UPDATE: He’s bowed out or, as Greenwich Time puts it, “sought another deferment”. Good line.
Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday took an unexpected dig at Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal for misstating [uh, that should read, “lying about” – ED] his military service record.
While speaking at a barbecue for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he commented about veterans coming home from the Vietnam War. Biden, who has a penchant for being loquacious, veered into the Connecticut Senate race.
“I didn’t serve in Vietnam. I don’t want to make a Blumenthal mistake here,” he said according to a pool report. “Our attorney general from Connecticut, God love him.”
Later he said “I have a bad habit of saying exactly what I think.”
Music here:Ballad of the Green Beret
Put silver wings, on my own chest
I’ll pretend, I’m America’s best,
Call me a man, but then someday,
you will know,
I wear a fake beret
Trained to serve in privileged lands
I passed the canapes,
Hand to hand
I stand so tall, though five foot, say,
I really wear, a fake beret
Back at home, and old wife waits
Her phony soldier’s met his fate
A camera man got in his way,
He smacked him with,
His fake beret
Put silver wings on my own chest
I’ll pretend, I’m America’s best
Bury me deep, because someday,
You will learn, I wore a fake beret
Apologies to Barry Sadler, and The Ballad of the Green Berets but this London Times column, forwarded by Bill Clark, is a delightful send up of lying politicians like Dick Blumenthal, Hillary Clinton and their “misstatements”.
By Dominick Lawson
Don’t lie, try misspeaking instead
There is no official league table for political lies. Some of us will be able to find it in our hearts to forgive a form of dissembling that others would regard as beyond salvation. Yet a candidate for office who, having gone to great lengths to avoid military combat, seeks public support on the basis of his invented active service would, you might think, be completely unelectable. Not necessarily, or so it seems, in America.
Treat yourself and read the whole thing.
Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic Senatorial candidate from Connecticut, is in trouble this week for lying about having fought in Vietnam. The former Marine reservist admits he “misspoke” on several occasions about his military service and is otherwise unapologetic, but the revelation has thrown open a race that Mr. Blumenthal appeared to have in the bag.
Since Connecticut voters are suddenly focused on Mr. Blumenthal’s résumé, they might also like to learn more about his record in public life. Since 1991, Mr. Blumenthal has been the Nutmeg State’s Attorney General, earning a reputation for aggressive, politically tinged and high-profile prosecutions. He has accused hundreds of people and businesses of misrepresentation and fraud that is often less egregious than his own untruthful claims.
Mr. Blumenthal has made his crusading ways a large selling point in his bid to replace the retiring Chris Dodd. The state press generally goes along. He deflects criticism that his methods scare investors and jobs away from the state, and he even says that his prosecutions bring in revenue by coercing fines out of companies.
“To blame law enforcement for unemployment is beyond wrong, it’s silly and shouldn’t be given any credibility,” he said earlier this year. One of his Democratic opponents, Merrick Alpert, cracked in response that, “Lawsuits don’t create jobs, entrepreneurs create jobs.”
To understand the Blumenthal method, consider his case against Gina Kolb, formerly Gina Malapanis, and her small computer supplies company, Computers Plus Center Inc. In 2003, the Attorney General alleged that Computers Plus had failed to install proper “network interface cards” in the machines it supplied under a $17.2 million state contract, which was cancelled.
Mr. Blumenthal first filed a civil suit against Computers Plus for $1.7 million—announced, of course, at a press conference featuring himself. “No supplier should be permitted to shortchange or overcharge the state without severe consequences,” he said then. The following year, the state escalated with a criminal case and police arrested Mrs. Kolb at her home on seven first-degree larceny charges punishable by up to 20 years in jail. More toughly worded press releases followed from the prosecutor.
Mrs. Kolb refused to take a plea in the civil case. On the criminal charges, she took part in the state’s accelerated rehabilitation program. She didn’t admit guilt, and upon completion of the program her record was wiped clean in 2008. Mrs. Kolb countersued the state for violating her constitutional rights, abusing its power and ruining her business. This January, a jury agreed that Mr. Blumenthal made false claims about Mrs. Kolb and her business, awarding her $18 million. So much for Mr. Blumenthal making money for Connecticut taxpayers.
