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Headlines from Courant.com

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    State Rep. James "Jamie'' Spallone was chosen Monday as the new deputy Secretary of the State by Denise Merrill, who takes over next month as Secretary of the State.

    Merrill, a Storrs Democrat who serves as the current House majority leader, has been working with Spallone for years as a state legislator.

    "Jamie and I have formed a strong partnership over the many years we have worked together to pass numerous laws to strengthen the integrity of our elections and open up our democratic process,'' Merrill said in a statement. "I'm thrilled to be able to continue this partnership, and I no doubt will be relying on Jamie's intellect and experience as we set out to reform our election laws and improve services for the businesses who register with our state.''


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    The Department of Motor Vehicles offices will be closed for an extended period because of the Christmas holiday and a furlough day for state employees.

    The DMV offices will close at 3 p.m. Thursday and will not re-open until 8 a.m. next Tuesday, December 28.

    This covers Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and a furlough day for state employees on Monday, December 27.

    The DMV is making the announcement so that motorists can be advised in advance of the long weekend.


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    He's being hailed as a civil rights hero by liberal Democrats for leading the successful drive to repeal the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military.

    But Sen. Joseph Lieberman's record on another matter of great importance to gays and lesbians -- the right to legally marry -- is decidedly more mixed.

    Back in 2009, the Connecticut-based civil rights group Love Makes a Family surveyed members of the state's Congressional delegation on the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Lieberman voted in support of DOMA in 1996 and, when asked by Love Makes a Family 13 years later, his stance hadn't changed.

    "DOMA makes clear that marriage under federal law is a status that should be attainable only by one man and one woman,'' Lieberman's office said in a statement released by Love Makes a Family.

    But, the statement added, "[a]ny State's decision to define marriage otherwise, such as his own state of Connecticut which he respects, should not effect the definition of marriage under either federal law or the laws of other states.''

     

     


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    Former state Rep. Abe Giles, a kingpin in Hartford politics in his heyday, has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor corruption charges.

    Giles was involved in the longrunning corruption investigation involving then-Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, who was convicted on five felony charges. Perez has been sentenced to three years in prison.

    Giles, 84, will not serve any prison time.


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    Channel 3's Dennis House and Kara Sundlun will serve as the co-emcees at the governor's inaugural ball on Wednesday, January 5 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.

    The ball has been sold out for weeks as Democrats await the inauguration of former Stamford mayor Dan Malloy.


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    Here's one Forbes list no city wants to be on: a compilation of the worst places to find work this winter.

    The magazine complied the list based on data from a survey conducted by the employment services firm Manpower. Showing just what the Malloy administration and the new legislature are up against, the Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford market is tied for 17th on the list of worst cities for jobs this winter.

    The survey of 18,000 employers found that net employment in the region is expected to grow by a dismal 1 percent.

    That's bad, but not nearly as bad as the employment outlook in Akron, Ohio, which has a net employment outlook of minus 3 percent.


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    Outgoing Gov. M. Jodi Rell has sent her final year-end message to state employees as she prepares to leave office in two weeks on January 5.

    The message, obtained by Capitol Watch, is as follows:

    December 21, 2010

    Dear State Employee:

    Once again it is my privilege and pleasure to wish you and your family the very best this holiday season.

    State employees have once again shown in 2010 that they are deeply committed to the people of Connecticut.  It has been a year of tremendous budget challenges - and you have met those challenges head-on while continuing to provide important and valuable services to our residents.

    It has also been a year of great successes and moments to celebrate.  I am reminded of the honors and awards state employees, state agencies and state programs have received, many of which I have had the pleasure of presenting to you personally.  That we have achieved these successes in a time of constrained budgets is a testament to your dedication and just one of the many reasons why I have always been so proud of Connecticut's state employees.


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  • 12/22/10--06:21: Un Homenaje to Sen. Dodd
  • Chris Dodd's departure from the U.S. Senate "will leave a vacancy of immense proportions that will be difficult to fill,'' writes Larry Bims, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, and Eloy Fisher, a research fellow at the council. "This was because he was the most bona fide Latin American expert to have frequented Congress this century.''

    Bims and Fisher made their comments in a post on the council's website. But their praise was tempered by a critique of a recent speech Dodd gave at Central Connecticut State University.

