GOP\’s Tom Foley Clashes Sharply With House Republican Legislators Over Intent Of Bill On Conflicts of Interest At State Capitol

by Categorized: 2014 Election, Democrats, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Jerry Labriola, Larry Cafero, Republicans, Tom Foley, Tom Ritter Date:

Former Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley came to the state Capitol complex Monday with the straightforward idea of trying to root out conflicts of interest in state government.

But he ran into a major buzzsaw of protest from both Republicans and Democrats over the wording of a bill that he was pushing – and the impacts that it would cause. In a surprise, Foley was blasted harshly by three House Republicans who disagreed with the wording of Senate bill 727. Foley said the conflicts were \”sleazy\’\’ and added that the \”foxes are running the henhouse\’\’ at the Capitol, which did not sit well with some legislators.

One of those protesting loudest against Foley’s testimony at a committee hearing was Rep. David Labriola, the brother of the state Republican Party chairman. Labriola and other Republicans protested that the bill was so broadly written that it would cover large numbers of employees who work at some of the largest corporations in Connecticut. Several legislators said it was so broad that it would affect half of all state legislators – potentially forcing them out of office.

\”It\’s absurdly broad. It\’s outrageous,\’\’ Labriola told Foley. \”It\’s actually going to cover everybody – like 1 million people. … It truly is absurd. That\’s my major point.\’\’

Labriola, who is known for being low-key in the legislature, added, \”It\’s not appreciated or helpful to throw around words like sleazy. … I get there\’s an election coming up. I don\’t think it\’s helpful to use that kind of bombastic language.\’\’

The bill, as written, states that \”no public official, state employee or member of the immediate family of a public official or state employee shall receive one thousand dollars or more during a calendar year\’\’ from major state contractors or a business that employs lobbyists, among others.

That language, Labriola said, would cover any legislator who has a brother, sister, parents, or children who work for places like FedEx, Yale University or Aetna insurance, which all have lobbyists at the Capitol.

While several legislators said the wording was clear, Foley said that was never the intent of the legislation.

\”This is not UTC,\’\’ Foley said. \”It\’s not Yale University.\’\’

Under Foley\’s interpretation, the bill would cover \”certainly less than 10 percent of the jobs in Connecticut\’\’ and is designed to prevent conflicts of interest in crafting legislation. He said he was trying to target lobbying firms, rather than major corporations that hire a contract lobbyist.

“I think the legislature should have done this 30 years ago,’’ Foley told legislators.

As the clash continued, Foley said, \”Undoubtedly, the language needs to be refined. I think this is a good start.\’\’

A Democratic insider said the clash was so public and so deep that that it represented a Republican civil war. Several insiders said the back story to Monday\’s bitter clash is that the House Republicans were defending their leader, Rep. Larry Cafero, an attorney for the past 15 years for Brown Rudnick, which has law and lobbying operations in Hartford. Brown Rudnick has been thrust into the spotlight recently in a civil lawsuit filed by the consulting firm of Democratic operative Matthew Hennessy against the Connecticut Resources and Recovery Authority. Hennessy charges that Brown Rudnick has been engaging in illegal lobbying at the state Capitol in obtaining money from the State Bond Commission, getting a bill vetoed in 2009 by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, and obtaining appointments to the CRRA board.

But Cafero said that the House Republicans were responding to the far-reaching nature of the bill and not about him.

Both Cafero and his law partner, former House Speaker Thomas D. Ritter, have repeatedly rejected Hennessy\’s charges of illegal lobbying.

\”I would encourage you and Senator Markley to clarify the bill you have submitted,\’\’ said Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, an attorney from Naugatuck who clashed sharply with Foley as they both interrupted each other.

The clash was so personal that, at one point, Rebimbas asked Foley if he had read the bill.

\”I not only read it. I wrote it,\’\’ Foley responded.

Jeffrey A. Asher, the executive director of the Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority, said in later testimony that the bill could potentially cover any family member of a state legislator who works in any nursing home or hospital in the state because all of those entities receive Medicaid money from the state to care for patients.

