New Haven, State Politics, Stefan Pryor New Haven, Sergio Rodriguez, State Politics, Stefan Pryor
A former five-term member of the New Haven City Alderman who lost a Democratic Primary for the New Haven City Clerk’s job on September 10th has landed a state job with Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.
Sergio Rodriguez managed to submit his job application for the new position by the September 17th application deadline. Although Rodriquez lacks a college degree and doesn’t have any background in K-12 public education, he started his state job on December 13th 2013 with a starting salary of $67,500.
Wasting no time, on December 15th Rodriguez tweeted, “Heading to Washington, D.C. tomorrow, looking forward to meeting folks who are working on improving educational outcomes for our most vulnerable young people.”
Considering the State Department of Education’s policies and procedures about hiring, it immediately stands out that Pryor hired a politician with no academic degrees.
A review of recent and pending job postings at the State Department of Education reveals that the Minimum Experience and Training required for every associate position in Pryor’s agency has been “An earned advanced degree and eight (5) years of relevant professional experience.”
Positions above the associate level at the State Department of Education have required a Minimum Experience and Training level of “An earned advanced degree and eight (8) years of relevant professional experience.
[For example, see pending State Department of Education job postings #58101, #811-62856, #826–58395, and #825-59479.]
But then along came the posting of the position that landed Sergio Rodriguez his new state job.
According to the legal job posting, instead of requiring any academic degree, the Minimum Experience and Training was simply listed as a “Demonstrated competence to perform the duties and responsibilities of the position as determined by the State Board of Education.”
The job posting did require, “Knowledge of the basic philosophy of education; knowledge of organizational behavior and planning; ability to plan educational policy; ability to prepare comprehensive reports…”
The job posting also explained that the position was, “to provide technical assistance to improve educational outcomes for children and youth involved with child protective services, the juvenile justice system, or alternative programs. Key responsibilities will include providing assistance on the intersection of state and local responsibilities for the delivery of services to children and families of youth engaged with the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Judicial Department, the Department of Correction (DOC), Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and other state agencies…”
Before Rodriquez served as a member of the New Haven Board of Alderman, he worked as a substance abuse coordinator for the City of New Haven and Chairman of the City’s Substance Abuse Commission.
Based on Sergio Rodriguez’ resume it appears that while he has background in some of the required areas, it is equally clear that he has no particular expertise, or even experience, in “basic philosophy of education” or “ability to plan educational policy.”
In another odd twist that may or may not raise conflict of interest issues, Rodriquez and his wife, Randi Rubin, formed a company called R Kids Inc., in the 1990s. R Kids Inc. is an organization “committed to providing specialized, high quality services to children in out-of-home care and their families; promoting permanency, safety and stability for children through services to their biological, foster or adoptive families.”
Randi Rubin is the organization’s executive director collecting about $94,000 a year in salary and benefits.
Over the last eight year, R Kids Inc. has collected over $3.2 million in state grants primarily from the Department of Children and Families, one of the key state agencies Rodriquez will be directly working with on Pryor’s behalf.
In addition, R Kids Inc. has also received grant funds from the Department of Social Services, the Department of Environmental Protection and the New Haven Community Development Block Grant program.
The information provided to date doesn’t make it clear whether Sergio Rodriguez was the strongest candidate for the job but he did beat out other candidates with far more experience.
Regardless, the most interesting factor is that the State Department of Education created a job that required no college degree or any formal experience with the primary and secondary school system.
Also of note is the fact that Rodriquez was given a starting salary of $67,500 plus benefits which is a compensation package far in excess of what other state employees with only a high school degree are paid.
Of course, Wait, What? readers will recall that this is the same Commissioner Pryor that has been systematically decimating the professional staff at the State Department of Education by letting experts go and transferring others out of their key positions, all while hiring a $1 million out-of-state consulting firm that has sent in inexperienced consultants to run Pryor’s School “Turnaround Office” and his Commissioner’s Network Program.
