Monday, April 30, 2007

May already....

How time flies when you're having a good time.

It appears little movement has been made thus far in Hartford as lawmakers and the governor's office get down to the serious business of negotiating a budget for the new fiscal year. That isn't too surprising since there is still a full month to come to a deal - and most likely, it will take pretty much all of that time to complete. appears Fred Thompson, the actor from Law & Order, former U.S. Senator and soon-to-be Republican presidential candidate, will be visiting Connecticut in May. He'll be the featured guest at the annual Prescott Bush Sr. Awards Dinner on Thursday, May 24th at the Stamford Sheraton.

Dinner tickets are $250 for general admission, $500 for private reception and $1,000 for photo and private reception. For tickets, call (860)-296-9900 or visit the state Republican website –

What else is going on?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Earlier this month I passed a milestone....19 years here at the Norwich Bulletin.

Tomorrow is yet another's my birthday. And I have, for many years now, always taken my birthday off and spend it on a golf course. This year, I'm treating myself even better. I'm taking a long weekend.

There is a Hackett on Politics this Sunday in the paper and on the Web page at I take a look at the 2nd Congressional District - now that it appears we have our two candidates.

See you back here Monday.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The 2nd District 2008 race...

It looks like former Groton Submarine Base Commander Sean Sullivan has clear sailing for his bid to win the Republican nomination in next year's 2nd Congressional District race.

Former FEMA Regional Director Dan Craig of Deep River told me this afternoon that he will not enter the race, and as of right now, Sullivan appears to be the only GOP challenger in the hunt. Sullivan, 48, filed his candidacy papers with the FEC two weeks ago.

So it looks like it will be Sullivan versus freshman Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney doing battle next year. The Courtney folks declined comment on Craig's decision and the potential matchup with Sullivan. Sullivan was out of town today and unavailable for comment.

Learning from the past...

I've mentioned before that I do love history...and today is the anniversary of two significant events.

On April 24, the Library of Congress was established with a $5,000 allocation.

I mention this because on Monday, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, was invited to say a few words at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly renovated Otis Library. In his brief remarks, Courtney noted that he recently had a conversation with the director of the Library of Congress and learned that if it wasn't for that library, the history of Afghanistan's legislative and judicial practices might have been lost forever. It seems one of the first things the Taliban did upon taking control of that country was to destroy all the libraries - and all the books in them. So when the Tailban was overthrown, the new government was at a loss at re-establishing the country's long history of government. But there is a section of the Library of Congress that keeps copies of every important document in the world, and had a copy of Afghanistan's long history of government.

Libraries have become the storage shed of ideas but unfortunately, books are no longer the choice of many when it comes to learning. It's the computer now...not the pages.

Which brings me to the second significant event on this date.

It was April 24, 1981 when IBM introduced its first personal computer.

Getting to work...

Former Congressman Rob Simmons is certainly getting out in front when it comes to his new job as the state's first-ever business advocate. He's been doing TV interviews and tomorrow (Wednesday) morning he'll headline a business breakfast meeting in New London. According to the press release, Simmons will talk about financial asssistance, job training, technical assistance and other programs available for busineeses in the state.

And despite his repeated statements claiming that if confirmed for the job, which he was last month, he would put all his energies into the new position, there remains quite a bit of speculation as to what his future plans are. That speculation no doubt was fueled a bit more with the filing of his most recent Federal Elections Commission's finance report. I expected to see Simmons file a termination report, ending his congressional campaign. But instead, he filed a normal quarterly report.

But there is a reason he did that instead of terminating his campaign committee, and it has nothing to do with a potential future run for elected office. It seems Simmons was forced to "loan" his committee $30,000 in January to cover costs and debt from last year's election and the continuation of the committee while job hunting. According to his filing, he raised enough money in the first quarter of the year to cover most of the debt and ongoing expenses, and repaid $20,000 of the $30,000 loan. But that leaves him with a $10,000 outstanding balance to be dealt with. Thus the reason for not terminating the committee. By continuing, he's able to continue raising money to pay off the debt (to himself).

