Watchdogs and K-Dogg

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My column today is about CT’s watchdog agencies and, specifically, about the Malloy administration’s very misguided efforts to put them under executive branch control. In the unlikely event that you wanted to know even more about this, you could listen to the show I did Monday. On the show Sen. John McKinney made a very effective case against the Malloy policy.  He also reminded us all that he has been trying for some time to install legislative ethics in Connecticut.  To a remarkable degree, there sort of aren’t any.  This became abundantly clear in 2007, during the DeLuca mess and the establishment of the hapless Gumby Commission.  And it still has not been fixed.  I’m not sure that McKinney’s current bill, SB 589, would do the trick, but it is better than the current nothing.

That brings us to to K-Dogg’s excellent column today. It is difficult to imagine how any codification of legislative ethics could countenance the current state of things, especially as laid out in this column, especially in this passage:

Cafero is a partner in the Hartford office of Brown Rudnick. He is a salaried employee “with the possibility of an annual bonus,” according to a 2006 state ethics agency opinion…

Brown Rudnick is allowed to lobby him, and it takes advantage of Connecticut’s lax rules on legislators and their relationships with businesses.

It staggers the mind.  Cafero is a legislative leader.  He is also a partner in one of the biggest lobbying firms active at the Capitol. That firm is allowed to lobby him.

So lobbied, he does not have to recuse himself from debates or votes.

Note to birdbrain commenters: none of this is legitimately partisan. Larry is a Republican. Tommy Ritter is possibly the most influential Democrat of his generation in the General Assembly. They are both, on this score, disgustingly indifferent to best practices. And so it goes, up and down the line.  Neither party has ever taken ethics seriously. It’s difficult to see how a strong McKnney ethics initiative would not put him on a collision course with Cafero. They’re probably on one anyway, if they both want to be governor.

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15 thoughts on “Watchdogs and K-Dogg

  1. Tim White

    The Gold Dome now exists to benefit those under it. One problem related to the lack of ethics is the inability of state-level investigators to conduct a real investigation. It’s the US Attorney and FBI that normally come into save the day. Why? Because the rules are written to benefit The Political Class.

    Rep. Adinolfi and Sen. Markley want subpoena power restored for State’s Attorneys so that real investigations can be conducted in CT.

    The legislation is simple.

    But I doubt it’ll see the light of day because the entire system is corrupt… probably more corrupt than DC… with the main difference being that there’s more money in DC, so more eyes on DC. 🙁

  2. Don Pesci

    Even if both parties are equally unethical, one – guess which one – is far more powerful than the other: Democrats control both houses of the General Assembly and the governor’s office. All constitutional offices are owned by Democrats; all the members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional delegation are Democratic. In one party states, the controlling single party, in the absence of an aggressive non-partisan media, is likely to quash ethical improprieties. Nothing new there. Republicans have not been able to plug their faulty ethics into the power outlet. What is the likelihood that K-Dog would even be aware of Democratic ethical shortcomings in a one party state?

  3. Richard

    Next week we can move on to something more substantial like Malloy’s plan to put all the Advocates under one roof. Can you imagine Teresa Younger of the Permamnent Commission on the Status of Women sharing a desk with the Permamnent Commission on the Status of Mutant Rats?

    Jackson Labs won’t stand for it. Either would I. Willard must be stopped.

  4. Chucky_Dee

    We are actually arguing about whether the ethics problems are PARTISAN??? Are you happier knowing you are being ripped-off and over-legislated by one of YOUR guys? – Oh! and its good for him or her too, REAL good…

  5. Reader

    Colin, this probably should be obvious, but a law firm and a lobbying firm may be two completely separate entities and marketed under the same trade name. In this case, Brown Rudnick is not Brown Rudnick. The lobbying firm is Brown Rudnick Government Relations Strategies, Limited Partnership, and the law firm is Brown Rudnick Limited Liability Partnership.

    I would bet whatever shrinking value that the nation’s oldest continuously published newspaper may have left that Rep. Cafero IS NOT a partner in Brown Rudnick Government Relations Strategies, Limited Partnership.

    The relationship between Brown Rudnick the lobbying firm and Brown Rudnick the law firm is actually quite common. In Downtown Hartford, there is Halloran & Sage LLP, and also Halloran & Sage Government Relations LLC. Also, there’s Tobin Carberry O’Malley Riley Sellinger (TCORS) Professional Corporation in New London, and TCORS Capitol Group LLC in Hartford.

    I would have expected Kevin Rennie, a lawyer, to understand this.

    1. Richard

      Chinese Walls? My favorites! The sell side analysts and buy side analysts work for different entities and neither know which securities the firm is holding or supporting in the market as an IPO or otherwise market making!

