Washington Post runs Pelto/Lecker School Funding Commentary piece from Hartford Courant


It is common to hear school reformers say that money isn’t a real issue in improving schools. Here’s a piece that says otherwise. It was written by Wendy Lecker, parent of three children in Stamford, Connecticut’s public schools, and Jonathan Pelto, a former member of the Connecticut House of Representatives who now provides commentary on politics and public policy at his blog,“Wait, What?” This appeared in the Hartford Courant.

By Wendy Lecker and Jonathan Pelto

“The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities just issued a report concluding that Connecticut’s public schools are grossly under-funded and calling for meaningful reform of Connecticut’s school funding system.

Pulling no punches, the report acknowledges that school finance reform cannot be done on the cheap and that significantly more funding is needed in order to provide all students with a quality education.

As the report declared, “the State should not sacrifice the futures of another generation of school children waiting for the courts to tell them — yet again — to meet its state constitutional funding responsibilities.”

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) estimates $763 million in underfunding, representing only the gap between current funding and fully funding the Education Cost Sharing formula as it stands now. However, that formula is flawed and does not reflect the true cost of education in Connecticut. In fact, as part of its recommendations, CCM calls for an “education adequacy cost study” to assess the actual cost of education, including all the factors affecting this cost. Doing so increases the number beyond $1 billion.

CCM’s clarity of vision derives from the experience of its members:  the municipalities that deal on a daily basis with escalating education costs and inadequate funding.  Because of the state’s underfunding of public schools, Connecticut’s cities and towns, especially its poorer communities, are forced to deprive their own schools of needed resources.

The result is that children and teachers must endure large classes, insufficient textbooks, computers and other learning tools, buildings in disrepair, slashing of teaching positions, and the elimination of programs and courses.

In Connecticut and around the country, courts have consistently ruled that underfunded schools amount to constitutional violations of children’s right to an education.

In New York, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Washington and many other states, courts have determined that there is “a causal connection between the poor performance of … students and the low funding provided their schools.“

Unlike the modern corporate education reformers, rather than vilify teachers and educational experts, courts value their firsthand knowledge of school conditions, their effects on learning, and the resources needed to give all students an equal opportunity to learn.

When shown evidence of conditions in actual schools, courts consistently find what CCM contends – without adequate funding, schools cannot provide an adequate education.”

The rest of the Washington Post column here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/11/25/how-grossly-underfunded-are-public-schools/

And you can find the original Hartford Courant piece here:  http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-pelto-lecker-connecticut-schools-underfunded-20121123,0,6000165.story

CT Taxpayers invest in “Hot App” company, will the Wait, What? Blog be next?

An 18-month old company, incorporated in Delaware, with an office in Westport, but its chief financial officer and chief operations officers in California, landed $750,000 in Connecticut taxpayer funding this week, thanks to Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-state agency that works to support the Connecticut economy by investing public funds in private companies.

deets, inc., who has had no sales to date, is developing a “productivity App” that, “facilities message sharing for a specific group of workers, parents of Little League players or other small groups, getting them information cleanly and quickly. It also provides smooth contact synchronization.”

A version of the App is now available at the Apple App Store.  According to an article written by the Hartford Courant’s Mara Lee, “The writers of the free app, which has nearly 10,000 users since its launch in August, are hoping to capitalize on the “’anti-social sentiment that’s out there.’”

The company plans to use the new funding to hire 5 employees in Connecticut.

In addition to the Apple version of the app, deets reports that an Android version will be out in January and the plan, according to the Courant, will be to “launch paid versions for businesses. The businesses could use deets to send messages to customers or to help teams communicate internally.”

The news that scarce public funds are being given to a company with limited connections to Connecticut, but who are engaged in an effort to break into a growth field, led Jonathan Pelto, whose blog, Wait, What? seeks to bring transparency and accountability to the Malloy Administration and Connecticut State Government, in general, to consider submitting an application for funding.