Bridgeport, Campaign Finance, Democratic Party, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Kenneth Moales, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, State Politics Bridgeport, Democratic State Central Committee, Kenneth Moales Jr., Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas
Connecticut residents who attended the Democrat Party’s recent Jefferson, Jackson, Bailey dinner will be shocked to learn that according to a new campaign finance reported filed by the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee, the State Democratic Party siphoned off $20,000 in donations to the state party to cover the outstanding costs associated with Mayor Bill Finch and the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee’s recent loss in the September Bridgeport Board of Education primary.
On September 10th, the Democratic Party’s endorsed slate of candidates for the Bridgeport Board of Education, candidates loyal to Mayor Bill Finch, Board of Education Chairman Kenneth Moales Jr. and Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas, went down in a stunning defeat against a challenge slate made up of candidates opposed to Governor Malloy, Mayor Finch and Paul Vallas’ education reform initiatives.
The successful challenge slate had the support of local public education advocates, the Connecticut and Bridgeport Education Associations and the Working Families Party, as well as others.
Now the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee’s October campaign finance report reveals that with the local Bridgeport Town Committee facing a shortfall of at least $12,000, the State Democratic Party bailed Finch and the Bridgeport machine out with a $20,000 check the day before the primary was held.
By waiting until the day before the primary, Governor Dan Malloy, Democratic Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo and the Democratic State Central Committee could be sure that the media and voters didn’t know that the Democratic State Party was underwriting the pro-Vallas slate until after Primary Day. (State law requires that campaign finance reports be submitted seven days prior to the primary and then in October)
According to the campaign finance report, nearly all of the money spent was used to cover more than 140 checks to individual campaign workers who were apparently canvassing for the losing slate.
With no expenditures listed for direct mail, public opinion polling or an opposition research report that was conducted during the campaign, the new campaign finance report reiterates the likelihood that the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee has violated a series of campaign finance laws. A full investigation by the State Elections Enforcement Committee will be needed to determine just what Connecticut campaign finance laws the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee broke.
The direct financial involvement of the Democratic State Party in a local primary is very unusual. Traditionally, state Democrats have left those intra-party battles to the local Democrats.
The fact that the Democratic State Central Committee donated at least $20,000 and allowed the endorsed, pro-Finch, Moales and Vallas slate to use the Democratic State Central Committee’s non-profit mailing permit suggests that Governor Malloy and his pro-corporate education reform allies will do whatever it takes to try to defeat candidates who support Connecticut teachers and Connecticut’s public education system.
Check back for follow-up posts on any state investigations into the alleged campaign finance violations by the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee.
Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy, Public Opinion Research, State Politics Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy, State Politics
Yesterday, the Hartford Courant’s Rick Green posted an article entitled, “Malloy Approval Ratings Up, Support For Re-Election Still Tepid.” Green wrote, “A new poll by the Yankee Institute finds that Mayor Dannel P. Malloy has his highest approval rating ever among voters…And while it looks like he faces a tough re-election fight, the governor is no longer trailing an un-named Republican opponent.”
The observation is not necessarily wrong, but it hardly provides the whole picture.
The “election question” was, “If Governor Malloy runs for re-election in the year 2014, will you probably vote for Governor Malloy or probably vote for the Republican candidate?”
According to the survey results;
42% said they will probably vote for Governor Malloy
39% said they will probably vote for the Republican candidate
19% said they are not sure they will vote for.
First off, the number saying that they will vote for Governor Malloy is only up from 39% (in June 2011). That number is within what is called the statistical margin of error – meaning that it would be factually incorrect to say that he is definitely doing better. The change could simply be the consequence of a different sample.
Of even more concern for Malloy is the probable vote by party;
To be blunt, having spent decades studying Connecticut’s elections results, a statewide Democratic candidate cannot win with 11% (1 in 10 Democrats voting for the Republican) and another 14% unsure if they will support the Democratic candidate
Second, while Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than a 2 to 1 margin, it is simply impossible to win a statewide election with the support of only 25% of unaffiliated voters.
That is not to say that things can’t change – but losing at least 10 percent of Democrats only getting the support of 25% of unaffiliated voters will mean certain defeat for Malloy.
Second, this early in the campaign cycle, many pollsters look to job approval ratings as a better indicator of future electoral outcome than questions about imaginary head to head campaigns.