  6. Joe

    I think “Reader” misses the point. Though law firms often have lobbying arms,I know of no case where a legislator who is a partner in a law firm appoints members to the board of a state agency, then that same board turns around and gives his partnership multiple contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Then one of his partners lobbies him (while on the agency payroll) to do a few things in the legislature for that agency while he is at it. Seems pretty straight forward.

  7. Reader

    Joe, I think you missed my point. The Board gave a contract to the *lobbying* firm. The partner in the *law* firm is entitled by law to make appointments to the Board. As I thought I clearly stated above, the *lobbying* firm and the *law* firm are two entirely different partnerships.

    1. Joe

      “Reader” though your distinctions seem to make very little difference, your facts are wrong. anyone can go to the CRRA website and see all of the contracts awarded to Brown Rudnick were with the law firm not the lobbying arm. Once again, it really doesn’t matter. A legislator appoints members to a Board who turn around and award his firm contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money. Nice work if you can get it!

  8. peter brush

    Even with the legal separation of the two entities, fair to say there’s at least the suggestion of, appearance of, conflict. But, I question whether or why I should be a lot more upset about Ritter’s lobbying of Cafero than I am about his lobbying his former colleagues as a whole. Mr. Dee, above, refers to “rip off,” but as with so much of the icky stuff our governmental managers do, there’s self-aggrandizement without mis-appropriation. Ethics rules worth considering, I suppose, but when governmental spending increases and bureaucracies proliferate influence will be peddled.
    Ritter remains prominent in Connecticut politics and government — he is a member of the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees — and maintains ties with key officials in the state House, Senate and governor’s office, which all are under Democrats‘ control. Also, the current House minority leader, Rep. Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, is an attorney at the Brown Rudnick law firm, which he and Ritter have said in the past is separate from its lobbying arm. Ritter declined comment Friday.

    1. Reader

      Maybe that’s true, but it’s definitely not per se wrong. There could be smoke, there could be mirrors, I don’t know, but Kevin Rennie implies that this relationship is both rare and certainly improper. Neither is true.

  9. peter brush

    Note to birdbrain commenters: none of this is legitimately partisan.
    On a given day a member of either party may obviously act badly. But, the Dem party is the party of government, and of government’s (apparently endless) expansion to take care of the Nutmeg State’s (apparently infinite) problems. No question it has good intentions, acts for the children,etc., but government is funded through coercion and operates through coercion. Where there’s coercion there will be fraud and corruption, hard or soft. Consider labor unions, whose coercion involved in “organizing” is sanctioned by the government(s). Not only are we encouraged to view thuggish private sector unions as progressive, egalitarian,and therefor moral but the Dems have us believing that there’s no conflict of interest inherent in public sector unions.
    In the old days the Dem Party’s operations were more parochial, and the Tammany custom sufficed. Now Tammany attached to a Wilson/Roosevelt/Obama ambitious managerial state operated by a class of experts and bureaucrats, like Mr. Ritter. On the bright side, the Nutmeg State is going broke, won’t in the future be able to maintain itself at current girth and bloat, and, all other things being equal, will provide fewer opportunities for influence peddling.
    …everything in the state, nothing against the State, nothing outside the state.

  10. peter brush

    The municipal liaison contract provides cover and compensation for Ritter’s unregistered lobbying for CRRA. Cafero is complicit in the fiction.
    Putting aside the problem of the cozy relationship between Cafero and Ritter, the more important question raised by Rennie’s piece is whether CRRA is violating the law that prohibits it from “retaining a lobbyist.” It’s surprising to me that Connecticut has such a provision. Certainly, nothing at the federal level prevents quasi-public entities like Fannie Mae from lobbying or even from making campaign contributions. But, how effective is the Ct. law if the quasi-governmental corporation can get around it by calling its lobbyist a “municipal liaison?”

  11. DrHunterSThompson

    to witless:

    look what you started! pinhead commenters not knowing the legal distinction between 2 similarly named LLCs and their constraints vis a vis elected officials in their employ. geeeeze …..

    the real issue though is your misunderstanding of the country clubs that are commonly called “watchdog agencies.” go hang out for a few days in any one of them – gigantic waste of taxpayer funds. they should be consolidated and upper management eliminated. they are a joke.


  12. peter brush

    should be consolidated
    Consolidation of FOI, Ethics Commission, Elections Guys not a good idea; political influence (from the Gov)in agencies designed to oversee the pols (including the Gov).
    On the other hand, don’t stop at consolidation of all the permanent commissions on status of women, children, aging, Asian Americans, African Americans, and Latinos and Puerto Ricans; just get rid of them and their 26 employees. What the bleep are they doing?

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