Republican Candidate for CT Gov Conveniently Stops Talking About Ethics Once People Look Into His Fundraising

Tom Foley and campaigners, from his websiteNot that long ago, it looked as if former ambassador and Bush/Cheney BFF Tom Foley was going to make ethics reform a central feature of his "sequel" campaign for governor of Connecticut. First there was Foley's aggressive lobbying of the Connecticut General Assembly in the 2013 legislative session for an ethics reform bill that even fellow Republicans criticized as poorly conceived. The legislation went nowhere — but Foley argued that the strenuous opposition to his proposal only proved his point. Then, in September 2013 ,Foley conducted an all-out media blitz against current Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy's perceived ethical lapses, appearing on public affairs TV program "Face The State" and calling Malloy an "unethical leader." Armed with a list of mostly dubious accusations culled from the right-wing fever swamps (admittedly some of them had merit), Foley accused Malloy of crony capitalism, pay-to-play favoritism, and illegal fundraising activities, charges that he doubled down on even after his "evidence" was revealed to be completely baseless.

To some extent every candidate accuses his or her opponent of dirty politics. And you could infer that while Foley always knew that the 2014 campaign would be mainly about jobs and the economy, he didn't want to put too many eggs in one basket. But for a brief moment Foley's aggressive piety actually looked sincere. He really fancied himself a good government crusader. After Dan Malloy's reign of wickedness, only Tom Foley could restore honor to Connecticut state government.

Less than a year later, ethics has disappeared completely from the Republican's campaign. Foley has dispensed with the pious hand-wringing, and his anti-Malloy attacks are being waged on purely economic grounds. How did a pillar of the argument against Malloy's re-election suddenly vanish beneath endless platitudes about an "urban agenda" and making the state more "business-friendly"?

The explanation is simple: It turns out that a man who signed checks for a dark-money operation, was fined by the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) and forced to reimburse a Super PAC $15,500 (which should have been $76,500) for improper campaign expenditures, and whose newly minted running mate accepted a half-million dollar loan from the state that is still in arrears, is not the best messenger for a campaign based on the message of ethical purity and an end to crony capitalism.

Foley's participation in public financing — after months of embarrassing vacillation about whether or not he would self-fund as he did in 2010, to the tune of $13 million — might have been a good argument for a renewed interest in good government after his SEEC fine and connection to the ludicrously named "Voters For Good Government" (VFGG) Super PAC were revealed. By participating in the Citizens Election Program (CEP), Foley agreed to sever his ties with VFGG, and to abide by voluntary campaign spending limits and caps on individual contributions, meaning that he wouldn't be able to vastly outspend Malloy and money wouldn't be dispositive in the election.

But even Foley's participation in Connecticut's "clean elections" program is now under a cloud, with the revelation last week that Foley received multiple $100 donations (that counted toward his CEP grant) from fraudulent straw donors. As reported by Ken Dixon of Hearst, the wealthy Greenwich investor who apparently orchestrated the straw donations was hit with a near-record fine by SEEC. (Dixon revealed that disgraced ex-state senator Ernie Newton is currently under investigation for a similar straw-donor scheme — it's never good when your name appears in the same news cycle as Ernie Newton). Foley denies any knowledge of, or involvement in, the scheme, but with his track record of serial "truthiness" it is increasingly hard to believe anything that he or his campaign says.

Will this emerging scandal sink Foley's campaign? Probably not, but it has thoroughly vaporized the already-crumbling argument that Foley — for whom "good government" is not a set of deeply held values, but merely the ironic name of his favorite Super PAC — is the right man to restore ethical government to Connecticut.

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