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Monday, August 08, 2005

Newton shows that political corruption is still alive and well

If there is anything good you can take from State Senator Ernest Newton's political scandal, it's that his case has put political corruption in Connecticut back on the front burner.

A year after the end of the Rowland era, people thought that corruption in Connecticut polics were a thing of the past but the Newton case reminds us that political corruption is still very much alive and well.

The Connecticut Post writes an excellent article on the Newton screwup and explains that the state has a long way to go when it comes to removing political crooks from office.
The FBI agent listening to the conversation must have been shaking his head. It was June 17, 2004. Already, the dark clouds of corruption were stationed over the state's Capitol, where then-Gov. John G. Rowland's impeachment hearings were taking place. In just four days he would resign in the midst of a federal probe that would later send him to prison.

That came just about a year after a federal judge sent former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim to prison for nine years on 16 federal corruption charges involving taking kickbacks and bribes.

Between those two cases, U.S. Attorney Kevin J. O'Connor and Michael Wolf, head of the FBI in Connecticut, repeatedly announced that public corruption was high on their hit list — particularly in Bridgeport.

Yet on June 17, 2004, the FBI agent listened as Warren Godbolt, executive director of Progressive Training Associates in Bridgeport, telephoned a member of the General Assembly. The agent heard Godbolt describe to the state legislator how and when he would pay the $5,000 bribe for pushing through a $100,000 state grant.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" John Orman, a professor of politics at Fairfield University, said of the timeline. "After Rowland stepped down it was touted as the beginning of a new era in our state political system. I guess a strong enough message hasn't been sent that you shouldn't have to pay to play."

While Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Finnerty has not yet identified the General Assembly member, everything the prosecutor said during Godbolt's guilty plea to bribery and conspiracy charges last week points to state Sen. Ernest E. Newton II, D-Bridgeport, as the person on the other end of the telephone line.

"I don't know why some people aren't getting the message," U.S. Attorney Kevin J. O'Connor said, following Godbolt's guilty plea. "Obviously our work is not done." "It's Bridgeport," said H. James Pickerstein, who as the chief assistant U.S. attorney led an investigation into the late Mayor John C. Mandanici Jr.'s administration in the 1980s. "I think its part of the culture there."

I wouldn't say corruption is just a Bridgeport problem but a stgate wide disease which needs to be eliminated and every person running for political office should be asked how they would tackle this problem.