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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Dems rip into Shays over Newton remarks

Democrats come out swinging agianst Rep. Chris Shays over his comments to the Connecticut Post over the Ernest Newton scandal and the Demcrats silence on the matter.

From the Connecticut Post
Majority Democrats in the state Senate were apoplectic Friday after U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays' stinging criticism of the way they're handling Sen. Ernest E. Newton II's mounting legal and political problems.
Sen. Bill Finch defended his dual role — serving in the Senate while being president of the Bridgeport Economic Development Corp. — as good for his constituents. Finch called Shays' suggestion there's a potential conflict "outrageous."

But Sen. John McKinney, R-Fairfield, deputy minority leader, said he was encouraged by Shays' attack against Senate leaders. He said Democrats who were so vehement in pushing John G. Rowland, the former governor, out of office last year now seem to be balking at dealing with Newton. And Shays, who also called for the resignations of Rowland and Joseph P. Ganim, the imprisoned former Bridgeport mayor, before their convictions, said Friday that Bridgeport won't reach its potential until politicians are held fully accountable.

The political fallout against Shays, R-4, was led by Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, who defended the Democratic majority's reaction to "the Newton situation" — the active federal investigation into Newton, D-Bridgeport.

Williams said Shays' criticism was "irresponsible."

Shays, speaking Thursday to the Connecticut Post editorial board, said Democratic lawmakers in the Capitol were reacting with a "tepid response" to allegations that Newton accepted a $5,000 bribe and solicited other payoffs.

[...]

Williams said Shays is wrong, stressing that Newton, in an unprecedented move, gave up his committee chairmanship shortly after it was reported in January that he was the target of a federal corruption probe.

Earlier this month, following the guilty plea by Warren Godbolt in U.S. District Court — who said he bribed a lawmaker identified by the Connecticut Post as Newton — Newton lost his honorary title of deputy Senate president pro tempore.

"Our response to the Newton situation has been the strongest and most far-reaching compared to any other legislative body in a similar situation here or anywhere else," Williams said, "and that includes former Gov. Rowland, who never stepped back from any of his gubernatorial duties even after admitting accepting illegal gifts from state contractors and lying about it."

Shays was also critical of Bridgeport members of the General Assembly, including Finch, for holding local government jobs while serving in the Capitol.

Finch said Friday he's proud of both his positions. "It's pretty outrageous to compare working at a job that has a relationship to the city and bribery," Finch said in a phone interview. "The congressman was either misquoted or wrongheaded, one of the two."

Finch, like Williams, said Shays was eckless in his charges.
"When you're playing around with people's reputations and livelihoods, it's very irresponsible. I go to work in the morning like everyone else, and when I'm on state business, I sign in and out."