Democrats said they were absolutely delighted by the testimony and the turn of events at the Capitol.

After the hearing, one longtime Capitol insider said, \”Have you ever seen such a train wreck like that? It was remarkable. Wow! I don\’t think I\’ve seen anybody get slammed like that by his own. It was a political trainwreck. … It went from nobody watching it to half the people in this building watching it. I talked to a union guy who said he\’s going to get a tape of it\’\’ for a campaign commercial in 2014.

Another veteran insider said, \”It was unbelievable. I don\’t know if it was a kick to Larry and CRRA and Ritter. I\’m trying to figure it out. … This was getting real ugly and going downhill. They were talking about the FedEx guy from Bridgeport. … It just blew up. It was like a perfect storm. Labriola doesn\’t get fired up too much, but he was fired up today. … There are a lot of people talking about that.\’\’

A third insider said, \”I\’ve seen a lot of crazy hearings in my time. It was up there in the panoply of just odd. It was a shootout among the Republicans. The Democrats were half-heartedly there, and then they realized the Republicans were going to go to town on him. … Larry\’s guys extended the pain because they just kept coming. Candidate McKinney, for governor, pulls his guys out of the fire. Dan Malloy lucked out because the Republicans turned friendly fire on each other.\’\’

Insiders said that Republicans could easily have kept their mouths shut about a bill by a fellow Republican, but they did not.

Foley, who won 128 of the state\’s 169 municipalities before losing by less than 1 percentage point to Democrat Dannel P. Malloy in 2010, is intending to run again in 2014. Foley, a Harvard graduate who served as the former American ambassador in Ireland, served in Iraq for seven months as part of the reconstruction efforts under then-President George W. Bush.

\”Part of the problem is the foxes are running the henhouse,\’\’ Foley told committee members in his opening remarks. \”Our ethics rules start off as \’ethics light,\’ and then on appeal, everyone is given a pass because people have a right to earn a living. That\’s the same argument that you hear when you go to a foreign country, and the police demand a bribe with the excuse that they are not paid enough. That may be true, but it is still a bribe. In most of those countries, unlike here, it is illegal. … Let\’s make this sleazy practice illegal here, too. Serving in the state government and the state legislature is a privilege. It is not a right. Those unable to serve without conflicts of interest should not be allowed to serve. Under this bill, they won\’t be.\’\’

But Rebimbas took umbrage at Foley\’s statements.

“I do take that personally. I don’t appreciate being referred to as a hen in the henhouse,\’\’ she said. \”The Capitol is not a henhouse, and I am not a hen.\’\’

The Courant is using Facebook comments on stories. To comment on courant.com articles, sign into Facebook and enter your comment in the field below. Comments will appear in your Facebook News Feed unless you choose otherwise. To report spam or abuse, click the X next to the comment. For guidelines on commenting, click here.

27 thoughts on “GOP\’s Tom Foley Clashes Sharply With House Republican Legislators Over Intent Of Bill On Conflicts of Interest At State Capitol

  1. Bob Rogerio

    Shame on the members of the GAE Committee. The CGA is a bunch of incumbent legislators who are a little too comfortable, if you ask me. They may be part time, but they sure seem to be doing “ok” while the rest of CT sinks under their watches. It seems self evident that if “half of all state legislators” were to be affected by this bill, then perhaps those incumbents should step down anyway. Republican or Democrat, it is likely there are some shady deals occurring at the capitol per day, and at the expense of the taxpayers. Perhaps the bill’s wording is perfect, but the proposal is better than the corrupt status quo. It is time for change, and I support Mr. Foley’s initiative. It is nice to see someone have the guts to do the right thing and take on people whom will undoubtedly dislike the bill…I think the people of CT should be outraged at the legislature… no balanced budget and daily usurpation of liberties… CT is out of control. It is time for the hard working taxpayer of CT to blast their legislators back.

