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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Newton Probe Official: Dem Calls for him to Leave Committees

It's official: State Sen. Ernest Newton is being investigated by the Feds for corrupt practices.

Federal officials are investigating whether state Sen. Ernest E. Newton II of Bridgeport acted in his official role to secure government funds for four community groups, including one that employs him, according to details learned Tuesday about a subpoena served at the state Capitol.

Newton is a member of both the public safety committee and the judiciary committee, from which he has been under pressure from Republicans to resign. Now, however, Democrats are starting to get into the act:

...Rep. Andrew M. Fleischmann of West Hartford became the first legislative Democrat to call for Newton to step down from his positions on both the public safety and judiciary committees. Fleischmann said he agrees with state Rep. Bill Hamzy, the state Republican chairman, that Newton should not serve on the public safety committee because it deals with sensitive issues involving the state police, gambling and homeland security.

If more Democrats join Fleicshmann, Newton may soon have no choice. I assume that they want him off these committees because they both deal with criminal justice, and it's a conflict of interest for someone under investigation. Newton, who resigned as head of the public safety committee last month, has so far refused to surrender his membership.

Not surprisingly, the comparisons to Rowland are sprouting everywhere, but Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams rejects that line of thought:

"No one called for Rowland to resign until he admitted he lied," said Patrick Scully, a spokesman for Williams. "Sen. Newton has made no such admission. There's no parallel."

True. Also, Rowland's corruption was a few orders of magnitude worse than what Newton is being investigated for. Yet, the story of someone in government using his position to line his pockets and help his friends is depressingly familiar.

Source: Lender, Jon and Christopher Keating. "Senator's Role In Funding Investigated". Hartford Courant 16 February 2005.

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