The AG has challenged the verdict, but the Kolb case fits a pattern that the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson calls “bullying, legally ill-founded ventures into litigation.” From his leading role in the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s to trying to repossess bonuses to AIG executives, Mr. Blumenthal has cultivated a reputation as the Eliot Spitzer of Connecticut. In 2007, the Competitive Enterprise Institute rated Mr. Blumenthal the worst state AG, beating Mr. Spitzer, which takes some doing.
He was the only AG to get failing grades in each of the four categories: using his office to “promote personal gain or enrich cronies or relatives”; “fabricating the law” by asking courts to “rewrite statutes or stretch constitutional norms”; bringing lawsuits “that usurp regulatory powers granted to the federal government or other state entities”; and “seeking to regulate conduct occurring wholly in other states.”
Which does not mean Mr. Blumenthal can’t show prosecutorial discretion when he wants to. Last year, he went on television to announce that he wouldn’t investigate Countrywide Financial’s sweetheart loans to Senator Dodd, nonetheless declaring without any probe that “there’s no evidence of wrongdoing on [Mr. Dodd’s] part.”
Much like Mr. Spitzer’s cavorting with prostitutes while he was New York’s chief law enforcement officer, Mr. Blumenthal’s Vietnam fabrications reflect a larger problem with his public character. Rather than apologize for imagining a war record, the AG copped only to “a few misplaced words” that he said were “totally unintentional”—and he even held his news conference at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall.
Mr. Blumenthal’s Vietnam problem is all too typical of a sense of entitlement and impunity that has built up over many years of exercising vast power with little restraint. This is not the kind of character that will change Washington.
Reader Diva4ever sends along this profile of our creepy senatorial candidate, and former Harvard swim team captain (ha ha) Dickie Blumenthal, from American Spectator.
Unfortunately, Dodd’s replacement as the Democratic standard-bearer, state attorney general Richard Blumenthal, is no walk along the Connecticut River either. Blumenthal is an overzealous Eliot Spitzer imitator with a duller social life [so far as we know now – Ed] but a no less acute sense of his office’s activist potential. The Hartford Courant once editorialized that Blumenthal “has elevated activism to an art form, figuratively beating the ambulance to the accident almost every time.” The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) labeled him the nation’s worst state attorney general.
One might assume that the voters would be repulsed at the sight of a Greenwich limousine liberal chasing ambulances, but the key to successful crusading — Blumenthal has been in office for five four-year terms — is to convince people you are really looking out for the little guy. Blumenthal picks unpopular targets and says he is wielding his considerable power on behalf of the downtrodden. He entered the race with a 40-point net favorable rating and led his nearest Republican rival by a two to one margin in the most recent Quinnipiac poll. His job approval rating hovered near 80 percent.
Blumenthal built his popularity on the backs of such easy prey as tobacco companies. In the 1990s, he negotiated the Master Settlement Agreement by which state attorneys general agreed to drop their litigation against cigarette manufacturers if the coffin nail-makers were willing to pony up. Nobody likes Big Tobacco and everybody loves the anti-smoking efforts the national tobacco deal was supposed to fund. But the end result was a transfer of $14 billion from disproportionately low-income smokers to the bank accounts of wealthy trial lawyers.
WHY IS SOMEONE AS ADEPT at self-promotion as Blumenthal still attorney general after nearly 20 years? State Democrats complain that he has looked out for his own self-preservation first rather than the needs of their party. He has repeatedly taken a pass on races for Senate and governor. “He’s intelligent. He’s a decent guy. He just doesn’t have the fire for a tough run,” New Haven Advocate political columnist Paul Bass memorably observed.
“He wants it to be handed to him, and it never was.”