According to the new Yankee Institute Poll, 54% of Connecticut voters approve of the job Governor Malloy has been doing, 45% disapprove of Malloy’s performance and 2% are unsure.
The key is two-fold. The first is looking at the number of voters who disapprove of an elected official’s performance because that provides the basis for opponents and the second is to particularly watch what is happening with Democrats and unaffiliated voters.
According to surveys produced by the Yankee Institute the percent disapproving of Malloy’s job performance has been as follows:
February 2011 46% disapprove
June 2011 56% disapprove
February 2012 46% disapprove
February 2013 45% disapprove
Except for the bounce after the 2011 legislative session, the percent of voters most receptive to anti-Malloy messages has remained virtually unchanged since he took office.
Finally, Malloy’s job performance rating by party provides the most worrisome information at all;
|Malloy Job Performance
Remembers, to win, a Democratic statewide candidate needs virtually unanimous support from Democrats and needs significant support, although not a majority, from unaffiliated voters.
As the job performance by party reveals, a stunning 22% of Democrats disapprove of Malloy’s performance and 55% of unaffiliated voters disapprove of the Governor’s performance.
The Democrat has consistently sought strategies to alienate important Democratic constituencies and this poll reiterates, again, the impact of that effort. It is fair to say that as long as nearly 1 in 4 Democrats disapprove of Malloy’s job performance, he cannot win.
And strengthening that assessment is the fact that with such weak support among unaffiliated it would be virtually impossible to make up for the lost Democrats by increasing the percentage of support from unaffiliated.
Again, this doesn’t mean the election is “over,” but as we’ve learned, public opinion polling is an art and a science. Three important factors are how the questions are worded, who is interviewed and whether the assessment of the data is put in context.
The results from the Yankee Institute survey are hardly good news for Team Malloy.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Ethics, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, Public Opinion Research, Rell, State Politics ConnCAN, Ethics, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy, Public Opinion Polling, Roy Occhiogrosso
Earlier today, the Global Strategy Group, a political consulting and public relations company released a memo about a public opinion survey that it had conducted for the “education reform” advocacy group, ConnCAN, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc.
According to a Global Strategy Group memo, the poll found that, “Voters see the Governor [Malloy] as a strong advocate for education reform. Voters give the Governor favorable ratings (54% favorable/36% unfavorable) and believe he is doing a good job when it comes to education. A majority of voters (54%) approve of the job he is doing when it comes to Connecticut’s public schools. Parents are especially supportive of the Governor’s efforts and rate his performance on schools favorably by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 (60% approve/31% disapprove).
The Global Strategy Group is where Roy Occhiogrosso landed after leaving the Governor’s Office six weeks ago. After serving for two years as Governor Malloy’s chief advisor and spokesman, Roy Occhiogrosso recently returned to Global Strategies Group to serve as its Managing Director.
Occhiogrosso had previously served as a partner at Global Strategies from 2003 to 2010. During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Dan Malloy’s gubernatorial campaign, much of it funded through the State’s publicly funded campaign finance system, paid Occhiogrosso and Global Strategies a total of $669,105.87.
According to the memo, the ConnCAN opinion survey was conducted between January 23 and January 27, 2013, just a couple of weeks after Occhiogrosso rejoined Global Strategies.
Although neither ConnCAN nor Global Strategies released the questionnaire that served as the survey instrument, it is clear from today’s memo that the poll was designed to collect valuable political information, as well as perspectives on policy issues.
When an organization conducts a survey with a larger sample size, only interviews voters and includes questions to determine the respondents’ party affiliation, their goal is generally to collect information about how key political sub-constituencies respond to potential voting issues.
It is particularly suspicious that ConnCAN and Global Strategies decided to conduct the survey at the end of January, prior to the Governor’s Budget speech, but held the results until after the speech was completed. A poll of this nature would be of tremendous political value to the Malloy Administration if they had access to the data prior to putting together his budget speech.
ConnCAN’s political support for Governor Malloy is well known. Last Spring, within 24 hours of Malloy’s “education reform” bill becoming a Public Act, one of ConnCAN’s founders held an extremely lucrative fundraiser for a political action committee called Prosperity for Connecticut. The PAC appears to be affiliated with Governor Malloy and the Governor has attended all, or most, of the PAC’s fundraising events, including a series of fundraising parties in Washington D.C. and New York City.