    "In his speech, in which Dodd praised current U.S.-Latin American policy, there is, in reality, very little evidence to support such laudatory remarks,'' Bims and Disher write. "Dodd takes an in-depth reading of the region's vital signs in his rapid tour of the hemisphere. Moreover, even Dodd's assertion that Latin America is demonstrating particular vitality is debatable.

    "Regrettably, Dodd offers the same orthodox view on Cuba and Venezuela that so consistently can be obtained from such biased sources as the Washington Post. Unfortunately, Dodd's lite analysis does a disservice to the often complex reality in these countries."

    Still, the author's conclude that Dodd offered crucial insight into the region. "Dodd's contribution to the evolution of the inter-American relationship was important not only for the U.S., but the hemisphere as a whole, and, because of this, he will be sorely missed."

     


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    Gov.-elect Dan Malloy made two additional appointments today, tapping transition team press aide Colleen Flanagan as his director of communications and Arielle Reich as his director of intergovernmental affairs/special assistant to the governor.

    Flanagan was a familiar presence in Connecticut news stories during the 2010 election cycle, when she was the sharp-tongued spokeswoman for the state Democratic party. She also held communications jobs with U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd (including serving as his national press sercretary during his presidential run) and North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan.

    "Colleen is smart, tough, and she really understands the old and new media," said Malloy said in a statement announcing the appointments. "Given the way communications has changed dramatically over the past few years, it's more important than ever that we're in constant touch with the people we were elected to serve.  Colleen understands that I'm 100% committed to having an Administration that is open, transparent, and accessible.  She's a person I trust to be a strong voice for my Administration."

    Reich has a long history with Malloy, serving as deputy campaign manager, as well as his executive aide when he was mayor of Stamford. She also worked on Ned Lamont's 2006 U.S. Senate run.

    "Arielle worked for me in the Mayor's office in Stamford, on the campaign trail, and during this transitional phase," Malloy said in the statement. "She knows me as well as anyone, and she is my right-hand person.  Arielle's strength is that she makes things happen - fast.  I've also come to rely a great deal on her judgment.  She'll be a tremendous asset to this Administration."


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    Gov.-elect Dannel Malloy has once again turned to the legislature to fill a key appointment. This morning he named state Rep. David McCluskey to the board of pardons and paroles.

    "David has been a committed public servant for a long time, and I appreciate his willingness to continue that service as a member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles," Malloy said in a press release announcing the appointment.

    "Representative McCluskey will walk a fine line in this new role, ultimately making decisions that will help keep the people of the State of Connecticut safe, while allowing those people who have served their time to become a contributing member of society.  I believe keeping people safe is a critical function of government, and I believe in having a second chance society.  The two are not mutually exclusive."

    This is the fourth time that Malloy has plucked a nominee from the ranks of the General Assembly and it means another special election to fill McCluskey's seat. He represents the 20th District, which is comprised largely of the Elmwood section of West Hartford.


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    Gov.-elect Dan Malloy is reappointing Patricia Rehmer as commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

    Rehmer was appointed commissioner by Gov. M. Jodi Rell in Nov., 2009. Before that, she served as the department's deputy commissioner.

    "Commissioner Rehmer has been a leader in the fields of mental health and addiction services throughout her career, and I'm pleased that she and I will be working together to help those citizens in Connecticut who need our help the most," Malloy said in a statement announcing the appointment. "Particularly because the population she serves relies on the continuity of service and programs DMHAS provides, I'm glad that she and I have a shared vision for the department and will continue her tenure uninterrupted."

     

     


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    As we head toward the end of 2010, we would like to thank our readers for taking an entertaining journey with us over what was arguably the best political year in Connecticut politics in the past four decades.

    Not since the election of Lowell Weicker in a three-way U.S. Senate race and the election of a new governor in an open seat in 1970 has there been anything like what we saw this year - with the huge number of open seats and the large field of candidates for such important offices in Connecticut.

    Since this blog was created on less than two days' notice more than three years ago, we have had more than 1,800 posts and have published more than 6,000 comments from readers like you.

    So thanks for reading, and we can promise that we will be covering all the twists and turns at the state Capitol throughout 2011.


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    Everything seemed perfect for Jodi Rell on election night in November 2002.

    The celebration was roaring for Connecticut Republicans as Gov. John Rowland had just won his third term amid high ratings in the public opinion polls. Rell, his low-key runningmate, had been swept in on the political ticket for the third straight time in a huge victory.

    At that time, Rell says, she assumed that Rowland would finish out his third term and complete 12 successful years in the state's top office. Likewise, Rell would finish her term as lieutenant governor -- and would not run for governor. Instead, she would retire and walk off the stage after two decades of public service, including 10 years as a state legislator from her hometown of Brookfield.

    "It's true. I thought to myself, three terms as lieutenant governor - that was something I never thought I would be doing,'' Rell said in an interview with The Hartford Courant. "I didn't really have an interest in running for governor. I thought at the end of three terms, we would go on to leave state government and do something else.''

    "But,'' she added, "things changed.''

    Only one week after Rowland's election, he received an ominous letter from the U.S. attorney's office that sought the records of co-chief of staff Peter Ellef and deputy chief of staff Larry Alibozek, who both eventually pleaded guilty to federal corruption crimes. Rowland resigned amid an impeachment inquiry, and Rell was catapulted into the governor's office.

    Rell took her place in history as the 87th governor when she was sworn in on a hot day in July 2004. Now, 61/2  years later, the once-accidental governor is stepping down. She declared in November 2009 that she would not run for another term, setting off a huge scramble to succeed her that led to primary battles in both major political parties.

    When her tenure ends Jan. 5, Rell will leave a less tumultuous political landscape from the one she inherited that summer of 2004, with the state in a political slump of historic proportions. It will be part of her legacy that she brought calm and a steady hand to the troubled state.

    "I hate calling it an accomplishment,'' Rell said. "It was what was needed at the time. ... I wanted people to know that what I said I meant - that we were going to take action to restore faith and that we were going to do everything in our power to bring integrity back to the office. It was what the state needed and what I delivered. I think the public will always remember that was probably what our state needed at the time, and I was there to deliver it.'

    Rell took charge of a state with raw political wounds from Rowland's departure, a dark and critical time in Connecticut's political history that was also manifest beyond the governor's office. The period was punctuated by a series of embarrassing scandals that brought federal prison sentences for Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim, Waterbury Mayor Philip Giordano, and state treasurer Paul Silvester, prompting critics to label the state as "Corrupticut.''

    Rell's supporters say she was the best possible governor to provide political healing and help the state emerge from that bleak period.

    "She follows the Ganim mess, the Silvester mess, the Giordano mess, and the Rowland mess, and she brings civility, warmth, and integrity,'' said state Rep. Pam Sawyer, a friend of Rell's. "Her timing for the healing and governing was spot-on perfect. Ten years before or 10 years after, it might not have clicked.''

    In the same way that Democrat Jimmy Carter was elected president partly because of the painful hangover from the Watergate scandals, Rell emerged on the public stage as the polar opposite of Rowland. Carter eventually left the presidency as an unpopular figure, but Rell maintained high ratings despite the biggest economic troubles in decades.

    Her approval rating reached its peak at 83 percent in January 2005 - the highest ever recorded for a state official in a Quinnipiac University poll. Even after the huge, long-lasting economic downturn, her approval rating was still at 60 percent in mid-July 2010.

    While Rell's popularity soared to record-breaking heights, some political insiders complain that she turned out to be merely a caretaker governor who accomplished little in terms of lasting legislation or leadership. She was dismissed as a ceremonial ribbon-cutter who virtually disappeared for long periods that included "reading days'' to study issues and thus did not get much done - rarely attending the semi-annual National Governors Association meetings where she could have hobnobbed with the President and others in a position to help Connecticut in difficult times. Her detractors say she delegated far too much authority to M. Lisa Moody, who became one of the longest-serving and most powerful chiefs of staff in recent decades.

    Politically, Rell also surprised Republicans and others by refusing to endorse her lieutenant governor, Michael Fedele, who this year lost the GOP convention nomination and a primary for governor. She never gave a detailed reason for not supporting Fedele, despite being asked numerous times during the campaign. The state Republican chairman and other insiders add that Rell did virtually nothing for Republican legislators running on the ticket this fall. She taped radio commercials for Linda McMahon for U.S. Senate and Tom Foley for governor, but she never used her huge popularity to play a major public role in the elections.


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    Pat Scully over at the Hanging Shad is reporting tonight that state Sen. Eric Coleman of Bloomfield and state Rep. Gerald Fox of Stamford will take the reins of the legislature's powerful judiciary committee.


    The two Democratic lawmakers will succeed former chairs Andrew McDonald and Michael Lawlor, who have stepped down to take jobs with the Malloy administration.

    Scully also reports that committee leadership appointment will be made this week, perhaps beginning as early as tomorrow.    

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    Agriculture is a family tradition for Steven Reviczky. His maternal grandparents were dairy farmers; his father's family raised chickens.

    "The first job I had outside of working for my dad, who was a plumber, was working at an egg farm in Ashford, shoveling manure...and packing eggs,'' Reviczky said.

    It was the "manure experience" that led him to politics, joked Gov.-elect Dannel Malloy, who on Tuesday appointed Reviczky state agriculture commissioner.
     
    "He is well-known and well-respected in Connecticut's farming community,'' Malloy said.
     
    Reviczky, 51, of Coventry, currently serves as executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, a nongovernmental association of farmers. He was also First Selectman in Ashford.
     
     

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    Gov.-elect Dannel Malloy also checked off a few other commissioner appointments today.

    He reappointed Howard Pitkin as state Banking Commissioner. Pitkin has worked at the banking department for more than 30 years, and has led it for the past five.

    "Howard Pitkin has had a long, successful tenure at the Department of Banking, and I've been impressed with his leadership since becoming commissioner five years ago," Malloy said in an email announcing the reappointment. "The Connecticut Department of Banking will play a large part in our state's economic recovery and I'm pleased he will continue in this role."

    Malloy also annoucned he is keeping three current commissioners in their posts on a temporary basis. Peter O'Meara of the Department of Developmental Services, Jeffrey Parker of the Department of Transportation and Michael Starkowski of the Department of Social Services will remain in their current positions until Malloy names their replacements. Malloy has announced his intention to conduct a national search for commissioners for the departments of transportation and social services.

    ""While the search for a permanent replacement for these three commissioners continues, I appreciate their willingness to stay in their current positions to ensure the continuity of services and operations in their respective departments," Malloy said in an email. "It's of the utmost importance to me that the people and communities these departments serve do not experience a disruption when one administration takes the place of another."

    Malloy is conducting national searches for people to lead the departments of education and environmental protection as well.

     

     


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    Below is the list of Senate committee chairs and co-chairs (and ranking members.) Senate President Don Williams, D-Brooklyn, released the list this afternoon. While many assignments remain unchanged, vacancies on key committees have given some senators new responsibilities. (UPDATED with the complete list)

    AGING
    Edith Prague, Chair
    Thomas Gaffey, Vice Chair
    APPROPRIATIONS
    Toni Harp, Chair
    Edith Prague, Vice Chair
    Members: Andrew Maynard, Edwin Gomes, Bob Duff, Joan Hartley
    BANKS
    Bob Duff, Chair
    Joseph Crisco, Vice Chair
    CHILDREN
    Vacant, Chair
    Anthony Musto, Vice Chair
    COMMERCE
    Gary LeBeau, Chair
    Joseph Crisco, Vice Chair
    Members: vacant
    EDUCATION
    Thomas Gaffey, Chair
    John Fonfara, Vice Chair
    Members: Beth Bye, Andrea Stillman
    ENERGY & TECHNOLOGY
    John Fonfara, Chair
    Bob Duff, Vice Chair
    ENVIRONMENT
    Edward Meyer, Chair
    Andrew Maynard, Vice Chair
    EXECUTIVE & LEGISLATIVE NOMINATIONS
    Martin Looney, Chair
    Donald Williams, Vice Chair
    Members: Toni Harp, Thomas Gaffey, Joan Hartley
    FINANCE, REVENUE & BONDING
    Eileen Daily, Chair
    John Fonfara, Vice Chair
    Members: Thomas Gaffey, Gary LeBeau, Ed Meyer,
    Andrea Stillman, vacant
    Bonding Subcommittee: John Fonfara, Chair
    Transportation Bonding Subcommittee: Gary LeBeau, Chair
    GENERAL LAW
    Paul Doyle, Chair
    Vacant, Vice Chair
    Members: Anthony Musto
    GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION & ELECTIONS
    Gayle Slossberg, Chair
    Edward Meyer, Vice Chair
    HIGHER EDUCATION & EMPLOYMENT ADVANCEMENT
    Beth Bye, Chair
    Gary LeBeau, Vice Chair
    HOUSING
    Edwin Gomes, Chair
    Paul Doyle, Vice Chair
    HUMAN SERVICES
    Anthony Musto, Chair
    Eric Coleman, Vice Chair
    INSURANCE & REAL ESTATE
    Joseph Crisco, Chair
    Joan Hartley, Vice Chair
    INTERNSHIP