Niantic, Connecticut blogger Steven Frishling was attacked by TSA goons last week and had his computer seized by federal government officials embarrassed at the exposure of their silly, weak response to the Captain Underpants bombing attempt. The blogging world rallied around Frishling and late last week the TSA dropped its subpoena, but they still have his computer and his records. I would think that Connecticut’s Attorney General would want to protect one of the citizens he is supposed to serve in an instance like this but so far as I know, he has done nothing – busy skiing in Aspen, perhaps, but is that an excuse? Where is Blumenthal?
UPDATE: We’re in the best of hands. TSA goon drops his super secret, double-probation notebook
The state attorney general claimed victory Friday in a legal battle stemming from 2005 that challenged the legitimacy of a sales agreement in which an elderly Greenwich woman agreed to sell her home to two men for less than half of what it was worth at the time.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal intervened after Mona Lee Johnson, of Greenwich, agreed to sell her home, estimated to be worth $1.2 million, for $500,000, a month before she died.
The Attorney General’s Office alleged that her neighbor, Mark Lovallo, had urged Johnson to sign off on the sales option while she was sick in the hospital. The deal also included her longtime accountant, David Alfano.
That’s just fine, although the revelation that the old lady was leaving everything to the cat hospital mitigates militates* against a sense of injustice overturned, but why can’t this pomaded blowhard just stop crowing about his puny accomplishments?
“I fought successfully to stop this suspect agreement denying hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities intended to benefit from the home’s sale,” Blumenthal said. “In charity law, the donor’s wishes are paramount. This donor never wished to sell her home at a bargain-basement price, significantly slashing the proceeds to charities named in her will.”
He goes on (and on) but I won’t. I supose the presence of Blumenthal waiting in the wings is the best reason possible to return Chris Dodd to office.
Walt sent a link to this story about our state Attorney General and it seems only fair, after the scorn I heap on the man, to acknowledge when he gets on the right side of something and in fact leads the way. Blumenthal assails TARP money going to the Big Three rating agencies that created toxic loans. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s and Fitch took huge fees to “rate” the junk being peddled by their clients and classified them as Triple A low risk when they knew damn well they were crap. Without those ratings, the entire scheme wouldn’t have worked. So good for you, Mr. Bluementhal.
“This potential $400 million windfall overpays the Big Three raters and undercuts competitors — another money reward for failure,” Blumenthal said in a news release. “The same Big Three that overrated bonds now regarded as toxic assets will be rating new bonds issued to restart lending and solve the economic crisis they helped create.”
The program, created by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, is called the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility.
It provides loans to big investors and companies to buy newly issued securities backed by consumer debt, stimulating lending for auto, education, credit card and other loans.
The program starts by providing up to $200 billion in financing to investors, such as hedge funds, private equity funds and mutual funds, to buy up the debt. It has the potential to generate up to $1 trillion in lending.
Calls were placed Monday to Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s seeking comment.
Blumenthal has written to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke asking him to revise the program. He ways the program gives the three rating agencies an advantage and assures that their six smaller competitors can’t compete for the work.
As part of his antitrust inquiry, Blumenthal has subpoenaed Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s for all documents and information.
The attorney general says the three agencies overrated bonds now regarded as toxic assets and say they will be rating new bonds issued to restart lending and solve the economic crisis they helped create.
Andrew Cuomo, who sat back in the weeds while Massachusetts assembled a civil fraud case against Madoff feeder funds, has now charged Ezra Merkin and his feeder fund, Ascot, with the same claim. Connecticut’s courageous Attorney General, Dick Blumenthal, now has a pretty good feel for which way the wind’s blowing and we can expect him to join in the fray any month now – probably after his betters get past the initial court hurdles. But he’ll be there at the end to claim credit, in front of the cameras, I promise you.
The Ascot fund was formed by Mr. Merkin in 1992 exclusively as “feeder” fund for Mr. Madoff, says the Attorney General. It grew to hold $1.7 billion from 300 investors by the end of December, 2008. Mr. Madoff then used the money in a massive Ponzi scheme.