Jonathan Sackler, who hosted the event for education reform supporters, is not only one of the original founders of ConnCAN, but he also formed ConnAD, the organization that spent record amounts lobbying for Malloy’s “education reform bill. Furthermore, he is also the founder of 50-CAN, a national education reform advocacy group. National officials from Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Teach for America and other national education reform groups donated to the Sackler fundraiser.
The May 30, 2012 fundraiser at Sackler’s $8.5 million home raised over $41,000 for the Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, making it the most successful of the 15 fundraisers the PAC has had since being formed two years ago.
At the Sackler event, significantly more than half of the money raised came directly from members of ConnCAN’s Board of Directors, ConnCAN’s Advisory Board or family members of the individuals who serve on the two boards.
The decision to conduct this poll raises numerous serious issues.
Did Occhiogrosso know about the poll before he left state service and did he spend any state time or resources communicating with ConnCAN or Global Strategies about the poll?
Were any other members of Malloy’s Administration, such as OPM Secretary Barnes, Education Commissioner Pryor or Chief of Staff Ojakian aware of the poll? Did any of these public officials offer information that impacted the questions being asked?
Equally important is whether the Malloy Administration received any information about the survey’s finding prior to the poll’s public release and most importantly, prior to the Governor’s budget speech.
Depending on what information was provided and who did the communicating, there are potential violations of Connecticut’s ethics laws, let alone the possibility that public employees used state resources to further their political agenda.
The issue is particularly relevant because leading up to the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, I filed a complaint against Governor Rell, her chief of staff and key members of her administration for using state resources to support public opinion polling that was designed to have political benefits for Rell. The complaint eventually led to major fines for some of the individuals involved in the effort.
While in this case the poll was conducted by a private entity, was not done at state expense and Malloy has yet to form a campaign committee, ConnCAN is a registered lobbyist and that brings a whole series of ethics issues into play. In addition, it is conceivable that if state employees were involved in the development of the survey, other laws may have been violated.
Anyone aware of Connecticut’s ethics laws and the laws prohibiting the use of state resources for political purposes would instantly recognize that a poll of this nature, especially conducted at this time, would raise a wide variety of questions.
It is for that reason that this post is entitled, “Incredible stupidity, stunning arrogance or both…”
Rest assured that this is not the last time we will hear about this incredible and stunningly stupid move by ConnCAN and Global Strategies.
News coverage of this event has been extremely limited to date. Here is the first article on the poll. Advocates Say Survey Shows Support For Education Reforms.
Coincidentally – here is a Wait, What? post from earlier today entitled; Malloy says: I know, let’s finish off the effectiveness of the government watchdog agencies…
Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Ethics, Freedom of Information, Malloy, Office of State Ethics, State Budget, State Elections Enforcement Commission, State Politics Freedom of Information Commission, Malloy, Office of State Ethics, State Budget, State Elections Enforcement Commission
In his first budget, Governor Malloy went a long way toward undermining the effectiveness of Connecticut’s landmark Freedom of Information Commission, Office of State Ethics, State Elections Enforcement Commission and Connecticut’s other watch dog and good government agencies by merging them into a single agency, reducing their resources and giving financial control to a political appointee.
Although he somehow forgot to mention it during his speech last week, Malloy’s new state budget plan takes another giant leap forward in his effort to destroy Connecticut’s once stellar standing as having one of the best good government programs in the nation.
The CTMirror has the details in an article entitled “Howls as Malloy tries to shorten leash on watchdogs,” but the quote of the day goes to Malloy’s Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, Ben Barnes, who says of the proposal to destroy the remaining independence of the watchdog agencies, “There is nothing insidious about this.”
As quoted in the CTMirror article, James H. Smith, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information explains, “These proposals can only be explained as an effort to gain control over the guarantors of transparency and integrity in government…We ask why the Malloy administration is determined to emasculate the independent watchdogs?”
As the CTMirror explains, “Malloy’s plan would give a gubernatorial appointee, the executive director of the Office of Government Accountability, the authority to assign and discipline lawyers whose duties could include investigating Malloy or some future governor.”
