Kevin Rennie: Connecticut Politics’ dismal reality 2023

Monday’s campaign finance filings from Hartford’s Democratic mayoral contenders painted a bleak picture of Connecticut politics.

Fundraising shows candidates may last till the September primary. That primary determines the mayor. In 1969, 100-year-old Ann Uccello won a second term as mayor. No Republican has come close since.

State Sen. John Fonfara raised $325,000 in the first quarter. As predicted, lobbyists and wives gave Fonfara $1,000 maximum donations. State law bars politicians from collecting lobbyist campaign contributions during the legislative session. The law applies solely to state campaigns, not local ones.

Kevin Rennie: A bleak look at Connecticut politics as it really is

The legislature’s finance committee co-chair, Fonfara, took advantage. Twelve Senate Democrats sponsored Fonfara’s March 16 fundraiser. Command performance. Lobbyists understood: Donate when before the Senate. They did.

Two former Republican senators maxed out for Fonfara. After the 2016 election, Scott Frantz of Greenwich and Len Fasano of North Haven collaborated with Fonfara in the equally divided Senate. They reached a budget deal to fix the state’s finances. The prickly Fonfara praises Fasano for his involvement in the 2017 parliamentary resolution.

Fonfara served Hartford in the House and Senate for almost 40 years. Fonfara will need every dollar he can earn to counter the local party organization if he loses the Democratic town committee support in July.

Between January and March 2018 state treasurer candidate Arunan Arulampalam raised $225,000. Arulampalam wants to run as “I am the future” to succeed Luke Bronin, who is not running again.

Arulampalam’s campaign finance report carried painful memories. William Tomasso, convicted in a bid-rigging scheme that federal prosecutors said turned former Gov. John Rowland’s administration into a criminal operation, gave him the maximum donation. It cost Connecticut residents tens of millions of dollars.

Anthony Ravosa gave ex-lobbyist Arulampalam $1,000. He is a political operative who recruited money for Rowland in 2002 and introduced him to Enron executives months before a quasi-public trash-to-energy agency made a disastrous contract with the corrupt Texas energy business that collapsed in 2001.

Since last autumn, retired judge Eric Coleman has raised $110,000. Coleman lists little lobbyist donations. Councilman Nick Lebron raised $57,000.

In this quiet campaign, candidates have shown their executive leadership skills in a Metropolitan District Commission legal fee dispute. Legal expenses have stalled the regional water authority’s governing commission.

Last year, the commission’s audit committee investigated the agency’s legal fees. Former state Sen. and MDC chairman William DiBella initially refused to participate with the probe’s law firm. DiBella’s three-hour answers were rambling. DiBella ultimately agreed to another interview.

The independent assessment shows that DiBella violated MDC rules to identify and represent his buddy James Sandler.

DiBella’s disrespect for his agency’s probe is worse. Last year, DiBella withdrew. He led the Monday meeting and blocked report debate. Hartford commission members supported Old Saybrook resident DiBella, who claims residence in his son’s Hartford house.

Each mayor candidate should explain how he would utilize his power to break the DiBella bloc and allow new MDC leadership.

Any candidate that condones MDC anti-democratic tactics will hurt Hartford more.

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