Rell Rattles the Cage
When Gov. Jodi Rell came out swinging against Democratic
legislators on the subject of campaign finance reform last
week, there were some who were still skeptical.
We now know she can talk the talk, they said.
But will she walk the walk?
Rell had begun the year saying: Let us act on Connecticut's
culture of political corruption. Let's change the
She proposed an end to ad books, contributions by
contractors seeking or doing work with the state, and
political donations by lobbyists.
Simple. And, when you think about it, radical.
She challenged the Democratic majority to come up with its
And, after many months, the Dems did.
Their plan for change was: Let's not change.
Democratic legislators answered that the loopholes were
their favorite parts of the system!
But they did throw the public one bone.
They said that though it was probably impossible, partly
because the governor and the Republican Party had long
opposed it on principle, they would favor public financing
Republican legislators looked at their shoes and quietly
whistled the melody of "Ain't nobody here but us chickens."
The only thing better than the spoils is having someone
else protect the spoils for you, and that's what the
majority does for the minority in the Connecticut General
Well, Rell blasted the cynicism and cowardice of it all,
and that's how most people thought the legislative session
But then Rell picked up that Democratic bone and traded it
for a tire iron. And she began to rattle the Capitol cage
She offered a deal: Give me the bans on donations by
contractors, lobbyists, and influence peddlers, and I'll
give you public financing.
She proposed a voluntary public finance system that would
begin with a kitty of $5 million.
It is time to be bold and get it done, she said.
Legislators reached for their nitro tablets. One or two
resembled the Wicked Witch of the East after the house fell
on her. Those who overcame being stunned were mad as hell.
Rell had violated the brotherhood and the code: Change
nothing; do nothing; talk much but say nothing; protect the
spoils (office, influence, creme brulee).
And then an amazing thing happened. The Republican
legislators decided to back the governor's proposal.
Rell had opened a window and let the fresh air begin to
replace the stale.
The woman is an anarchist!
But imagine state government without the lobbyists running
it. Imagine it without the constant groveling for
Imagine a ban on the sleaze and an occasional candidate
throwing his hat into the ring simply because he wants to
Imagine candidates freed from the need to "campaign" mostly
by phone, for dollars, and, when in the public light, by
pander and with a shamed, bent posture.
Imagine a politics of self-respect.
Could this really be put together in two weeks? It?s
possible, not probable. But it could happen.
Could the governor make it happen by jawboning legislators?
But if she gets the people of the state behind her, she
If the legislature blows her off, Governor Rell should
mount the bully pulpit and carry this message -- ban the
bribes and let the public pay for the process -- to every
town hall and cable TV show in this state.
She should hold on to her clarity and her anger. For if she
does, the public will follow her.
Legislators should be very afraid. Jodi Rell is smart,
strong, and has now shown us definitively that she is
sincere about this good government stuff. And she has a
secret weapon -- the next election.
See the article on Journal Inquirer website