“We are definitely considering submitting an application to one of these agencies,” Pelto said, “Attempting to bring transparency to the Malloy Administration is definitely a growth market and we’ve literally had hundreds of thousands of visits to Wait What?,” Pelto noted.

“While our sales have been limited to date, with $750,000 we’d hire, not five, but at least ten Connecticut residents to be researchers and writers, and with that, we’re convinced we could turn the blog into a money-making venture over the next two years,” added Pelto.

However, when asked whether he or his Blog, Wait, What? might be blacklisted from getting state aid, Pelto failed to return multiple phone calls, and referred any further questions to his lawyers.

For the Courant Story see:  http://www.courant.com/business/hc-ci-deets-inc-relocation-20121113,0,281750.story

As they say in public radio, it’s never too late to donate – Wait, What? needs your help


First and foremost, I want to thank all of you who have been so generous in your support for Wait, What?

See:   http://fundly.com/lomx4hbr

Contributions in support of Wait, What? came in from all over the state, and even from around the country.  Donations ranged from $10 to $250 and each and every contribution is an extraordinary statement about your commitment to helping me continue and strengthen this blog and the role of advocacy journalism in the state.  I truly can’t thank you enough.

In addition to my work with Wait, What?, in the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out a new entity called Connecticut Public School Advocates.  CT-PSA will be a grass-roots organization dedicating to promoting PUBLIC EDUCATION in Connecticut.  Unlike the “education reformers,” who will do or say anything in their effort to demonize teachers and privatize our educational system, those of us who believe in the fundamental importance of high quality public education for everyone, are ready, willing and eager to have an honest discussion about the challenges facing public education in this nation and how best to meet those challenges.

More about how to get involved in Connecticut Public School Advocates will be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, I will continue to use Wait, What? as my primary vehicle for raising awareness and pushing for meaningful change in how government and politics function in Connecticut.  As we’ve witnessed, on many issues, at both the state and local level, things are “off-track.”

While reasonable people can certainly disagree about specific proposals or policies, my work with Wait, What? has reiterated my belief that; (1) we are all better off when citizens have a true  understanding of the challenges that confront us, (2) that policymakers must be held accountable for their actions, and (3) as Democrats, we have an obligation to hold our own to the same or greater standard than we hold our opponents.

If you haven’t had a chance to help support Wait, What? through a donation, your help now would be greatly appreciated.

Any contribution, whether large or small, will help ensure that we continue our effort to educate, persuade and mobilize people to speak out on the important issues and challenges that we face.

As always, thank you very much,

Jonathan Pelto

To support Wait, What – please go to http://fundly.com/lomx4hbr


PS:  The way this particular fundraising site works is that the names of donors are listed on the page after a contribution is made.  If you’d prefer not to have your name listed on the website’s “Fundraising Page” all you have to do is check the anonymous box on the “donation page.”  All the information will still come through to me, but your name will not show up in the “Pulse” section of the on-line fundraising page….  Regardless I will take the page down after the fundraising effort is over.

Alternatively, if you would prefer, donations can be made by check.  Simply send it to Wait, What? C/o Jonathan Pelto, PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268

Contributions are not tax-deductible, nor do they qualify as campaign donations.  They are simply donations or contributions toward the maintenance of Wait, What?

George McGovern: An American Hero

In 1972, I had the honor of meeting George McGovern when he flew into Bradley Airport to speak at a nearby hotel ballroom.

That year, at the age of eleven, I spent hundreds of hours making persuasion, ID and GOTV phone calls at the Mansfield Democratic Headquarters.  I still remember some of the mean comments that were made when someone heard my childlike voice.  That November, I stayed up late on election night, watching CBS News and thinking that somehow California and the West Coast would turn the tide and give McGovern he Electoral College votes he needed to win.  I cried when I went to bed that night and wore a block armband the next day to school.

Another one of the greatest moments in my political life occurred when last august, Patrick Scully, an apologist for Governor Malloy, and a self-described “high-profile communications, public relations, media and political consulting professional” decided to attack me, my blog and my criticisms of Malloy and his administration.

