Author Archives: Matthew Kauffman

Claim Check: Greenberg Ad Muddies Esty’s Stand on Social Security

by Categorized: Claim Check, Politics Date:

claimcheck

Where’d the puppies go?

Weeks after airing what might be the feel-good ad of the 2014 campaign season, featuring hordes of tail-wagging dogs, Mark Greenberg has returned to the aGreenberg_Esty_SocialSecurityirwaves with a considerably harsher message aimed at 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty.

In “Disturbing Patterns,” Greenberg, the Republican challenger, draws historical parallels to portray Esty as a politician who supports higher taxes and lobs false attack ads. In firing that salvo, Greenberg stays mostly — but not entirely — within bounds.

Continue reading

Veteran Boston Investigative Reporter Detained in Russia

by Categorized: First Amendment, Law Enforcement, Legal Affairs, Media, Non-profits Date:

Joe Bergantino, executive director of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and a long-time Boston television reporter, was detained in Russia Thursday while conducting a training session for fellowBergantino journalists, according to a release from the New England First Amendment Center.

Bergantino and Randy Covington of the University of South Carolina were leading a workshop with Russian journalists when authorities interrupted the session and took the two men away, the release states, citing Beth Daley, a reporter for NECIR who has spoken with Bergantino.

Daley said the men were accused of “teaching an educational workshop illegally because they were using the wrong visas,” according to the release. The men were then taken to a Russian court and ordered to halt the workshop and leave the country.

Bergantino, a former reporter for WBZ-TV and ABC News, co-founded the non-profit New England Center for Investigative Reporting in 2009.

Claim Check: Elizabeth Esty Misleads on Social Security

by Categorized: Claim Check, Employment, Politics Date:

claimcheckThese days, video cameras follow candidates everywhere, from intimate meet-and-greets to massive pEsty_SocialSecurity_Greenbergolitical rallies, and when rivals dig into that footage, they face a choice. They can look for some unflattering off-the-cuff gaffe to embarrass their opponent, or they can cherry-pick and string together piecemeal quotes to make their challenger appear to be saying something he or she is not.

Elizabeth Esty’s campaign went with the latter option in a new ad taking aim at Fifth-District Congressional challenger Mark Greenberg’s stance on Social Security. Continue reading

Claim Check: Foley on “Underperforming” Schools

by Categorized: Claim Check, Education, Politics Date:

claimcheck6

It’s been strangely quiet in the Claim Check cubicle lately, but not because candidates and PACs have suddenly abandoned political advertising.

Instead, Connecticut candidates took a break from specific boasts or specific accusations to focus on generic vote-for-me-I’m-a-nice-guy ads that defy fact-checking. So, for example, we saw congressional candidate Mark Greenberg’s clever analogyFoley_Education about barking dogs and we know that gubernatorial longshot Joe Visconti packs heat and rides horses. But neither of those spots had measurable claims that could be addressed in this space.

But at last, a recent Tom Foley TV spot, focusing on education, makes a single checkable assertion about the performance of Connecticut schools. The claim is based on an outdated report and the issue of school performance is more complicated than can be squeezed into a short ad. But overall, Foley’s assertion is justifiable. Continue reading

Claim Check: A Foley Misstep on His Time at The Bibb Co.

by Categorized: Claim Check, Employment, Politics Date:

claimcheck6

Readers who are keeping count will know that this is the seventh time Claim Check has considered Tom Foley’s tenure with the Bibb Co. They may also recall that we have typically deemed ads Foley_RightExperiencefrom both sides to be generally accurate, even when they lack context or rely heavily on opinion — which doesn’t lend itself to fact-checking.

Instead, what has gotten the political spinmeisters in real trouble are statements in ads that are demonstrably and unequivocally erroneous — incorrect statements that leave little or no room for interpretation or truth-shading. And that is the fate that befalls Foley in his latest ad in the tug-of-war over Bibb.

Continue reading

Claim Check: Malloy Hits – Again – at Tom Foley and the Bibb Co.

by Categorized: Claim Check, Employment, Politics Date:

claimcheck

Five times now, Claim Check has evaluated assertions about Tom Foley’s involvement with the Bibb Co. textile firm in Georgia. And five times now, BibbTowerwe’ve found that one side or the other didn’t get the story exactly right — though usually without veering so far from the truth as to earn an unfavorable rating.

That is the case once again, as Claim Check takes its sixth look at the Bibb, via an ad from Gov. Dannel Malloy’s campaign titled “Ghost Town.” Continue reading

Claim Check: Foley Takes Aim at Malloy on Taxes, Jobs, Economy

by Categorized: Claim Check, Employment, Government, Politics Date:

claimcheck

Whatever advantages attach to incumbency at election time, there is one obvious potential Foley_Hurtingdownside: Officeholders create an inescapable trail of policy decisions and are typically linked to the fortunes — and certainly the misfortunes — of their dominions during their terms.

