OP-ED | Stefanowski’s dodgy dealings and Duff’s privilege

The Connecticut Capitol (Miblue via Shutterstock)

Two prominent Connecticut politicians were the subject of embarrassing reports from reporters this week — one serious, the other less so, but still illustrative of the rift between us and them.

Salon, the online news and commentary magazine, has released a report on leading Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski that could impact this fall’s election. Predictably, the left-leaning digital outlet essentially rehashed two reports from 2013 and 2014, titled “Dirty Profits,” from the German-based nonprofit watchdog group Facing Finance. Salon reported that the group discovered that some assets Stefanowski managed during his time at UBS were tied to companies “in disregard of the environment and human rights.”

When I first saw the Salon’s headline, “Connecticut GOP Candidate, Former Bank CFO, Brags About Assets Tied to Human Rights Abuses,” I thought that the revelation would be devastating, in part because past dealings with the private sector have been problematic for some Republican candidates. for high office in Connecticut.

After all, there’s no need to dwell too far on the problems Tom Foley, the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2010 and 2014, had in trying to explain his private equity background. That past included Foley’s company making millions in management fees from Bibb Manufacturing Company while laying off hundreds of employees, cutting wages and eliminating workers’ benefits and wiping out their retirement plans — and ultimately , the company.

And of course, who could forget wrestling mogul Linda McMahon’s two unsuccessful campaigns for the US Senate, also as a Republican. The pro wrestling world has a sordid underbelly — a fact McMahon’s opponents, including fellow GOPer Rob Simmons, seized on, such as when Simmons attacked her for informing a Pennsylvania urologist of allegations that he had supplied anabolic steroids to WWF wrestlers.

As you’d expect, Democrats grabbed the Salon coin and added it to the list of questionable moves Stefanowski has made in a business career that includes not just UBS, but a stint as CEO of DFC Global, a predatory payday lender that has been barred from operating in the very state it wants to run.

One of the reasons this phenomenon occurs regularly is that Republicans in Connecicut insist that wealthy businessmen be appointed to the Senate and to the governorship. Since they have no records in the civil service to review, opponents and the news media examine the records of candidates in the private sector – and often what they find is not pretty.

The Salon article states that UBS “provided loans and underwriting services to mining companies… which continued to face allegations of brutal human rights abuses years later.” UBS also had financial ties to “a company accused of endangering the health of 13,000 people who lived or worked near its mine in Colombia.”

There are other examples in Stefanowski’s business dealings report, some of which strike me as routine, and some of which are commendable. It is unlikely, however, that any of them will change voters’ minds. Stefanowski’s supporters will stick with him. His detractors will hate him even more and non-affiliates like yourselves will shrug their shoulders and think, “The duty of a corporate executive is to add value to his company for shareholders, while staying within the parameters of the law. Make moral judgments about the value of investments, not so much. I say, look at Stefanowski’s policy proposals, which I did in a previous column. They are rather light porridges, if you ask me.

Another revelation about a public servant that came to my attention last week is apparently minor. Former State Senator Kevin Rennie operates the Daily Ructions blog and channels Only In Bridgeport’s Lennie Grimaldi into the currency department. Grimaldi captions his blog, “Pry Open The Juicy Stuff.” With Rennie’s string of recent scoops, he’s giving Grimaldi a run for his money.

Anyway, a motorist in Norwalk had already seen Bob Duff, the Senate Majority Leader, perform a variation on an option we all have. We can usually turn right on red if we come to a complete stop and determine it is safe to do so. Duff makes a habit of performing the same feat when he wants to turn left. This time the motorist, who said he had witnessed this before, filmed Duff turning left on red at the intersection of Main Street and Delaware Avenue and sent him to Rennie.

Do not mistake yourself. Duff hasn’t strayed into impeachment territory here, but the fact that he feels emboldened to violate traffic laws says a lot about his sense of entitlement.

Sitting there in his latest Subaru Legacy model with legislative plates affixed to it, Duff evidently felt that traffic laws were for little people. This arrogance is what infuriates people about politicians.

Maybe Duff knows something the rest of us don’t. Do Connecticut police stop drivers for moving violations if they have low-number legislative plates on their vehicles? Why, by the way, do members of the General Assembly receive special plaques anyway?

I tried to watch it but my efforts yielded no fruit. The relevant law states lawmakers will be issued special plates for up to two vehicles, but it does not specify why they are being issued in the first place.

As former Governor Dannel Malloy once said, “Honestly, I don’t get it. I just don’t get it,” referring to the appeal that license plates have on the political classes, which Malloy says has always been part of “Hartford culture.”

I understand, Governor. Plates are a status symbol disguised as a benefit. They are supposed to shout, “Look at me. I matter. Or maybe, in Duff’s case, “Don’t give me a ticket.” I am a legislator.

Comments are closed.