    1. Henry

      From the Courant:

      “In an email marked “confidential urgent – important,” Kirk asked Cafero in June 2008 to talk to Rell about the renomination of Old Saybrook first selectman Mike Pace as the chairman of the CRRA board. Pace’s term was running out in 12 days, and Kirk urgently asked Cafero for help.

      “I think the world of Mike and will certainly do all I can as quickly as possible to reach out to the governor,” Cafero wrote back 16 minutes later. “As you can imagine, my relationship with the governor runs hot and cold. Right now, we’re running cold. I will, however, do what I can. Larry”

  2. George

    If only the self-righteous Republicans could summon up such mock rage when the issue is Snake Rep. Hewitt.

    1. Just Curious

      George – what do you mean, like the mock rage the hypocritical democrats summoned up for Hewitt, one of their own…oh, that’s right – there was no rage from the left, mocking or otherwise.

        1. John R. McCommas

          Clinton probably has had many sons –and daughters — we don’t know about yet.

  3. Bruce

    Mr. Foley was up there to do one thing today: perform a political hit job while cloaking himself in “good government.” Foley bemoans insiders, when he himself is the ultimate insider. He didn’t get his positions in Ireland or Iraq because he applied on Monster.com — he got them because he gave/raised millions for GWB. He shouldn’t be allowed to use the legislative process to attack or wound a potential opponent, be they GOP or Dem.

    1. Common_Tator

      A question – when you calm down – if NO ONE was allowed “to use the legislative process to attack or wound a potential opponent’ – would we even HAVE a “legislative process”? Bonus points if you can answer WITHOUT referring to the “Chicago Thug-in-Chief”!

      1. Thomas in Pain

        Common Traitor: Bruce hit the nail squarely on the head. Phony Foley perfectly orchestrated his antics to create an image of himself as a reformer – a tired trick that only succeeds in the minds of the dull-witted.

  4. Dick Smalfaucet

    If I were the folks at Harvard I wouldn’t want Foley admitting that he wrote that bill — there are undergrad interns who can draft better bills than that.

  5. Ted

    From Rennie (also a republican):

    “Ritter says he did not violate the ban on lobbying state officials for CRRA because he was volunteering to do the work. If he’d been required to account for his time, there’d be a way to verify that, but there is not — by design. None of the $2.8 million that Brown Rudnick received from CRRA between 2007 and 2012, we are asked to believe, had anything to do with influencing state officials, otherwise known as lobbying.

    Emails show Ritter was involved with appointments Cafero made to the CRRA board, seeking names from CRRA of people who could serve. He provided suggestions on acceptable choices to Cafero who acted upon them. This looks like lobbying.”

  6. DavidC

    From the article it’s clear that Rep. Rebimbas misheard what Foley said – she’s a fox in the henhouse, not a hen in the henhouse. I think this is a common sense solution to issues that make CT one of the most corrupt states in the country. Just look at all the problems former Speaker Donovan and his cronies now facing.

    1. John R. McCommas

      Mr. Mainor

      QUOTE “Foley seems pretty unsophisticated.” UNQUOTE

      I suppose it is a rather simple, unsophisticated, to use your term, that people in government should be honest, loyal and mindful of the value of the taxpayer’s contributions. Is that a bad thing?

  7. Palin Smith

    We don’t want sophistication decorating the halls of the Capitol Building. What we want is a fighter for the people. Not for the unions. Not for the state workers. And certainly not for the big-shot corporate snobs who take taxpayer money to move 10 miles down I-95 when they could foot the bill out of pocket change.

    Perhaps Mr. Foley can clean out both the hen house and the pig pen in Hartford. If Tom could stem the flow of Nutmeggers exiting Connecticut he would have to be a miracle man.

    Rather than bribing companies a million dollars per job, maybe a Governor Foley might entice businesses back to the state that pay millions in new taxes.