All of that creates opportunities for opponents, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley is out with an aggressive new ad mining the record of incumbent Gov. Dan Malloy on key pocketbook issues: taxes, jobs and the economy. Continue reading

Claim Check: Tom Foley, Sprague and The Bibb Co.

by Categorized: Business, Claim Check, Employment, Politics Date:

claimcheck

No matter what twists and turns the gubernatorial race takes in the next 11 weeks, one thing seems abundantly clear: Democrats will never tire of airing video of Republican Tom Foley sparring with workers at a struggling paper factory in Sprague.

With Foley’s victory in last week’s Republican primary for governor, incumbent Gov. Dan Malloy wasted no time putting out a TV ad replaying the awkward confrontation – and tying it to Foley’s past control of a defunct textile plant that featured prominently in anti-Foley ads four years ago.

It’s an irresistible play. But is it accurate? Continue reading

Away From the Coast, Foley Dominated Gubernatorial Primary

by Categorized: Data, Government, Politics Date:

Tom Foley won a broad and commanding victory in Tuesday’s Republican primary for governor, taking a majority of votes in all but a relative handful of lower-Connecticut cities and towns.

Challenger John McKinney, who lives in Fairfield, had a strong showing in his hometown and bested Foley in 18 other municipalities as well, most of them on the water in Fairfield and New Haven counties. But Foley dominated in every other part of the state.

Below is a town-by-town map of election results as reported by Reuters. Towns shaded red indicate vote spreads favoring Foley and towns shaded blue indicate vote spreads favoring McKinney. Click on a town to see actual results. Results are not available for the two Eastern Connecticut towns in gray: Pomfret and Preston.

The Practice Book Rule That Connecticut Judges Rarely Obey

by Categorized: First Amendment, Law Enforcement, Legal Affairs, Media, Transparency/FOI Date:

The arrest affidavit detailing the criminal case against Southington teenager Eric Morelli, who unwittingly caused a fatal fire by tossing firecrackers at a friend’s bedroom window, was ordered sealed three different times in the last month and half, until a Superior Court judge lifted the secrecy order late last week after acknowledging there was no good reason to keep the document under wraps.

This happens too osealedfileften, despite a legal mandate that favors openness in the courts, and clear rules establishing the hurdles that must be cleared and the process that must be followed when judges take what should be the extraordinary step of shutting off public access.

So as a public service, The Scoop would like to publicly remind the state’s judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys of their obligations under the Connecticut Practice Book when seeking to seal arrest warrants and other court documents.

Section 42-49A of the Practice Book begins: “Except as otherwise provided by law, there shall be a presumption that documents filed with the court shall be available to the public.” That presumption is echoed in the commentary of the section, which summarizes the findings of various court cases that make up the established and non-discretionary law of the state. “The public and press enjoy a right of access to attend trials in criminal cases and to access documents filed in connection with such cases,” the Practice Book notes. “This right is well settled in the common law and has been held to be implicit in the first amendment rights protecting the freedom of speech [and] of the press.”

That right, of course, is not absolute – as indicated by the phrase “Except as otherwise provided by law” – and there are various reasons why at least portions of a court document may legally be sealed, such as to protect witnesses or preserve an ongoing criminal investigation that would truly be jeopardized if certain details became publicly known.

But the Practice Book recognizes that is a momentous step and mandates that judges work to minimize the impact on the public’s right to know. As such, a sealing order can be entered “only if the judicial authority concludes that such order is necessary to preserve an interest which is determined to override the public’s interest in viewing such material. The judicial authority shall first consider reasonable alternatives to any such order and any such order shall be no broader than necessary to protect such overriding interest.”

And the Practice Book requires judges to pay more than lip service to that principle by spelling out exactly what they’re doing and why. In sealing a document, “the judicial authority shall articulate the overriding interest being protected and shall specify its findings underlying such order and the duration of such order.” In addition, “the judicial authority shall order that a transcript of its decision be included in the file or prepare a memorandum setting forth the reasons for its order.”

There are no transcripts or memoranda in Eric Morelli’s file and veteran criminal court reporters will tell you that in practice, there is little resembling the formality and gravity envisioned by the Practice Book rules.

In the Morelli case, the initial seal was requested by the prosecutor in what sometimes seems like an automatic action in higher-profile cases. Such requests are rarely rejected by judges. The last extension to the seal order was requested by Morelli’s defense attorney, who said he feared pre-trial publicity could poison a jury pool and that details in the warrant might be embarrassing to those involved.

Defense attorneys are duty-bound to promote their clients’ interests, but seasoned lawyers certainly know those are almost never valid reasons for keeping an arrest warrant secret. Nevertheless, some judges apply an inappropriately low level of scrutiny to such requests. And as in the Morelli case, they often are overturned only after intervention by a newspaper lawyer.

That’s not how it’s supposed to be. So in this, the 223rd year of the Bill of Rights, I offer a modest proposal that the state’s criminal bar and judiciary give Practice Book Section 42-49A a fresh read and recommit to the transparency that has been a hallmark of a reputable judicial branch for centuries.