When I blasted Malloy for his arrogant and insensitive comments about Connecticut’s public employees last August, Scully penned a Harford Courant commentary piece in which he wrote that Jonathan Pelto is “hopelessly disconnected from the average Connecticut citizen and continue to wallow in the failed, far-left, now-fringe policies of 1970s.”

Scully added, “George McGovern is no longer relevant, nor are his policies. Today’s Democrats (myself included) are in the camp of John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and, yes, Dan Malloy.

Scully’s “insults” may have been among the greatest compliments that I’ve ever received.

Today, and in the coming days, people interested in George McGovern, and his legacy, will have plenty to read.

Here are a just a few highlights of his many contributions to our nation.

At the age of 20, George McGovern enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he served as an extremely active B-24 bomber pilot, a service that earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war, McGovern returned to the country and earned a Masters and Doctorate in American history and government from Northwestern University.  He then returned to South Dakota to become a university teacher.

A few years later he became political director for the South Dakota Democratic Party and then won a seat in the United State House of Representatives in 1956.  He was re-elected to the House in 1958 but lost his bid for the United States Senate in 1960.

In 1961, President Kennedy appointed McGovern a special assistant to the president, and director of the Food for Peace Program.  That program continues to be the world’s largest emergency hunger relief program in the world.

McGovern returned to South Dakota a year later, winning the U. S. Senate seat, a position he was re-elected to in 1968 and 1974.

In 1972, George McGovern’s anti-Vietnam war message helped him become the Democratic Party’s Presidential nominee.  He went on to a historic lose to Richard Nixon, whose campaign was behind the 1972 Watergate crimes, and who was forced to resign in disgrace a few years later..

The key elements of McGovern’s 1972 campaign included the following;

His Democratic Nomination speech in which he said, “Let us resolve that never again will we send the precious young blood of this country to die trying to prop up a corrupt military dictatorship abroad,”

A domestic agenda designed to, “ensure that every American able to work has a job to do.”

A call to end the artificial government economic controls of the 1970s, “in which labor is depressed but prices and corporate profits run sky high.”

A “national health insurance plan”

And “a fair and just tax system,” that included a proposal for higher taxes on the wealthy.

While McGovern returned to the U.S. Senate after the 1972 Presidential campaign, he lost his Senate Seat in the Landslide of 1980.

President Bill Clinton appointed McGovern to serve as the United States ambassador to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in 2000 and was named the first United Nations global ambassador on hunger in 2001.

Although McGovern initially endorsed Hillary Clinton in the last presidential campaign, he later switched his endorsement to Barack Obama.

However, during Obama first year in office, McGovern wrote a scathing attack on the Obama administration’s decision to continue to war in Afghanistan.

McGovern wrote, “As a U.S. senator during the 1960s, I agonized over the badly mistaken war in Vietnam…After doing all I could to save our troops and the Vietnamese people from a senseless conflict, I finally took my case to the public in my presidential campaign in 1972. Speaking across the nation, I told audiences that the only upside of the tragedy in Vietnam was that its enormous cost in lives and dollars would keep any future administration from going down that road again. “I was wrong.”

This morning, George McGovern died at the age of 90.

He was a great American and a proud liberal.

To the fools, he was a dangerous radical or an example of the “failed fringe politics of the 1970s.”

To those of us who knew of his accomplishment sand his dedication and commitment to our nation and humanity, he was and will always be a hero.


No, the red in my checks is not a sun burn.  And yes, I know our society frowns on grown men blushing…

But who wouldn’t blush when confronted by the extraordinarily generous words of Diane Ravitch, a true American hero and the Patron Saint to all of us who believe in the importance of saving and improving American Education.

Diane Ravitch’s blog at http://dianeravitch.net/ is the first thing I read when I get up in the morning and the last thing I read before I go to bed.  (Not to mention checking it multiple times throughout the day.)

Thanks to the blogging she has been doing over the last three months, I’ve learned more about education policy and politics then I had over 35 years of work in and around government.

There is simply nobody in the nation who is doing more to battle the forces of evil that seek to privatize and destroy what is great about our educational system.  Knowledgeable and courageous, Diane consistently provides information and commentary about how we can make our schools better and what the opponents of public education are doing to undermine our country’s ability to provide all of our children with the knowledge and skills they need to live fuller and more productive lives.

Today, Diane posted a piece about me and my blog at Wait, What?

As a tribute to all of those who have helped me with my advocacy journalism, I post it below.  I am truly honored beyond words.


The Connecticut Watchdog for the Public Interest

A reader reminded me of a post by blogger Jonathan Pelto about Hartford, Connecticut, that shows how districts can “game the system” to meet testing target.

And that reminded me that Jon Pelto is someone you should know about. Subscribe to his blog if you want an insider’s view of education reform in Connecticut.

Pelto was a legislator for several years and cares passionately about public education. He knows how to follow the money and watches for conflict of interest and hidden lobbyists.

He has written many posts in opposition to Governor Dannel Malloy’s alliance with the hedge fund managers’ group called ConnCAN (now operating in other states as 50CAN). Pelto has called out all the players in the corporate camp, including the other Wall Street group called Democrats for Education Reform, the charter chain Achievement First, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, and Teach for America, all of which took a role in shaping and pushing Governor Malloy’s “reform” bill to funnel more money to charters than to the state’s poorest districts and to strip teachers of tenure. It’s all “for the children,” remember. Malloy said he would be happy to see more “teaching to the test,” and also said the achievement gap in his state made it necessary to take away teacher tenure. This is absurd; Connecticut has a large achievement gap because it has outsized income inequality, with large concentrations of urban poverty and intense concentrations of extreme wealth. But let’s not talk about that.

Pelto has been critical of State Commissioner Stefan Pryor, who was a founder of a Connecticut charter school, Amistad Academy, and chairman of its board for five years. That charter school is the flagship in the Achievement First charter chain. Pelto has been fearless in criticizing the claims of the powerful Achievement First chain, showing what a small percentage of ELLs it enrolls compared to urban districts in the state, and pointing out how Malloy’s budget showered far more money on this wealthy charter chain than on the state’s neediest students.

For the Diane’s full post go to: http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/26/the-connecticut-watchdog-for-the-public-interest/



Wait, What? Makes Washington Post – Valarie Strauss Reprints Column on Conflicts of Interest in CT

Wait, What? makes the Washington Post as Valerie Strauss, one of the nation’s leading education reporters and columnists, publishes one of my blogs. I am deeply honored!

How education sausage gets made: The story behind a reform story

This was written by Jonathan Pelto, a former member of the Connecticut House of Representatives who now provides commentary on politics and public policy at his blog, “Wait, What?”, where this first appeared.

By Jonathan Pelto

When are conflicts of interest – conflicts of interests?

The Connecticut Mirror recently published a news story entitled “State Board criticizes revised education reform bill.”

It was a straightforward story about how the State Board of Education was joining other “Education Reform” advocates in blasting the changes the Legislature’s Education Committee made to Governor Malloy’s Senate Bill 24.

Speaking on behalf of the State Board of Education it quoted Allan Taylor (Chairman) Stefan Pryor (Commissioner) and board member Patricia Luke. Balanced against their comments were those of the House co-chairman of the Education Committee.

To my knowledge there was nothing remotely inaccurate about the story.

It is not what the story says, but what it doesn’t say that is noteworthy and representative of an issue that has plagued the “education reform” effort from the beginning.

The news story began like this: “State Board of Education members angrily criticized lawmakers’ attempts to scale back a major education reform bill, saying Wednesday that the watered-down bill could stall the effort to fix the state’s worst schools.”

The first quote came from State Board of Education Chairman, Allan Taylor who said he has “watched this process … with real dismay.” Taylor has been a hard-working and dedicated member of the state board for years. However, Taylor is also a member of ConnCAN Inc.’s Advisory Board. ConnCAN Inc. is the “education reform” advocacy group that received $1.3 million from the Walton Family Foundation to run a pro-charter school and “education reform” public relations campaign. ConnCAN Inc. was set up by the same people who formed Achievement First Inc., the charter school management company that runs 20 charter schools in Connecticut and New York.

Another critic of the legislature at the State Board of Education meeting was Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. As we know, Pryor helped create and direct Achievement First, Inc. for eight years before resigning to become Malloy’s “education reform” point person.

Considering the increase in funding for charter schools and the probable outcome of Malloy’s “Commissioner’s Network” program, Achievement First may very well be the entity that is the single biggest winner from Malloy’s bill. The charter school company with its 2,600 students will get a bigger per-student and total dollar boost in funds than Hartford, New Haven or Bridgeport, not to mention the opportunity to take over some of the “Commissioner’s Network” schools.

At the meeting Pryor highlighted his concern about what the Mirrordescribed as “the reduction of funding in a proposal aimed at low-performing districts and the removal of specific strategies to help those districts….”

The issue Pryor is referring to is, in fact, the “Commissioner’s Network” program — the very program that would allow him to take over up to 25 schools, fire the staff, ban collective bargaining and turn those schools over to some other entity, such as a charter school management firm. These entities would then run the schools while being exempt for the state’s laws on competitive bidding, purchasing and the use of outside consultants.

Pryor says he is concerned that the legislature removed some “specific strategies to help those districts.”

Let’s be honest. Not everyone thinks firing teachers, banning collective bargaining, having a third party run the schools and exempting that third party from Connecticut’s consulting and purchasing laws is “helping” out the children who go to those schools.

Finally, State Board Of Education member Patricia Luke was also upset about the Education Committee’s efforts and was quoted as saying: “When I realized what they had done to the bill, all I could say was it’s just the same old story.”

What the story fails to mention is that before being appointed to the State Board of Education, Patricia Luke was the lead lobbyist for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) for 19 years.

CABE, as the story does note, has partnered with ConnCAN, the Connecticut superintendents’ association, and a number of business groups to lobby on behalf of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill.

Just this week, CABE, which is supposed to represent members of boards of education across the state, remained silent when one of its advocacy partners, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, publicly claimed that poverty did not impact educational outcomes. CABE’s members know better than most that poverty is the single biggest factor associated with poor educational outcomes.

While reasonable people can have different opinions about an issue as complex as “education reform,” we are left to wonder, yet again, just who are some of those “public servants” are actually advocating for?


Follow The Answer Sheet every day by bookmarkingwww.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet.

A huge thank you as Wait What? reaches 100,000 visits

Late last night my blog, Wait, What? hit the 100,000 mark.

100,000 individual visits to my website since I started the blog on January 3, 2011.

This milestone reached after 191 posts and well over 1200 reader comments.

And that number doesn’t even count the tens of thousands who have read my commentary pieces on CTNewsjunkie nor at Pelto’s Point (published on the website of the New Haven Advocate and its related papers).

I am incredibly honored and grateful to all the people who have read my blog.

A special thanks goes out to those who regularly visit Wait What? and especially to those who have taken the time to weigh in on the issues (Yes, even to those who I’ve disagreed with).

I started Wait, What? in order to learn about and explore the world of blogging and to see if I could use my blog as a vehicle for distributing accurate and important information while promoting discussion and debate.

The site’s tag line – Working to educate, persuade and mobilize through “perceptive and acerbic” observations about Connecticut Government and Politics – came via a Facebook Friend and I have taken that task seriously.

The problems and challenges that face our state are significant.

With 35 years of experience in Connecticut government and politics I’ve come to understand that the
incrementalism of politics as usual will not allow us to successfully confront those problems or overcome those challenges.

Our nation, our state and our society stand in a very precarious position.

The next few years will determine whether we succeed or fail in our epic effort to create a better, safer,
healthier and more just society.

The great Edward R. Murrow once said “we must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.”

And Hubert Humphrey said “Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.”

Personally,  I am “nothing more than a foot soldier in that effort”, as the saying goes, but we must each strive to do our part to create the change we need.

I’m not sure what comes next for Wait, What?  – but hitting 100,000 is an incredible honor and I thank all of you who have taken the time to make that possible.

Jonathan Pelto (September 15, 2011)

Wait, What? I’m wallowing in the 70s?: A Response to Mr. Scully’s Hartford Courant Commentary Piece

(Also posted on Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

In this weekend’s Hartford Courant, Patrick Scully, a media consultant, political blogger and former communications director for the Connecticut Senate Democrats wrote that I and other Governor Malloy critics are “hopelessly disconnected from the average Connecticut citizen and continue to wallow in the failed, far-left, now-fringe policies of 1970s.”

Mr. Scully’s piece can be found at:  http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-scully-democrats-labor-malloy-f20110807,0,1171634.story

Scully’s premise is that  “Good Democrats” support Dan Malloy that “Good Democrats” recognize that the Governor’s decision to shred the safety net and implement massive layoffs of state employees are actually the employees fault and that Malloy should not be held responsible for the damage these cuts and layoffs will be doing to Connecticut.

To back up his observation, Scully goes on to proclaim that supporting Connecticut’s public employees at this time is similar to supporting George McGovern and that “George McGovern is no longer relevant, nor are his policies” and that “today’s Democrats [himself included] are in the camp of John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton Barak Obama and, yes, Dan Malloy.”

My response is rather long, but I hope you’ll take the time to read it in its entirety.

To start, readers who want to better understand why I’m so disappointed with Governor Malloy are welcome to read some of my blog posts at Wait, What? [http://jonpelto.wordpress.com/] where I’ve consistently tried to provide some perspective on what is going on in Hartford and articulate why I believe that Dan Malloy has, too often, pursued a path that has violated some of the fundamental principles and values we Democrats hold dear.

In addition to his poor handling of the state employee concession issue, I’ve been particularly critical of his tax policy that coddled the super-rich at the expense of the middle class, his decision to make the deepest cuts in state history to our public colleges and universities and his participation in undermining Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance law.

But what really intrigues me about Mr. Scully’s commentary piece is his conclusion that those of us who have criticized Governor Malloy are followers of failed politicians and failed policies of a bygone era.

It is that issue I’d like to address in more detail.

I’m not sure how old Mr. Scully is but we may have to excuse him for his lack of knowledge about George McGovern, his lack of understanding about the contributions McGovern made to the Democratic Party and our country or the connections between JFK, Bill Clinton and George McGovern.

In addition, I don’t want to let the irony go unmentioned – but the fact is – George McGovern’s 1972 campaign for president was the first campaign I was truly and deeply involved in.  True I was only 11 at the time but it was in that campaign that I heard the call to a life of politics and political action.  I not only traveled to hear and meet the candidate but I spent innumerable hours in the fall of 1972 at the Mansfield Democratic Party headquarters making phone calls.  If I recall correctly my mother even managed to get the school bus to stop at HQ after school.  My love/hate relationship with Persuasion, ID and GOTV calling began with that campaign experience (not to mention my understanding of the ins and outs of political organizing).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start, as the saying goes, at the beginning.

When calling someone a name, it is important to understand the actual meaning of the words you are hurling.  Scully calls me (and other Malloy critics) “McGovernites” almost as if he was calling us Commies or Pinkos.

While it is true that George McGovern is best known today for his stunning 1972 defeat, he was not only an outspoken opponent to the Vietnam War and the Military-Industrial Complex but he used his career to make a signficant contribution to a more progressive America.

A decorated veteran in WWII (he flew bombers over Nazi Germany), McGovern returned to South Dakota after the War to pursue a college teaching career.

After hearing Adlai Stevenson’s presidential nominating speech in 1952 he spent the fall helping the Stevenson for President effort.

Although Stevenson’s campaign was unsuccessful, McGovern apparently realized that it was through political action that he could have the impact he desired so he shifted to a career in politics and a life dedicated to furthering, dare I say, a liberal agenda.

Following the Stevenson defeat, he left teaching to become the executive secretary of the South Dakota Democratic Party in 1953.  For the next few years McGovern worked to help build the state Party’s operation including (interestingly) building what has been called one of the first centralized voter files in the United States.  In his first election with the state Party the Democrats won 25 legislative seats, giving them 27 seats instead of the 2 that they had previously controlled in the South Dakota Legislature.

The national party was so impressed with the work he was doing that they added him to the DNC’s committee on political organizing.

In the next election cycle, McGovern ran for South Dakota’s 1st Congressional District. Using his hand-made voter file and a loan of $5,000 McGovern went on to beat a four-term incumbent.

Late in the campaign the Republicans tried to derail McGovern’s campaign by suggesting that he was a Communist.  Why a Communist?  Because it was 1954 and he was in favor of allowing China to join the United Nations and had previously supported the populist and socialist politician Henry Wallace.

As a Congressman, McGovern focused on supporting American farmers and was the driving force behind the United States’ role in using surplus crops to help feed the world.

The powerful chairman of the Agriculture Committees once said “I cannot recall a single member of Congress who has fought more vigorously or intelligently for American farmers than Congressman McGovern.”

Following an unsuccessful run for the US Senate in 1960, newly elected President John F. Kennedy picked McGovern to serve as a Special Assistant to the President and the nation’s first director of Kennedy’s Food for Peace Program.

In that role, McGovern was instrumental in pushing the United Nations to create the World Food Program.  The UN’s Food Program has gone on to become the largest and most successful hunger and humanitarian effort in history.

As an aside, McGovern’s work to reduce world hunger continued long after he left elective office.  In fact, in 2001 he was named the UN Global Ambassador on World Hunger by the World Food Program, the entity that he had helped create 40 years earlier.

In 1962, McGovern left the Kennedy Administration and returned to South Dakota to run again for the US Senate.  This time he won by 597 votes.

McGovern returned to Congress and continued his efforts to help farmers and fight hunger, both here at home and around the world.

His legislative legacy includes the creation of the food stamp program and the creation of nutritional guidelines for Americans.

A Congressional investigation he led produced the “McGovern Report” which recommended, among other things, that “Americans eat less fat, less cholesterol, less refined and processed sugars, and more complex carbohydrates and fiber.”  Little by little those recommendations have been adopted over the past 45 years – often over the objections of the food industry.

And during all of those years he continued to work on world hunger.  His 1964 book entitled War Against Want: America’s Food for Peace Program was part of his broader and eventually successful effort to dramatically expand the Food for Peace Program.

From the very beginning of his Senate career George McGovern was also a leader in the effort to get the Defense Budget in check.

In his freshman term as a Senator he proposed reducing the $53 billion defense budget by 10%. The next year he became the first member of Congress to speak out against the US role in Vietnam.

As the 1960s progressed, his role within the Democratic Party continued to rise.

Following the disastrous 1968 Democratic Convention, McGovern Co-chaired a the commission charged with restructuring the Democratic Party’s presidential nominating process.  The McGovern-Fraser Commission shifted the Democratic Party from one dominated by party elite to one based on caucuses and
primaries.  The nominating process that we have today, the one that allowed Bill Clinton and Barak Obama to win the Democratic nomination for president is the direct result of McGovern’s rule changes.

But his standing and role within the Democratic Party went far beyond writing those reforms.

In 1968, South Dakota’s Democratic Primary was held on the same day as California’s.  Robert Kennedy won the South Dakota primary and called McGovern moments before he headed downstairs to give his famous California acceptance speech.  A few minutes later Kennedy was shot to death as he exited that California hotel.

