In an article that ran this weekend in the Courant, columnist Kevin Rennie accuses House Speaker Jim Amann's use of his considerable influence to raise money for the Greater Connecticut Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
This wouldn't be so bad if Amann weren't employed by that charity to do just that. They pay him $60,000/year, in fact.
This winter, spring and summer, Amann, members of his legislative staff and a select group of lobbyists helped raise money for an MS fund-raising event honoring Gov. M. Jodi Rell and singer Michael Bolton July 13...
He admits that he solicited lobbyists and their clients during and after this year's legislative session. Among those helping him were state Rep. Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, and lobbyist Shelly Rubino, who are colleagues at the Hartford office of law and lobbying firm Brown, Rudnick. Cafero and Rubino also were listed on literature for the Wallingford event as members of the planning committee.
Ignoring lines and guardrails that the law constructs, Amann hosted at least one meeting of fundraisers and others in his Capitol office.
Amann says that his subordinates did help him raise money for his employer, but that it was "strictly voluntary." In the pyramid of power, helping the boss succeed at his civilian job is usually not a choice.
Amann staff members - some of whom already have reputations for being especially aggressive in their constant pursuit of contributions for political and other causes - made calls during the legislative session that included this subtle incentive: The speaker is waiting to hear if you are going to contribute to his event.
The speaker of the House has flouted the law with the assistance of plenty of accomplices. Subpoenas should fly. (Rennie)
I have no problem with charitable giving. But this is clearly a conflict of interest and probably a violation of ethics rules. Does Amann forget how he got his position? He wouldn't be Speaker if Kevin Sullivan hadn't been bumped up to Lt. Gov. following John Rowland's resignation and Jodi Rell's assumption of the governorship.
(Correction: Not true. Amann was not in the line of succession, but was elected after Moira Lyons left.)
Is this the sort of thing that could lead to Amann's ouster? Probably not. That guy's like a barnicle on the side of the Capitol. However, legislative Democrats can't afford to let this one go. Investigate. Censure. Vote him out of the leadership. Democrats are steadily losing the moral high ground they had after Rowland's departure, and Amann's poor leadership and questionable ethics are partly to blame.
I, for one, won't be sorry to see him go, if it comes to that.
Rennie, Kevin. "For Speaker, Charity Begins With A Shakedown." Hartford Courant 25 September, 2005.