But here's where it gets a bit sticky. Does he really want to be in fund-raising mode while running around being the newest state employee?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Nice to be home...

I'm feeling a bit out of the loop after a week-long break and a trip to Washington, DC for a visit to American University. Needless to say, the news in the Capitol all week was dominated by the shooting at Virigina Tech. It was hard to escape, and strange at the same time since my visit there was the last of the college visits with my daughter who will be heading off to college in the Fall. Security was a key issue raised during the visit by myself and other parents.

So, what's been happening here locally?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Back to school....

I'm taking another week off. (I know, it seems I do that a lot.) But this is for a good cause.

I'm off next week for the last - as in final - college visit with may daughter who needs to decide by May 1 what school she'll be attending in September. (She's now been accepted to seven - and this last trip is the only one we haven't visited.) And it should be a good week because we'll be in one of my favorite cities...Washington, DC.

For what it's worth, this week's Hackett on Politics column in the Norwich Bulletin is amusing. Enjoy and I'll see you back here on Monday, April 23.

About Craig...

MVD asked for additional information on Dan Craig, the second potential Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney's re-election bid next year.

Name: Daniel Alan Craig - "Dan"
Age: 36
Family: Wife - Amy Sheets Craig, former Deep River Board of Selectmen , Children - Katherine, 3 and Robert , 1
Education: B.A. Political Science, Purdue University, currently pursuing dual MBA's, Pudue University/Central European University
Current Employer - Akerman Senterfitt, PLLC. I am a Government Affairs
Consultant for Akerman and also Chair of their, Disaster Preparedness and
Recovery Practice Group.
( note: he is not an attorney

House is in Deep River since 2000 and Maryland (current office is in
Washington). Grew up in Wallingford, CT

Craig was a political appointee to FEMA, and served as a regional director out of Boston. He resigned from the agency soon after the Katrina disaster. He was with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a lobbyist for electric cooperatives before joining FEMA in 2001.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Lots going on...

Former Congressman Rob Simmons won the support of the state Senate, and his confirmation as the state's new and first-ever business advocate is complete. The vote came with lots of advice from Democrats on exactly what he needs to do to spur the state's economic development.

The legislature's Appropriations Committee is expected to release its version of a state spending bill sometime today. The Revenue, Finance and Bonding Committee is scheduled to release its version of how to pay for it next week. Then the fun begins as the Democratic leadership and the governor's office spar over their differences.

On the national level, former Tenn. Sen. Fred Thompson appears poised to throw his hat into the presidential sweepstakes next week. That will certainly shake up the Republican side of the ledger.

And tomorrow we get a look at how well U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, did in the fundraising category when his office releases the first quarter Federal Elections Commission's campaign finance report. Courtney, who visited with the Norwich Bulletin's Editorial Board yesterday, wouldn't say how much - only that it will be higher than $200,000.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Simmons appointment...

The state Senate has scheduled a vote this afternoon on Rob Simmons' appointment as the state's first-ever business advocate. The House approved the nomination already, and it is expected the Senate will do the same.

Simmons, the former Republican, three-term congressman in the 2nd Congressional District, accepted Gov. M. Jodi Rell's invitation to fill the newly-created position after losing his re-election bid in last year's mid-term elections. He lost to U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney by a mere 83 votes, the closest House race in the nation.

Simmons opted not to make another run for the congressional seat in 2008. So far, (see previous post) there are two potential Republican challengers getting ready to take on Courtney next year.

2nd District 2008 race...

It appers the field of potential Republican challengers to U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney's, D-2nd District, re-election bid in 2008 will be growing.

Daniel Craig of Deep River, a former FEMA Regional Director, confirmed in a phone conversation this morning that he "still intends to run" for the GOP nomination. Sean Sullivan, the former Groton Submarine Base commander, confirmed Monday that he would be filing his paperwork with the FEC this week to set up his campaign committee and start raising money.

