala for the Beth-El Center, an organization set up "to alleviate homelessness and hunger in the Milford area". They have a story of a guy struggling to get by who found self-sufficiency through their program. I'm currently helping with the Meriden-Wallingford Coalition on Housing, and at work help promote the activities of our "Wherever You Are" program, which provides medical care to the homeless.
At work, one of my co-workers was discussing an athletic event that some of the staff are participating in. They are working to raise funds for a nine year old boy who has brain cancer. The boy has been working to raise funds for the Make A Wish foundation.
It's these sort of things that make you stop and take stock of life. What are you doing with your life? What is the meaning of life? Is it to help a person develop self sufficiency? Is it to help bring joy to the lives of kids facing horrible struggles?
How does this relate to the political process? Are the politicians you know running to get elected to help those around them, or to hold on to a job and protect the interests of their friends?
Is the political process, itself, making a difference in people's lives?
To get elected, I"m going to have to convince between six and seven thousand people to vote for me. I'm going to work hard on that, but along the way, I'm going to work hard on getting people more involved in their communities, finding more opportunities to help others, whether they be fighting homelessness, cancer, or whatever hurdles.
Ultimately, politics should be about helping make the lives of the people around us better, but if we aren't doing that along the way, maybe were missing the biggest opportunity.
It's evening and the chance of scattered thunderstorms has passed. So has much of my energy. I was up late last night for the convention that nominated me to be the Democratic Candidate for State Representative. I was up early to get a little campaign work done before heading off to my day job.
Back home, at the end of the day, I feel I should be reaching out to voters; potential supporters or donors. I should be writing my campaign biography or some issue statements.
My wife and daughters are off at various events, and I take a few moments to relax. Friends online are tweeting about idol on TV. Me? I play some YouTube videos of poets reading there works.
Then, it strikes me; a campaign in free verse. No, I can't talk about the issues in the style of Billy Collins or Ted Kooser. Or can I?
What are the issues? That the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation? That the best minds of our generation are being destroyed by madness, looking for an angry tax break?
At church the other week, the preacher talked about cultivating joy, not the artificial saccharine Hallmark Card happiness that gets pasted on the face of every politician when they say how happy they are to see someone they can't remember, but the sort of joy that is hard to grow, that comes from a minor victory in the face of a major struggle.
Yes, making sure that money is spent appropriately and effectively is important, and that no one has to pay too much, or more than their fair share, but what is it that really matters?
Helping people cultivate joy in a rocky garden and share a little kindness. Maybe that is more the task of the poet but maybe we need a little more poetry at the capitol.
It's evening and the chance of scattered thunderstorms has passed, for now.
Monday evening, I managed to get to two Democratic U.S. Congressional Conventions and they were very different events. In Connecticut's Third Congressional District, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is running for re-election. While I don't know the official campaign slogan or talking points, the unofficial one which seemed to summarize the convention was, "Everyone loves Rosa". There were the kids saying the pledge of allegiance, the local high school chorus singing the Star Spangled Banner, and there was food.
Unlike other conventions where you wait until it is over, everyone arrived, started eating, and then the convention started, over half an hour late. As much as everyone loves Rosa, they really love Italian pastries, and the pastries are perhaps a great symbol for the campaign. I rushed out before things really got going and headed up to the Fifth Congressional District.
This was a very different affair. It is an open seat with several candidates vying for the nomination. The clear front runner was Chris Donovan, and the questions were, how large a percentage would he get and would the other candidates get enough votes to qualify for a primary without having to gather petitions to be on the ballot.
In the end, Donovan got 64% of the vote. Esty got 20% of the vote and Roberti got 16% of the vote. They all qualify to be on the primary ballot, although it was touch and go for Roberti for a moment. He only had four votes to spare, and during the vote swamping at the end, he briefly dropped below that threshold.
(For details see this spreadsheet).
With these conventions over, it looks like their will be a primary both for the U.S. Senate and for the Fifth Congressional District. The top line will be held by Chris Murphy and Chris Donovan. Murphy, being from the Fifth, is likely to draw out a lot of voters who may vote the line, boosting Donovan. Likewise, Donovan being from the Fifth may draw out more voters who are likely to favor Murphy.
The second line will have Bysiewicz for Senate and, because candidates are alphabetized who don't have the nomination, Esty will be on the same line with her. Again, these two candidates could compliment each other.
Roberti will be on the third line, by himself. That is, of course, if no one drops out or no one else petitions to be on the ballot. Also, it doesn't get to the issue of primaries at the State Legislative level, which we won't know for another week or so.
So, while the Third Congressional District was a well tempered celebration, the Fifth was a raucous contest. The food in the Fifth was going to be at some restaurant after the convention, but I didn't have the energy for it.
Both conventions were fun, and I reiterate my encouragement for others to get out, get involved, and perhaps even go to a political convention.