    Joseph Crisco

    Ranking Member
    Members: Beth Bye, Eileen Daily

    JUDICIARY
    Eric Coleman, Chair
    Paul Doyle, Vice Chair
    Members: Beth Bye, Edwin Gomes, Edward Meyer, vacant
    LABOR & PUBLIC EMPLOYEES
    Edith Prague, Chair
    Edwin Gomes, Vice Chair
    LEGISLATIVE MANAGEMENT
    Donald Williams, Chair
    Martin Looney, Vice Chair
    Members: Gary LeBeau, Joseph Crisco, Toni Harp,
    Joan Hartley, Eileen Daily
    PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT
    Steve Cassano, Chair
    Eric Coleman, Vice Chair
    PROGRAM REVIEW & INVESTIGATIONS
    John Fonfara, Chair
    Members: Steve Cassano, Eric Coleman
    PUBLIC HEALTH
    Andrew Maynard, Chair
    Gayle Slossberg, Vice Chair
    Members: Andrea Stillman, Edith Prague
    PUBLIC SAFETY
    Joan Hartley, Chair
    Eileen Daily, Vice Chair
    Member: Steve Cassano
    REGULATIONS REVIEW
    Anthony Musto, Ranking Member
    Members: Paul Doyle, vacant
    TRANSPORTATION
    Andrea Stillman, Chair
    Bob Duff, Vice Chair
    Members: Steve Cassano, Andrew Maynard,
    Gayle Slossberg
    VETERANS AFFAIRS
    Vacant, Chair
    Gayle Slossberg, Vice Chair
    REAPPORTIONMENT
    Members: Donald Williams, Martin Looney
    12/28/

     


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    Kevin Sullivan, a longtime Capitol insider who has been outside of state government since 2007, has been tapped by Gov.-elect Dannel Malloy to lead the Department of Revenue Services.

    "It's nice to be back,'' Sullivan said at a press conference this morning announcing his appointment. "I'm very proud to be part of a team that is going to be reshaping the future of our state.''

    Sullivan, a lawyer by training who has served as West Hartford's mayor, state senator and lieutenant governor, said he has no intention of being "the tax man."

    "The job of revenue services department, as our governor sees it, is much more than that,'' Sullivan said. "It has to be efficient, effective and fair. There are great folks at that departtment now we have been leading it...I will look to their counsel, their support and their hard work in taking on this new role.''


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    Below is the (hopefully) complete list of House committee chairs, as released today by Speaker Chris Donovan and Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey.