    America is a land of second chances. Two years ago Mr. Foley lost by under 7000 votes, many which were questionable. We saw what we got with Dannel 88, and it aint a pretty sight. I’m willing to give Tom Foley an opportunity to prove to us that he is a reformer who can root out the corruption on both sides. And then balancing the budget without raising taxes would be a cinch.

  8. Joe Visconti

    Congratulations Tom Foley for taking a position right out of the Visconti Integrity Playbook. Most may remember my Integrity Resolutions which were submitted to the CTGOP State Central Committee last year. My resolutions asked all GOP Convention delegates who received any monetary compensation from a candidate to disclose the arrangement by wearing a badge on the convention floor so other delegates would know if they were being lobbied by someone who was not just a political supporter but someone on a candidates payroll. Well the State Party members took a hatchet to my Integrity Resolutions and claimed outrage at the idea of delegates wearing badges. To give credit where it is due, CTGOP Chairman Jerry Labriola allowed the members to vote on my Integrity Resolutions which he could have blocked, and I am sure took some heat for that move. Needless to say Linda McMahon and Chris Shays did the right thing and voluntarily adopted the Integrity Resolutions of mine, and at the convention required all and any delegates who worked on their campaigns for pay to wear a badge. Heres a newsflash for all those political junkies out there,Tom Foley may not have written the perfect bill on the issue of conflicts of interest but neither was mine in its first go around and neither are many bills that come to committee hearings,like bill 1076 from last weeks public safety hearing on gun control, what a cluster junk bill that was. And why David Labriola was so offended by the bill was unusual but not uncommon because because of the negative implications of what Tom was correctly suggesting. David should have been a little more concerned about how the public feels when it reads the Colin Mcenroe hit piece on Ritter or Larry Cafero’s connections with his law firm this past sunday in the Hartford Courant and realized just how angry folks are at all politicians. Of course Elected officials will claim everything is perfectly legal that they do and there are plenty of current disclosure laws in place. But history shows us many examples of governments passing laws which are quite legal yet immoral, capricious and not in the best interests of the public. So I believe Tom Foley scored big today in the corner which is defending the little guy, some will say he did it to gain political points but I ask whats wrong with scoring political points while doing the right thing? As the battle lines are forming for the GOP Governor Race in 14 I have to say when I stood near Tom Foley today at the LOB and watched him preparing to enter the dragon (Committee Hearing) I liked what I saw in the man, he just thinks, sounds, acts, walks, talks, cares and looks like a Governor, as well as an all around good guy.

  9. mark pappa

    Keeping those eggs warm so close to easter ruffled the hens feathers. Good for Tom Foley to state the obvious. This is far more than political. The bottom line is the LOB is a $22 billion dollar chicken coup, some get golden eggs and have been there way too long. Too many republicans have had their eggs scrambled by the democrats and like their eggs that way. If the republican party wants to advance, it needs to clean up its coup and stop acting like chickens.

  10. Gompers

    Foley’s bill would literally prevent anyone working for any regulated entity in CT from having income while serving in CT’s part time legislature. This would include all banks, insurance companies, hospitals, unions, nonprofits,… Look it up on the General Assembly website – SB 727. Tom must think that only people too rich to work are qualified for office. Let ‘me eat cake.

    1. Palin Smith

      Let ‘em eat cake. There are thousands of good people who own SMALL businesses who would make wonderful representatives. I’ve recruited two to run already.

  11. Tim White

    The bill is imperfect, but Foley has a very good point.

    Spkr. Donovan, Gaffey, Spkr. Crusher Amman, Clemons, Dillon, O’Rourke, Newton, Deluca, Jefferson… that’s off the top of my head, but the list continues.

    Their actions are different, but the pattern is the same. The legislature fails to police itself. And it needs to change.

  12. Shaun

    Somebody needs to do something and this is a good first step. Yes it will need some tweaking, what bill doesn’t? If we could get something like this in play before the next election (haha) it might get some of these idiots to think twice. Ya, I know, wishful thinking, but at least it would give us some recourse.

Comments are closed.