Sullivan plans to meet with National Republican Campaign Committee officials the first week of May. I confirmed this morning that Craig has already met with officials at the NRCC to discuss his candidacy.

Craig, who is working in Washington, DC these days, is expected to formally announce his intentions the week of April 23 after completing some business commmitments that will have him traveling this week and next.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sullivan vs. Courtney...

Sean Sullivan's decision to challenge first-term Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney in next year's 2nd District race - which I reported on this morning in the paper - is getting the expected buzz that one might expect. Those who would like to see a strong Republican challenger are excited about him, while those who believe Courtney is doing a good job are questioning what else Sullivan brings into the contest other than his past position as sub base commander.

Needless to say, those are both good questions and too soon for anyone to answer - and that includes Sullivan, who I doubt has gotten that far in his own planning.

At this point Sullivan is busy simply putting together his team so that he can begin raising money for what will likely be another expensive campaign. Where he stands on issues and what exactly will be the focal point of his campaign are issues that will become clearer in time. I think we'll get our first real hint of the kind of campaign he'll run when he makes his formal announcement of his candidacy - and that probably won't happen until sometime next month or early June.

Sullivan plans to meet with officials at the National Republican Congressional Campaign in Washington the first week of May. He'll need to be impressive if he hopes to convince them to get behind his candidacy because he'll need that support if he hopes to be competitive.

What is a bit more interesting is that Sullivan may very well have a clear track to the GOP nomination. The other possible candidate - Dan Craig of Deep River - hasn't returned my phone calls in two days. That surely raises a question as to how serious is he in making a run. Craig, by the way, is still living and working in Washington, DC, but still has his home in Deep River.

Democrats pushing for answers...

Democrats in the state legislature are wasting little time in calling on the state's new business advocate - former Congressman Rob Simmons - to act. Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, and several other Democratic state senators, have asked Simmons to push the Rell Administration into making leadership appointments in key state agencies involved in economic development.

And, they'd like to know what the circumstances were behind the recent departure of two leaders of Connecticut Innovations within the last six months.

Gas prices...

They're going up again.

And in response to that, Gov. M. Jodi Rell is again calling for a cap on the gross receipts tax when the wholesale price hits $1.75 per gallon or higher. The gross receipts tax is imposed on the first sale of petroleum products in the state, and as such, becomes part of the cost retail stations have to pay that then gets passed on to us at the pumps. The current rate is 6.72 percent.

That tax funds the state's infrastructure improvements - bridges, highways and mass transit.

The wholesale price of a gallon of gas these days - stay tuned it will change - is in the neighborhood of $2.12. That makes the gross receipts tax right now 14.3-cents per gallon. Under Rell's proposal, that tax would be capped at 11.7 cents per gallon, reducing the price at the pump (today) by 2.6-cents per gallon.

This tax rate is scheduled to go up on July 1, from the current 6.72 percent to 7.53 percent. Based on that, the same gallon of gasoline would be taxed at 16.1 cents.

Gene Guilford, executive director of the Independent Petroleum Dealers here in Connecticut, doesn't believe a 2 or 3 cent reduction at the pump is that big of a break for consumers. He also notes that there is also an additional 25-cent per gallon state excise tax imposed in addition to the gross receipts tax.

Guilford thinks more focus should be directed towards returning tolls to Connecticut's major highways.

"If tolls were restored," he said Monday, "potentially Connecticut's motor fuel tax rates could be reduced more along the lines of New Jersey, or about 10-cents per gallon - saving about 29 cents per gallon off gasoline costs and shifting more of the highway, bridge and mass transit expenses onto tolls."

So what do you think?

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Murtha visit...

In politics, progress is made one step at a time - and often in baby steps.

Last year, Congress authorized the construction of two submarines a year beginning in Fiscal Year 2009. But it didn't allocate the money to actually do it.

Currently, the Navy's shipbuilding schedule calls for two subs a year beginning in 2012 - and is reluctant to commit to any earlier timetable because there are no guarantees that the future funding to finish the job will be there. Right now, it cost about $2.5 billion to build one sub. The Navy is not opposed to building two, but it wants the cost down to $2 billion each. EB claims that if it can get up to two-per-year, it can lower the cost and reach that goal.

