Despite claiming he had no specific plans for work following his resignation as Governor Malloy’s chief advisor, spokesperson and ultra-ego, Roy Occhiogrosso is returning to become the Managing Director for Global Strategy Group’s Hartford Office.
Global Strategy Group is a campaign management and public relations company that specializes in helping companies and organizations push their legislative and political agendas. Occhiogrosso and the Global Strategy Group served as lead consultants in candidate Dan Malloy’s 2006 and 2010 gubernatorial campaigns. Occhiogrosso and other staff then moved to join the Malloy administration when Governor Malloy was inaugurated in January 2011.
The move is a classic reminder of how government really works and the not-so-clean anti-revolving door policies that are supposed to prevent public officials from personally and financially capitalizing on their public service.
Returning to Global Strategy Group will provide Occhiogrosso (and the company’s clients) with unique access to the development of government policy.
Take, for example, the case study of BNE Energy, which became a client of Global Strategy Group before Occhiogrosso left and has remained one of their primary clients throughout Malloy’s first two years in office.
BNE Energy, incorporated in Delaware, but owned by two Connecticut residents, has been trying to develop commercial wind projects in Prospect and Colebrook Connecticut. The firm is owned by Greg Zupkus, who serves as President and CEO and Paul Corey, who serves as the company’s Chairman of the Board.
Paul J. Corey is well known in Connecticut politics and government. During the Rowland years, Corey served as the Executive Director of the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control, the organization that plays such a significant role in the development of energy policy in Connecticut. Corey also served as the Chairman of the Board of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation from January 2000 to December 2004.
Corey’s wife, Christine, was a high-ranking personal assistant to former Governor John Rowland. Together they gave Rowland the famous hot-tub that helped lead to the impeachment hearings and Rowland’s subsequent resignation and trip to federal prison.
After leaving public service, Corey joined the law firm of Brown, Rudnick to work in their Public Utility Practice Group.
In addition to the two corporate executives, BNE Energy operation is assisted by the law firm of Pullman & Comley, where former State Senator Andrew McDonald worked before becoming Malloy’s Chief Counsel. (Malloy has recently nominated McDonald to a seat on the State Supreme Court). Pullman & Comley was retained to help BNE get approval from the Connecticut Siting Council.
Meanwhile, lobbying and permitting tasks for the wind farms were given to the law firm of Brown Rudnick, LLP. The lead individual from Brown, Rudnick is Thomas Ritter, the former speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives.
Finally, Occhiogrosso’s Global Strategy Group continued to assist with public relations and grassroots lobbying services.
In the last 24 months, Ritter and Global Strategy Group have received over $200,000 in fees from BNE.
Among the backers of the BNE project is Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, a public entity created to “help ensure Connecticut’s energy security and community prosperity by realizing its environmental and economic opportunities through clean, energy finance and investments.” The authority is chaired by Catherine Smith, the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). Another Board member is Daniel C. Esty, Malloy’s Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
According to public documents, the Finance and Investment Authority has given BNE Energy at least $500,000 in public funds.
In what could be described as an interesting coincidence, on June 21, 2012, BNE’s CEO Zupkus and the company’s president Corey both donated to Democratic Congressional candidate Elizabeth Esty, the wife of Commissioner Dan Esty.
According to BNE Energy, the project faced, “Fierce NIMBY opposition and a tumultuous regulatory environment…as well as heavy legislative scrutiny—particularly after a bill was introduced to place a moratorium on all wind projects in the state. In addition, opposition groups were well-funded and highly vocal, and the press was unsympathetic to the developers.”
BNE’s proposal for a project in Prospect was rejected by the Connecticut Siting Council by a vote of 6-2, but BNE’s plan for a wind farm in Colebrook was approved. Governor Malloy appoints the members of the Connecticut Siting Council, but the agency’s activities and budget report up through Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) which is part of Commissioner Esty’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
In response to the developments with BNE Energy and the Connecticut Siting Council, at the beginning of the 2012 Legislative Session, Democrat State Representative Vicki Orsini Nardello, the House Chair of the General Assembly’s Energy and Technology committee, along with State Senator Joan Hartley acted on their concern that the State of Connecticut had never adopted appropriate regulations to manage the development of wind energy in the state. The legislators introduced legislation suspending the development of further wind power projects until state regulations were established.
Among those supporting Nardello’s bill was U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and a significant number of residents from northwestern Connecticut.
However, BNE CEO Zupkus was highly critical of the bill, saying, “It’s just a way the anti-wind is crowd trying to stop wind projects.”
The moratorium bill was eventually passed, but with effective lobbying from former Speaker Ritter the BNE project was exempted.
Meanwhile, in October 2012, a Connecticut Superior Court ruled that the Connecticut Siting Council’s approval of a Colebrook wind farm project was legal and BNE could move forward with construction. However, the judge did make clear that Connecticut’s wind farm siting system was “deeply flawed” and needed to be enhanced.
Meanwhile, as the 2012 legislative campaigns heated up, Lezlye Zupkus, Gregory Zupkus’ wife, announced that she was going to run against Democrat State Representative Vicki Orsini Nardello.
On Election Day, Representative Nardello was one of the only incumbents to lose. At the time, Nardello explained, “When you take on strong corporate interests, you make enemies.”
Although both Nardello and Zupkus abided by the state’s public financing laws, a new outside group, funded by a right-wing Greenwich billionaire engaged in a series of “independent” expenditures aimed at defeating some Democrats that the group claimed were not sufficiently pro-business. Nardello was one of those targeted by Voters for Good Government. The PAC spent over a quarter of a million dollars to try and defeat these candidates.
Voters for Good Government, a new “super-PAC” funded by Greenwich billionaire Thomas Peterffy also took in funds from the Roger Sherman Liberty Center, Americans for Job Security and the American Justice Partnership. According to a story in the Hartford Courant, Peterffy “hates socialism because he grew up in communist Hungary before coming to America and making his fortune in discount brokerage.”
For more on Voters for Good Government read the Wait, What? blog post: http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/10/26/anti-socialist-greenwich-billionaire-targeting-democratic-connecticut-state-senators/
Of course, it is unclear if Malloy or Occhiogrosso were involved in any of the developments related to BNE Energy, but one thing is clear. Occiogrosso’s Global Strategies was involved with BNE Energy before he joined Governor Malloy’s operation and he is now returning to Global Strategies on January 14, 2013.
For more on the interconnections and intrigue surrounding this issue, see the following: