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Damage done but Foley has time to recover

By Dick Ahles

Publication: The Day

Published October 06. 2013 4:00AM

Tom Foley may survive his near fatal appearance on WFSB-TV's Face the State program, when he declared the Malloy administration a den of corruption without offering a shred of proof, but only because it happened so early in the 2014 race.

It shouldn't hurt him with the Republican base because the faithful are tolerant of what their candidate says about the other party, true or not, but it should hurt him with Republicans looking for a winner and help his three Republican opponents.

That's because he may have offended some unaffiliated voters he'll need to beat a vulnerable Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. These are independent sorts who voted for Malloy in 2010 and have since become disenchanted with him or with one-party rule in the state or both.

Foley's troubles began between elections when he belatedly discovered corruption in government.

His decision to make it a big issue came at a time the electorate was more concerned about their jobs, their pay, their taxes and their kids' schools along with crime and guns and mental health and so many other things more pressing than corruption.

Corruption was, after all, so Rowland.

But if anyone advising Foley mentioned that fact or, for that matter, if anyone was advising Foley on anything, it didn't deter him from launching a corruption crusade that hasn't gone terribly well.

Phase one was his appearance last March before the legislature's Government Administration and Elections Committee to urge support of a bill that would prohibit a public official or state employee or their immediate families from receiving more than $1,000 a year working for a contractor, public employee union, business, lobbyist or organization employing lobbyists.

But before he sought the committee's approval, he informed its members they were part of an institution that was sleazy, disgusting and corrupt, an unconventional approach for one seeking support.

The bill made little sense. Some said it would force half of the General Assembly out of their day jobs.

Others pointed out it would make half the adults in the state ineligible for public office or state jobs, given the number of institutions employing lobbyists, ranging alphabetically from Aetna to Yale.

The bill was forgotten until the crusade resumed with Foley casually mentioning that voter fraud played a role in his 2010 loss to Dannel Malloy by just 6,000 votes. This brand new accusation was launched during his announcement that he was exploring whether to run for governor again. He offered no evidence, other than to say that voter fraud has been rampant in the country, another unproven claim, fashionable in Tea Party circles.

Then came Armageddon, aka Face the State, when Foley made those accusations. The most serious was that Malloy had hired DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty as a payback for Esty giving Malloy a job as a consultant to his environmental company. But he had the wrong company.

Next, came a charge with some merit but no proof. He condemned giving a contract to a PR firm Malloy aide Roy Occhiogrosso had rejoined through the traditional government/business revolving door. It turned out the firm was low bidder against two others but the competition was by invitation only, giving the award a theatrical look, so to speak.

Reporting in columns by Paul Choiniere in The Day and Kevin Rennie in The Courant revealed the appointment came with an aroma. The federally financed health insurance exchange, Accent Health CT, didn't need to put the contract out to bid but awarding it to a Malloy crony wouldn't have looked good so the bidding had the look of being staged-nothing illegal or provable but not quite right.

Foley also said a high, but not named, administration official pressured the private UConn Foundation to buy Malloy's plane ticket to an economic conference in Switzerland and a century old law firm with a reputation in bond counseling was getting bond business from towns because it had hired a Malloy aide. Not much there there either.

Even with partial credit for the Occhiogrosso firm's appointment, Foley's batting average would be .250, OK for a catcher, but too low for a candidate hurling accusations, to mix the baseball metaphor.

Dick Ahles is a retired journalist from Simsbury.

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