It was no surprise that Hillary Clinton won Connecticut’s seven electoral votes Tuesday, but looking under the hood of that easy victory shows a clear shift to the right for most – but not all – of the state.
Here’s a town-by-town breakdown of Tuesday’s vote for president, with greater support for Clinton shown in progressively bluer shades, and greater support for Donald Trump shaded progressively in red. Click on a town to see its vote totals. (Towns in yellow were late reporting complete results.)
As expected, the major cities were solidly blue, as were the ring towns around Hartford, most shoreline towns and the northwest corner. And there was no shock in Trump’s edge in a swath of towns from Trumbull in the south to Hartland in the north.
But there were surprises Tuesday. Trump’s dominance in much of Eastern Connecticut was a dramatic improvement over Mitt Romney’s showing four years ago. And on the flip side, Clinton fared much better than Barack Obama in Fairfield County, and also had stronger support in the Farmington Valley. It may be that while both Romney and Trump are extremely wealthy, Trump’s populism resonated in rural towns far better than Romney’s silver-spoon persona. And Clinton’s friendliness toward Wall Street could explain her strong showing in the Gold Coast.
To gauge how broad Trump’s support was in small towns this time around, here’s a clickable map showing the Obama-Romney race in 2012, where nearly the entire eastern half of the state either favored Obama or gave Romney only a slim margin.
To fully appreciate the depth of the swing, this map shows the vote shift between the two elections, with redder towns showing a stronger shift to the Republican candidate and blue towns showing a strong shift Democratic. In many eastern towns, Trump had a double-digit percentage advance over Romney’s 2012 support. But in Fairfield County, Clinton enjoyed an even bigger swing in votes, helping her to win a majority in all the southern Fairfield County towns that have reported.
The New York Times has a widely shared piece this morning, disclosing that Donald Trump reported a nearly $916 million loss on his income taxes in 1995 – a financial drubbing that The Times said could have allowed him to wipe out any income-tax liability for 18 years.
Partisans on both sides are engaged in typical partisan hysteria, and some are wondering on social media: Is this sort of reporting legal?
The story included copies of Trump’s state tax returns from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Most people in my profession have salivated over the thought of gaining access to tax filings for those whose background we’re investigating. But personal tax returns naturally are confidential, and the Department of Revenue Services would promptly laugh at us if we asked to see them.
So was The Times on shaky legal ground in publishing Trump’s Connecticut Non-Resident Tax Return?
Laws are often open to interpretation, but the answer is probably not. Yes there are state laws that provide penalties for disclosing tax information; no, those laws probably don’t apply to The Times.
Section 12-15 of the Connecticut General Statutes makes it illegal to inspect or disclose “return information” – including the sort of information The Times reported. But the law’s prohibition is limited to current and former state employees and to others who have authorized access to the returns (such as contractors hired to help process or store returns). Those with unauthorized access – including The Times – aren’t covered by the law. (Connecticut’s law is substantially similar to the federal law on tax-return privacy.)
So if a state official provided the document, that individual may have broken 12-15, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. But that law doesn’t appear to apply to The Times or its reporters. (That said, it seems unlikely the document came directly from the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services; The Times indicates that all three tax returns arrived together in an anonymous package on Sept. 23.)
But if an anonymous tipster broke the law in leaking the records, is The Times still on the hook for publishing them? Again, probably not – although lawyers for Trump have threatened legal action. In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court considered a case in which a Pennsylvania radio station broadcast a recording of an illegally intercepted cell phone call between union officials during a contentious contract negotiation. The union officials sued, but the court sided with the radio station, ruling that journalists cannot be held liable for publishing illegally obtained information related to legitimate matters of public concern, so long as the journalists did not participate in illegally obtaining the information.
“Privacy of communication is an important interest. However, in this suit, privacy concerns give way when balanced against the interest in publishing matters of public importance,” the court wrote in Bartnicki v. Vopper. “A stranger’s illegal conduct does not suffice to remove the First Amendment shield from speech about a matter of public concern.”
The heated debate over the propriety and relevance of The Times’ story will likely go on. Just perhaps not in a court of law.
Legislators are preparing to vote on a nearly $20 billion budget for the next fiscal year – a revised spending plan that trims more than $800 million from what legislators approved 11 months ago. Here’s a breakdown of the proposed budget by department and by line-item description. Hovering over the bubbles will display each department’s total budget. Clicking on a department will show line-item spending for that agency.