Following the assassination, key Kennedy aides asked McGovern to announce for the Democratic nomination and promised the support of Kennedy’s delegates.  Robert Kennedy’s team did not like Humphrey and resented that fact that Gene McCarthy might benefit from Kennedy’s assassination.  However, McGovern held off and instead waited for Ted Kennedy to make a decision about whether he was going to run.  By the time McGovern did announce it was too late and Hubert Humphrey went on to win the nomination.

McGovern returned to Washington and continued his effort to end the war.  That strategy took him to Boston in October 1969 where he spoke to 100,000 and then on to Washington where he helped lead the 350,000 strong anti-war march and rally at the Washington Monument.

McGovern’s next strategy was to push a Congressional Resolution that would end the war by cutting off all funding for the war effort.

When the proponents of the resolution couldn’t get sufficient media coverage for the effort McGovern took out a second mortgage on his home to pay for a half-hour nationally televised discussion about the resolution.

That in turn brought in over $500,000 and they used those funds to pay for a broader public education campaign.

By the time the resolution came up for a vote, public opinion polls showed that a majority of American’s supported McGovern’s resolution and his approach to ending the war.

Although the resolution was defeated following an intensive lobbying effort by the Nixon White House, George McGovern’s speech on the floor of the Senate had a profound impact on the national debate.

Sadly, his words then are as meaningful, powerful and timely today. McGovern said;

“Every Senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood. Every Senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval and all across our land – young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes. There are not very many of these blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out, or national honor or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes. And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will someday curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution
places on us.”

McGovern’s anti-war stance propelled him even further into the national scene.  By 1973 he was putting together a campaign for President. Gary Hart, who went on to become a United States Senator from Colorado, served as McGovern’s campaign manager and the two of them helped design the modern grass-roots form of campaigning that we utilize today.  It was Gary Hart who is credited with using “social networking” in a more coordinated way although he called it the strategy of using people’s “concentric circles”.

In an interesting twist, Bill Clinton managed McGovern’s campaign in Texas. (Although I’m not sure that fact ever made Clinton’s presidential campaign bio).

Despite losing several key southern primaries to George Wallace, McGovern won enough delegates to get the Democratic nomination.

McGovern’s platform included a 37% reduction in defense spending and a massive welfare reform plan that would later become known as the Earned Income Tax Credit, a mechanism to support low-income working Americans and provide an incentive for people to work rather than rely on welfare.

The EITC was finally adopted under Presidents Ford, Reagan and Clinton.  And, in the small world department, was one of Governor Malloy’s better initiatives this past year.  Although watered down at the end, the Connecticut’s General Assembly finally adopted an EITC for Connecticut this year.

But, in the end, as with Adlai Stevenson before him, great ideas were not enough to propel McGovern to victory.

With the power of the presidency behind him, along with a variety of illegal activities that would eventually lead to Nixon’s resignation, the incumbent president won the 1972 election in a landslide.

McGovern returned to the Senate but never regained the prominence he once had.

And to end this little story, in 1980, George McGovern was one of the liberal senators targeted by the National Conservative Political Action Committee.  Following a campaign which focused primarily on McGovern’s pro-choice record, George McGovern went down to defeat in the Reagan landslide.

So back to the present.

I appreciate Mr. Scully’s right to criticize me and others for our criticism of Dan Malloy and I certainly understand his concern that now is not the time to “wallow in the failed, far-left, now-fringe policies of 1970s.”

But that said, I’m pretty sure that fighting against a senseless war, preserving programs like food stamps, revamping the tax structure to support not punish working families and working to end hunger here and abroad don’t count as “failed, far-left, now fringe policies”.

I don’t doubt that there are “Good Democrats” who support both President Obama and Governor Malloy.  I too consider myself a “Good Democrat” and in that capacity I believe we have an obligation to speak out when it appears that either of them have stumbled from the path that got them elected – or even more importantly – are failing to implement the most fundamental principles and values that we Democrats stand for.