The CTMirror summarizes the situation noting, “The change would remove a layer of political insulation that protects the agencies and the governor: The watchdogs are free of executive influence, real or perceived; and the governor’s office is protected against accusations of protecting friends or punishing enemies.”
Imagine what the Democrats would be saying if a Republican governor made such an outrageous proposal.
I bet if we listen carefully, we can hear John Rowland laughing…
CABE, Education Reform, Malloy, State Politics Commissioner's Network, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
Where is the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education?
Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor instructed towns that if they had a local school that they wanted to become part of the new Commissioner’s Network, ”Expression of Interest Forms” needed to be submitted by January 4, 2013.
On its face, the commissioner’s action seemed simple enough.
When the Connecticut General Assembly debated and adopted Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill, it was widely understood that the state’s ability to takeover individual schools or school districts was extremely limited and could only occur after the state took a very specific set of actions.
A key provision of the law, now known as Public Act 12-116, was the creation of a Commissioner’s Network. As the State Department of Education explains on their website, the Commissioner’s Network is “designed to provide new resources and flexibilities to improve student achievement in the state’s lowest performing schools. The Commissioner’s Network is designed as a partnership between local stakeholders and the state and will serve as a vehicle for innovative initiatives, a platform for sharing effective practices, and a model for other schools and districts throughout the state.”
The spirit and the language of the law make it extremely clear that the Commissioner’s Network is based on the full participation of the local Board of Education and the local teachers through their union.
The language lays out a process for the development and approval of a “turnaround plan,” including provisions for how to deal with collective bargaining issues.
So now Commissioner Pryor is requiring towns to submit a document if they are interested in being part of the program.
But here is the problem.
Pryor’s first step doesn’t require the local superintendent to even communicate with the local Board of Education, let alone get their approval.
But as I’m sure every state legislator would attest too, the notion that the process would proceed without the full participation, or even knowledge, of the local Board of Education is inconceivable.
This is Connecticut and local education policy decisions are made by the local board of education.
If a school becomes part of the Commissioner’s Network, the local board of education loses full control of that program for three years. In fact, it is the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education that controls many of the management decisions related to Network Schools
And yet, in an effort to cut corners, Commissioner Pryor’s process by-passes the critically important early involvement of local boards.
The Commissioner’s Network Expression of Interest Form, official documents that were all filed by January 4, 2013 asked the applicant (the local superintendent of schools);
(1) Whether the Local board of education has been consulted and supports the school’s participation in the Commissioner’s Network and
(2) Whether the representatives of exclusive bargaining units have been consulted and support the school’s participation in the Commissioner’s Network
The superintendent of schools in Windham schools submitted the “Expression of Interest form” but reported that neither the local board nor the local teacher’s union had been consulted.
The superintendent of New Britain schools submitted the form and reported that neither the local board nor the local teacher’s union had been consulted.
And the superintendent of New Haven schools submitted the form and also reported that neither the local board nor the local teacher’s union had been consulted.
Paul Vallas, the superintendent of Bridgeport’s schools reported that his Board had been consulted and supported the effort – which wasn’t true. The issue wasn’t even raised to the local Board of Education until ten days later and at that point it was referred to a sub-committee for discussion.
The superintendents in Waterbury and Norwalk claimed that they too had the support of their boards and unions but the accuracy of that statement isn’t known.
In the highly charged environment of school reform, even an expression of interest is a major step for a town to make. Imagine the superintendent of a suburban school informing the state, without the approval of their board, that the town is interested in turning over partial control of one of their schools to the state. The superintendent would be tarred and feathered for treason.
So where are the voices of concern about this process?
In particular, where is the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE)?
Why are they silent on this gross violation of legislative intent?
CABE’s Mission is “To assist local and regional boards of education in providing high quality public education for all Connecticut children through effective leadership.”
In particular, “CABE advocates on behalf of boards of education at the state and federal level before the legislature, Congress, and state and federal agencies.”
No one but the local board of education should be offering up control of local schools.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the concept of utilizing the so-called Commissioner’s Network System, the process demands the highest level of involvement by local elected leaders.
CABE is funded by the local school districts, meaning it is funded, in no small part, by the local taxpayers of the towns that make up CABE’s membership.