Elected officials in Newington were so eager to be rid of former Town Manager John Salomone that they offered him tens of thousands of dollars of other people’s money to get him to leave.
But they also didn’t want everyone in town to know the details of the whole messy affair, so they did what politicians too often do: They added a confidentiality clause to the severance deal, and then said they were barred from releasing a copy of the signed agreement.
There are two things wrong with this approach. One, it’s generally bad public policy to keep people in the dark when you’re spending their money. And two, in Connecticut anyway, it’s illegal.
Or more particularly: Politicians in Connecticut can draft confidentiality clauses all they want; they just can’t keep them confidential.
That’s been the law of the land here for nearly a decade, but it’s a statute public officials sometimes have trouble remembering. So as a public service, The Scoop offers the following refresher: Connecticut General Statutes 1-214a – appropriately titled “Disclosure of public agency termination, suspension or separation agreement containing confidentiality provision” – specifically mandates just that: the disclosure of public employee separation agreements, notwithstanding a confidentiality clause. Under the law, any termination agreement between a public agency and and an employee “that contains a confidentiality provision that prohibits or restricts such public agency from disclosing the existence of the agreement or the cause or causes for such termination … shall be subject to public disclosure.”
So when the Courant’s Christopher Hoffman asked for a copy of the severance agreement earlier this month after the Newington Town Council approved it 8-0, he should have promptly received a copy. Instead, according to Hoffman’s story, Mayor Roy Zartarian “said that the town had negotiated a severance package with Salomone but declined to reveal its contents, saying both parties had agreed to keep it confidential.”
That’s not what the statutes allow. And to Zartarian’s partial credit, when advised of his obligations under the law, he did ultimately provide a copy of the agreement, while continuing – as he is at least legally entitled to do – to refuse to talk about the town’s actions.
So town residents are still partly in the dark about why their public servants doled out tens of thousands of dollars to the outgoing Town Manager, but at least they now know that’s where their money went. And through Hoffman’s diligence, they now know the extraordinary effort all parties took to assure that the whole messy affair would stay as much in the shadows as possible.
The signed deal, for example, assures that Salomone won’t share any thoughts he might have about whether the public is being ill-served by the town. The agreement bars Salomone from disparaging or criticizing the town and specifically prohibits him from saying anything to the press about his departure “other that what is agreed to by the town.”
Likewise, town officials agreed not to speak openly and honestly with anyone about their opinion of Salomone’s professional abilities or personality, and further barred every Newington town employee from saying anything negative or critical to a potential future employer of Salomone’s. That means, presumably, that no one had anything bad to say about Salomone to representatives of the city of Norwich, which just hired Salomone as their new city manager.
Under the separation deal, Newington officials agreed to give Salomone seven months’ pay while he isn’t working for the town. That’s a month longer than he’s entitled to under a provision in his contract that gives him six month’s salary if the town votes to terminate him. City officials won’t say why they gave him the extra month’s pay – about $12,000 of taxpayer’s money.
“This is a personnel matter and as such, I can make no statement on the issue,” Zartarian told the Courant. In fact, there is nothing in Connecticut law that bars public officials from making statements on personnel matters, and the only thing forcing Zartarian to keep mum is the agreement he chose to sign.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra often insisted that race was not an issue in his unsuccessful battle with Luke Bronin for the Democratic mayoral nod. But balloting in Wednesday’s primary election suggests otherwise,with voting patterns highlighting the city’s division along racial and ethnic lines.
As the election map below illustrates, Bronin, represented by the green shading, was strong in precincts in the northern half of the city, while Segarra, represented by orange, did well in the south. The maps farther below, drawn from Census data, show that the city has a similar division racially and ethnically, with most black residents concentrated in the North End, and most Latinos in the South. (Click shaded areas in the election map for vote information and the Census maps for demographic details.)
While the final vote spread was 55 to 45 percent, voting in individual precincts was far more lopsided. Where the candidates won, they won big. Out of 24 precincts in the city, Bronin won seven with more than 70 percent of the vote. Segarra topped 60 percent in five precincts.
So Bronin captured the nomination by winning – and winning decisively – in predominantly black precincts, overcoming Segarra’s generally strong support in precincts with large numbers of Hispanics. Bronin also did well in the West End districts that are home to large concentrations of white residents.