But money right now is the big problem. The War in Iraq is eating away at the Defense Department budget.

Which makes the visit today of Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha to Electric Boat that much more interesting. Murtha, an outspoken opponent of the Iraq War, is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Defense. It is that subcommittee that will actually write the Defense Appropriations Bill for Fiscal year 2008. There's a move in Congress to increase the Navy's shipbuilding account which the president has budgeted for seven new ships next year - including one new Virginia-class sub. Some in Congress, including 2nd District Congressman Joe Courtney, are lobbying to add money so that 12 new ships will be built - including a second submarine.

Murtha's visit to southeastern Connecticut, the Submarine Capitol of the World, is an indication of his support for that effort. What we're talking about is an extra $400 million for the advance procurment - with the rest of the funding allocated in the following year.

It would be a significant accomplishment for the freshman congressman from eastern Connecticut if that extra funding is included in the budget, and it wins House approval.

It is not, however, the end of the debate. It would still require Senate approval, and that same sense of urgency that exists in the House doesn't appear to be as strong in the Senate.

But Murtha does have some influence. It will be interesting to watch how this all plays out - but I think it's safe to say that a significant step forward is being taken today just by having him visit. No one can talk about the work being done at EB better than those who are doing that work - and Murtha will no doubt get an earful during his visit today.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Dodd not giving in...

despite a disappointing first quarter fundraising effort and the inability to show any significant support in the polls, Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd isn't backing away from his presidential campaign. In fact, he's making every effort to increase his exposure to votes in those early key voting states - and trying to garner as much national media exposure as he can.

On Sunday, he gets a bit of both. According to the Dodd campaign, the senatorwill be highlighted on C-SPAN 's "Road to the White House" this Sunday at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. ET.

The 20-minute segment will show Dodd and three generations of Hale family members discussing issues important to American voters at the Hales' kitchen table in Ely, Iowa. The visit with the Hale family was one of three Kitchen Table Campaign stops Dodd made in Iowa last week, along with stops in Dubuque and Maquoketa.

The Kitchen Table Campaign will continue with more events during upcoming trips as Senator Dodd makes his case for the Presidency to voters on an individual level.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Back to school...

I'm at the University of Connecticut where U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, will be hosting a summit on the future of eastern Connecticut. He's assembled three panels of experts who will be discussing education, energy and economic development.

Courtney said yesterday that purpose of the summit is an opportunity for him to learn what issues are important and how he can be of some help in resolving them when he returns to Washington after the Easter recess.

The summit begins at 9:45 a.m., and is expected to last all morning.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Murtha, Courtney and submarines...

2nd District Congressman Joe Courtney was the featured speaker at morning breakfast event in Pomfret hosted by the Northeastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce. It was pretty usual, all the right topics discussed from education and health care to energy and defense.

And although Courtney made a point of mentioning the upcoming visit of PA Congressman Jack Murtha next week to Electric Boat, you might say he downplayed it a bit. Which is both understanding and surprising.

It is undertanding in the sense that the last thing he needs to do is build up hopes that may very well get dashed later on in the year. Murtha is certainly a player, and his support for advanced funding for a second sub would almost certainly guarantee the money in the 2008 Defense Budget - at least the House version. It's doubtful the Senate will put that extra $400 million in its version - and whether it could survive a conference committee is a question no one knows for sure right now.

But it is also surprising that Courtney didn't make more of this visit - because Murtha is a major player these days. He is best known as an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration's Iraq War policy, and has led the fight to cutoff funding and withdraw the troops.

But even more importantly - at least for Courtney - is that Murtha can bring some weight to the issue of building two subs a year.

Courtney's predecessor, former Republican Congressman Rob Simmons, did an admirable job of keeping the submarine force in the spotlight in Washington, and was successful last year in at least getting the "authorization" to speed up the Navy's plan and start building two a year in 2009 - not 2012 as the Navy has scheduled now. But what Simmons didn't get was a vote from the Appropriations Committee to actually put the money for that in the budget.

Courtney is on the verge of doing just that - at least on the House side. Getting Murtha to visit EB is a pretty big deal in this context and it's surprising that Courtney isn't taking bigger credit. But under the circumstances, it's also understandable.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Trouble in the Dodd camp...

Political Wire is reporting this afternoon that there may be a major shake up in Chris Dodd's presidential campaign resulting from the disappointing fundraising effort during the first quarter. The campaign's fundraising goal was to have the senator finish at the top of the second tier candidates - a position he didn't make, losing that spot to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Dodd pulled in only $4 million for the first three months compared to Richardson's $6 million.

War funding....

The president will hold a press conference today regarding the House and Senate bills authorizing the funding to continue the war in Iraq - each of which also contains a provision setting a specific timetable for the withdrawal of all American troops. The president has vowed to veto whichever version hits his desk...and will likely repeat that position today when he talks with the press.

I attended an event at Pine Point School in Stonington yesterday, that also included Connecticut's Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman - and after the event I asked him what he thought was going to happen.

Lieberman, who voted against the Senate version because he opposes setting any date for withdrawal, said he fully expects the congressional conference committee will report out a bill that includes a specific timetable and the president will veto it. He doesn't believe there are the votes in congress to override the presidential veto, and described the jockey "as a form of harrassment." So what happens after that? This is what he said...

"What I'd like to see is a clean bill passed. The president will veto this, the votes aren't there to override it. So what I'd like to see is a clean bill, no deadlines, no conditions, and give the troops the money they need. That's what this is suppose to be all about.

"And let's step back, declare a truce in the political war. Give the general and the troops the four or five months they say they need and to see whether this is working. If people are not happy then, the DoD appropriations bill will come before Congress in September or October and they can try again."

Freshmen congressmen and Medicare...

Democratic Congressmen Joe Courtney (2nd District) and Chris Murphy (5th District) are holding a joint press conference at the state Capitol this afternoon to talk about the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug program...and ways they intend on making it better.

You might recall the House, in its first "100 hour surge" passed legislation that eliminated the provision that prohibited the government from negotiating better prices with the drug companies. Although the press release didn't say exactly what the two lawmakers will be talking about today, I'm not going to be surprised to hear that they want to eliminate the penalty imposed on people who don't sign up on time, and that donut hole that leaves those needing the most paying for it out of their own pockets.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Dodd endorsement

Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd picked up a rather significant endorsement in his presidential bid this morning.

Former New Hampshire Congressman Norman D'Amours threw his support to Dodd. A'Amours served five terms in the House of Representatives, including a portion of that time with Dodd when he served as Connecticut's 2nd Congressional District representative. D'Amours previously served as New Hampshire's assistant Attorney General heading up the state's criminal division and was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to serve as chairman of the National Credit Union Administration.

Dodd heads back to New Hampshire for two days of campaigning beginning Tuesday.

This is what D'Amours said about Dodd in a press released issued by the Dodd campaign this morning:

"In my view, Chris Dodd is the only candidate in this race with the broad range of experience, temperament, world view and character that gives me complete confidence he could provide at this very moment the leadership our country so badly needs," said D'Amours. "I firmly believe that Chris has the right mix of leadership, consistency, and hands on experience that we need in the White House if we hope to heal this country and restore America's standing around the world.

First glance at the money race...

The Associated Press is reporting that Democratic Presidential candidate Hilliary Clinton raised $26 million during the first quarter of 2007, with former Sen. John Edwards bringing in a little more than $14 million. It is reported, although not yet announced, that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is in the $20 million to $21 million range. (He apparently is waiting a day or two to officially announce his total to get a bigger bang from the media hype).

In the second tier, according to the New York Times, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson deposited $6 million; CT Sen. Chris Dodd about $4 million and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden in the $3 million nighborhood.

Convention wisdom said you needed at least $10 million to be looked at as a serious contender.