CABE should be out in front demanding that local boards of education aren’t being swept aside by Commissioner Pryor’s rush to line up schools for his Commissioner’s Network.
Campaign Finance, Connecticut State Government, Corporate Viewpoint, DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty, Energy policy, Malloy, State Politics Campaign Finance, Energy Policy, Global Strategies Group, Lobbyists, Malloy, Occhiogrosso
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:
Bridgeport, Campaign Finance, Ethics, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, State Politics Campaign Finance, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy, Prosperity for Connecticut PAC
At least 15 family members and employees of a company that financially benefits from Connecticut public policy is one of the biggest donors to Malloy’s Political Action Committee, according to an article written by investigative reporter Jon Lender in today’s Hartford Courant.
Wait, What? readers are already familiar with Prosperity for Connecticut, a political action committee tied to Governor Malloy.
As a result of more than 14 fundraising events over the past year, the PAC has raised over $200,000.
Now, according to Jon Lender, “State campaign finance records show that at least 15 contributions — mostly at the maximum annual amount for an individual, $750 — were made in May and September to the Prosperity for Connecticut PAC by people with ties of employment or kin to Capt. Brian A. McAllister of New York City. He is the head of McAllister Towing and Transportation Co. and the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Co., which operates the ferry between those two ports…he McAllister ferry business has been unsuccessful so far in its effort to expand to a larger boat terminal that would be built on the east side of Bridgeport Harbor, opposite from its current location.
But a new consultant’s study on the future of Connecticut’s deep water ports, commissioned in mid-year by the Democrat-controlled legislature and released in October by Malloy’s office, recommends that the state “protect and enhance private ferry services.” And, in a section relevant to the McAllister business, it says: “the State should support the Phase 1 relocation/expansion of the Bridgeport ferry” to the location sought by the company on the east side.”
The full story can be found here: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-column-pac-contributions-1209-20121208,0,1249593.column
Issues about the political action committee were highlighted in an article here at Wait, What? in a post entitled, “If money is the “mother’s milk of politics”, Governor Malloy’s cup runneth over” (see http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/12/06/if-money-is-the-mothers-milk-of-politics-governor-malloys-cup-runneth-over/)
The Courant’s Jon Lender then wrote a story for the Hartford Courant. See http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/12/07/courants-jon-lender-sheds-light-on-malloys-pac/
Lender’s latest story raises extraordinarily serious issues related about the inter-connection between Malloy’s fundraising activities and state policy.
Having now spent a significant amount of time analyzing the PACs fundraising reports, I’m reminded of the interesting fact about icebergs…” approximately 90 percent of an iceberg is found under water.”
I can guarantee this isn’t the last time we’ll be reading about the Prosperity for Connecticut Political Action Committee.
In the “small world department,” Wait, What? readers may also remember that McAllister’s Port Jefferson Steamboat Co., was one of the largest contributors to Mayor Bill Finch’s Bridgeport referendum political committee that was campaigning to do away with a democratically elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the Mayor.
Moving the Port Jefferson Steamboat terminal in Bridgeport, as was recommended by the Malloy Administration’s study, would require the approval of both the State of Connecticut and the City of Bridgeport.
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For Wait, What readers who were intrigued by yesterday’s blog post entitled, “If money is the “mother’s milk of politics”, Governor Malloy’s cup runneth over,” Jon Lender, the courant’s legendary investigative reporter, has taken an even more detailed look into the recent activities of Governor Malloy’s Political Action Committee…or the political action committee that appears to be connected with Malloy.
As noted in my blog yesterday, Governor Malloy, and a number of Connecticut’s highest ranking public officials, attended a fundraiser last night at the home of Alan Lazowski. Lazowski is the owner of LAZ parking, and the recent recipient of a multi-million dollar development contract given out by a commission that the Governor controls.
As the Courant notes, “Lazowski is CEO of Hartford-based LAZ Parking, one of the biggest parking operators in the country. In May, LAZ began a $990,980 contract to provide valet parking for patients at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington – a pact that has several renewal options that could extend it six years beyond its initial one-year term…”
Prosperity for Connecticut PAC has already raised over $200,000 thanks to more than a dozen fundraisers over the past year.