    Aging:
    Joseph Serra, Chair
    Michelle Cook, Vice Chair
    Appropriations:
    Toni Walker, Chair
    Catherine Abercrombie, Vice Chair
    Patricia Billie Miller, Vice Chair
    Henry Genga, Vice Chair
    Banks:
    William Tong, Chair
    Timothy Larson, Vice Chair
    Children:
    Diana Urban, Chair
    Kim Fawcett, Vice Chair
    Commerce:
    Jeffrey Berger, Chair
    Gregory Haddad, Vice Chair
    Education:
    Andrew Fleischmann, Chair
    Douglas McCrory, Vice Chair
    Energy & Technology:
    Vickie Nardello, Chair
    Lonnie Reed, Vice Chair
    Environment:
    Richard Roy, Chair
    Paul Davis, Vice Chair
    Executive & Legislative Nominations:
    Claire Janowski, Chair
    Linda Schofield, Vice Chair
    Finance, Revenue & Bonding:
    Patricia Widlitz, Chair
    Jason Rojas, Vice Chair
    Elissa Wright, Vice Chair
    General Law:
    Joseph Taborsak, Chair
    David Baram, Vice Chair
    Government Administration & Elections:
    Russell Morin, Chair
    Matthew Lesser, Vice Chair
    Higher Education & Employment Advancement:
    Roberta Willis, Chair
    Juan Candelaria, Vice Chair
    Housing:
    Larry Butler, Chair
    Christopher Wright, Vice Chair
    Human Services:
    Peter Tercyak, Chair
    Bruce Morris, Vice Chair
    Insurance & Real Estate:
    Robert Megna, Chair
    Susan Johnson, Vice Chair
    Internship:
    Mae Flexer, Chair
    Judiciary:
    Gerald Fox, Chair
    Gary Holder-Winfield, Vice Chair
    Labor & Public Employees:
    Bruce "Zeke" Zalaski, Chair
    Ezequiel Santiago, Vice Chair
    Legislative Management:
    Christopher G. Donovan, Chair
    Brendan Sharkey, Vice Chair
    Planning & Development:
    Linda Gentile, Chair
    Auden Grogins, Vice Chair
    Program Review & Investigations:
    Mary Mushinsky, Chair
    Public Health:
    Elizabeth Ritter, Chair
    Christopher Lyddy, Vice Chair
    Public Safety:
    Stephen Dargan, Chair
    Ed Jutila, Vice Chair
    Regulations Review:
    Tim O'Brien, Chair
    Transportation:
    Antonio Guerrera, Chair
    Steven Mikutel, Vice Chair
    Veterans Affairs:
    John "Jack" Hennessey, Chair


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    The Senate Ethics Committee has dismissed a complaint brought by Judicial Watch, which calls itself a conservative, non-partisan government watchdog group, against U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, just days before Dodd is set to leave office.

    In a Dec. 20 letter to Judicial Watch President Thomas Fitton, John C. Sassaman, chief counsel and staff director for the bipartisan committee, stated there was "not sufficient credible evidence of improper conduct or violation...to warrant further action by the committee.'' 

    Judicial Watch filed a complaint against Dodd in April, 2009, alleging that Dodd helped longtime friend Edward Downe Jr. obtain a reduced sentence for violations of tax and security laws and eventually helped him win a pardon in 2001 from President Clinton.

    The following year, Judicial Watch alleged, Dodd received a reduced, below-market sales price for an Irish cottage from Downe's associate, William Kessinger. The group also said Dodd failed to disclose the financial benefits he recieved by filing inaccurate financial disclosure statements from 2002 through at least 2007.

    Dodd has always maintained he did nothing wrong. "Jackie and I have always believed that anyone who took the time to review the facts would see that Judicial Watch's complaint was nothing but a baseless, politically-motivated accusation,'' Dodd said in a statement released by his office late Wednesday.

    "Even during a Congress when Republicans and Democrats did not agree on much, the Senate Ethics Committee - made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats - dismissed this complaint after a careful 20-month review of the facts.  After this lengthy review, we appreciate the Ethics Committee's conclusion that this attack was wholly without merit,'' Dodd said.

    Dodd's office and Judicial Watch both confirmed the ethics commission's ruling and Dodd released a pair of letters from the committee; however the committee's website contains no details.

    Judicial Watch said the committee's decision to close the matter feeds cyncism in Washington.

    "The evidence indicates Dodd helped out a crooked friend, received a cut-rate real estate deal on a property in Ireland in exchange, and then lied on his financial disclosure forms to cover it all up.  This type of behavior is potentially criminal and certainly unethical, and it is shameful the Senate Ethics Committee failed to take this matter seriously," Fitton said in a statement posted on the group's website

    "The Senate Ethics Committee sat on our complaint for nearly two years, and then dismissed it out of hand days before Dodd's Senate career ends.  Even in corrupt Washington, the Ethics Committee's despicable handling of the Dodd matter is about as bad it gets.  No wonder Congress's approval rating is just 13 percent, an all-time low."


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