On the campaign trail, Bronin frequently promised an administration that would work “for all of Hartford’s residents.” Wednesday’s vote could be an indication of how difficult it may be to unify all of the city’s constituencies.
Population concentrations in Hartford for Hispanics (above left), blacks (above right), and whites (below).
I recently obtained an internal email in which a lawyer for a public agency laid out the agency’s strategy for responding to a request for records under the Freedom of Information Act.
Step One was identifying the records the agency was willing to release.
Step Two was identifying the records the agency had no intention of releasing.
And then Step Three, almost as an afterthought, was determining whether there was actually an exception under the Freedom of Information Act that would provide a legal basis for keeping the withheld documents secret from the public.
“As we discussed we can always withhold a document even if there is no exception,” the lawyer wrote, with the understanding that the agency might have to concoct a justification for the illegal act if the requester was savvy enough to pursue an appeal to the Freedom of Information Commission.
It wasn’t the first such email I had been made privy to, and it reminded me of the need for vigilance in Freedom of Information matters and the importance of constantly reminding the public servants who work for us that they do, in fact, work for us. They’re paid by us, they’re sworn to serve us. And with rare exceptions, all of the paperwork and data they produce and collect while on our payroll belongs to us, and should be provided to us without a fight.
So as the Legislature gets down to business this week, here’s one transparency advocate’s wish list, for any lawmakers willing to champion the not-so-radical concept that the people’s business really is the people’s business. Continue reading
For hours after the polls closed Tuesday night, as vote tallies cropped up from town to town, Tom Foley enjoyed a steady if tantalizingly thin margin in his quest to unseat Gov. Dan Malloy.
But here at The Scoop, we could tell early on that Foley was in serious trouble, even as he seemed to be thousands of votes ahead.
Our early warning came from a simple system that not only compiled the local results as they were announced, but also analyzed how each candidate was faring compared to their initial match four years ago. That deeper look at the numbers showed that almost from the beginning, there was evidence Foley was facing an uphill battle to avoid a replay of his 2010 defeat.
Connecticut elections typically display a sharp divide between the most-populous cities, which vote overwhelmingly Democratic, and smaller suburban and rural towns, many of which lean moderately or heavily Republican. But it’s those smaller towns, many with a single voting precinct, that report early, giving Republican candidates a phantom edge that can be wiped out when the totals come in from the cities.
In the newsroom, we could see that while Foley once again did well in traditionally Republican towns, he was losing ground in many of those communities compared to four years ago. Later, it was evident that he had failed to substantially chip away at Malloy’s huge margins of victory in the large cities. For more details on how Malloy’s victory came together, see my colleague Dan Haar’s excellent analysis.
Tuesday’s vote offered a fresh reminder of the dangers of reading too much into early returns. So on election nights to come, it’s worth remembering that even with hyper-competitive news coverage of a hyper-competitive political process, patience is still a virtue.
The map below shows how Malloy and Foley fared Tuesday, compared to their vote spreads in 2010. Towns shaded blue are those in which Malloy performed better than four years ago, either by extending his margin of victory or shrinking Foley’s. Similarly, red-shaded towns are those in which Foley either won by more votes or lost by fewer. Deeper colors indicate are more dramatic improvement over 2010. Click on a town for details.
As town results trickle in from local registrars tonight, we’ll begin to have a sense of how Tom Foley and Dan Malloy are faring in the battle for the governor’s office. But since different towns complete their counts in different time frames – and particularly because larger cities tend to lag significantly behind small, one-precinct towns – early figures may give a lopsided view of how the race is really going.
With this campaign a rematch of 2010, a better measure might be to compare each candidate’s town-by-town margin of victory against his margin four years ago. That’s what this chart accomplishes. As each town reports vote totals for Foley and Malloy, the chart will show which candidate saw gains compared to 2010, either by extending his lead or narrowing his opponent’s lead.
So if suburban towns report early in the evening and indicate, as expected, a preference for Foley, this chart will show not merely that Foley is doing well in the suburbs, but whether he’s doing better or worse than he did four years ago. Likewise, while Malloy is expected to win big margins in the cities, this chart will show whether he has lost or gained ground compared to 2010.
Note that the chart will have no data for the 2014 race until the first towns report, sometime after 8 p.m. Note also that refreshing the page will load the latest data.
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 airwaves 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.