Lender’s news article sheds new light on a variety of issues associated with the PAC and its activities, but the most interesting part of the whole article was the official response from Malloy’s gubernatorial spokesperson.
In response to a statement of concern about the PAC by the Republican State Chairman Jerry Labriola, Malloy’s media staff told Lender, “Jerry’s histrionics aside, this fundraiser was not set up by the governor, but he agreed to attend along with many other political, business and community leaders. He’s attending this event for the same reason he attends any number of similar events: he is the chief elected official of the state,” said Andrew R. Doba, Malloy’s director of communications.
As usual, it seems the people who speak for the Governor can’t utter a single statement that doesn’t begin or end with bullying, threatening or insulting language.
Not to mention, this is definitely NOT just another PAC, nor was it an event that the Governor just happened to stop by at.
The invitation made it clear the event featured the Governor and the Governor has been the primary draw at the PAC’s other fundraisers. Furthermore, it is well-known among the power elite that this is “the Governor’s PAC.” An observer need only look at the names of the high-ranking lobbyists who have given to this PAC.
Definitely take the time to read Lender’s piece. Although many of the quotes are in “political speech,” some of them are extremely telling. There is absolutely no doubt that between what they said to Lender and what shows up in these political action committee reports we’ll be hearing more about this group and its activities.
You can read Lender’s piece here: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-pac-fundraiser-malloy-1207-20121206,0,3461857.story
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Later today, movers, shakers, lobbyists, the political elite, and anyone else ready to plunk down $750 a person can have a cocktail with Governor Malloy and a host of “featured guests” including Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Senator-elect Chris Murphy, Congressman John Larson, Congresswoman-elect Elizabeth Esty and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra.
The ticket price will also get you into the upscale home of Alan Lazowski, owner of LAZ Parking. Lazowski is also part of the investment team whose company just received a major contract from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority to develop more housing and retail space in downtown Hartford.
And while handing over the check may not get you onto Santa’s “good” list, the proceeds go to Governor Malloy’s political action committee, called Prosperity for Connecticut.
If you were one of those who thought Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance reform law put an end to the co-mingling of Connecticut politics and public policy, apparently you’d be wrong. Since its creation about 15 months ago, Malloy’s Prosperity for Connecticut PAC has raised over $200,000, as a result of at least eleven fundraisers held in Connecticut, New York, and as far away as Washington DC.
If you weren’t on the invitation lists, you might not have known about the fundraiser at the exclusive Rue 57 on Manhattan’s West 57th Steet, or the even more exclusive event at 1455 Pennsylvania Ave, across from the White House and next to the legendary Willard Hotel.
Or maybe you missed the fundraiser at the home of Jonathan Sackler, education reform aficionado and co-founder of Achievement First, ConnCAN, ConnAD and 50CAN. The same Jonathan Sackler who helped Malloy’s Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor build Achievement First into one of the largest charter school management companies in the country.
And you probably didn’t get the invitation to the “meet and great” at Vision Financial Markets LLC, where an impressive number of their employees had the opportunity to meet Governor Malloy after donating only $750 per person to his PAC.
And then there was the New York City event where it appears that more than a dozen members and employees of the McAllister family joined together to generously support Governor Malloy’s PAC.
You don’t know the McAllister family? Why they own McAllister Towing in Brooklyn, New York.
Over the past year, while the Governor has helped orchestrate the passage and death of dozens of pieces of legislation, more than a dozen Connecticut lobbyists have donated to Malloy’s PAC, as have some of Connecticut’s other political action committees.
Of course, it takes money to make money, some more than $40,000 of the money raised was paid out to O’Neill & Associates, Boston’s #1 lobbying firm. The a company is headed by Thomas O’Neill III who is not only Tip O’Neill’s oldest son, but also a former Massachusetts State Legislator and former Lt. Governor in the Bay State.
Finally, in the good news department, since it would be illegal, under Connecticut law, for Governor Malloy’s PAC to use its funds to help Governor Malloy’s political endeavors, we can be sure that all these donors never thought the money they were donating was going to benefit the Governor, so at least there isn’t that whole, awkward conflict of interest.