About 85% of the investors in the Ascot fund did not know their money was siphoned to Mr. Madoff, the complaint says. For those that knew, the truth about the size and scope of the investment was obfuscated, says Mr. Cuomo. Mr. Merkin collected an annual fee from Ascot’s investors amounting to 1% to 1.5% of the total assets in the fund – a fee that included the fictitious Madoff returns, says the complaint. By 2008, Mr. Merkin was collecting about $25.5 million a year from managing Ascot.
And if you think that set up was similar to Walter’s, try this:
Mr. Merkin was not personally heavily invested in his own Ascot fund. He did not reinvest his $169 million in management fees for the years 1995 to 2007 back into his own fund, says the complaint. All told, Mr. Merkin invested personally and through family trusts and foundations $7 million in Ascot in its first six years, and less than $2 million over the following 10 years.
I’m waiting for criminal fraud charges to compliment the civil ones but I expect those will come from out-of-state, rather than Hartford. Tough to put your golfing buddy in jail, I guess.
Although most coverage of the CPSIA debacle (this site’s included) has focused on the lead rules, the phthalates ban (phthalates are an ingredient often used to make plastic soft and bendable) is also extraordinarily burdensome, for a number of reasons: 1) as readers may recall, a successful lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council and others forced the last-minute retroactive banning of already-existing playthings and child care items, costing business billions in inventory and other losses; 2) vast numbers of vintage dolls, board gamesand other existing playthings are noncompliant, which means they cannot legally be resold even at garage sales, let alone thrift or consignment shops, and are marked for landfills instead; 3) obligatory lab testing to prove the non-presence of phthalates in newly made items is even more expensive than testing to prove the non-presence of lead.
Earlier coverage: Feb. 6(NRDC and allies win court case on retroactivity); Feb. 7 (various points, including Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s vow that his office will “take whatever steps are necessary[emphasis added] to ensure this phthalate ban is enforced”)
Frankly, I could care less about infant toys – what really gets me hetted up is that the ban caused the disappearance from the market of Nalgene water bottles, the best backpacking invention since the Kelty pack. Until Nalgene, hikers were forced to choose between crappy polyethylene bottles that imparted a stench of plastic to every mouthful or a heavy metal container. We’re back to that now, for no good reason. And in case you’re not a hiker, you might want to thank Blumenthal for his efforts for another reason: IV bags, that replaced glass and were stronger, cheaper and lighter, contain phthalates – so they’re gone too. But again, if it saves the life of one polar bear,….
Chris Dodd, already in trouble with his sweetheart mortgage deals, his Irish castle and his attempt to protect the AIG bonuses, is encountering serious difficulty raising money for his upcoming reelection campaign. I heard yesterday from a reader that her father, a great guy who actually took a chance hiring a 23-year-old philosophy major as a Colombian drug runner – where do you think I met Andres?) is pretty connected to the local political scene and reports that Dodd will not run. I would be cheered by that news were it not for the name of his replacement: Dick Blumenthal. In this state, Blumenthal is a shoo-in (the only kind of campaign Blumenthal will risk), and that’s a shame. I doubt he’s as crooked as Dodd – who could be? – but his overweening egotism and opportunism will hardly be an addition to the Capital. Ugh.
Republican Simmons, the only announced challenger to Dodd that I’m aware of, is going after the man for his AIG “Dodd Amendment”. Good for him, but I doubt this tempest will last long enough to deprive Dodd of the Democrat nomination and with it, reelection. Maybe that Irish Cottage will have longer legs – I hope so.
Will Blumenthal take a run at Dodd? A friend of mine, a Democrat, and I discussed this over coffee this morning and we both agreed that the answer is no. Lieberman is toast and will be out of the picture, one way or the other, in 2012, and that’s what Blumenthal’s waiting for. The man only goes for sure things- one reason I dislike him so much, is that he always waits for others to lead the way – tobacco, Microsoft, whatever, and only steps in when he can’t screw it up but can get publicity. Doubt me? Why did he wait so long to move on the AIG bonus play? It was only when his hated rival, Andrew Cuomo, started grabbing headlines that Dick figured out he was missing the train.
Anyway, the prediction here is that Dodd outlasts this scandal as he has all the others and retains his seat. Dodd and Blumenthal – what a future we have to look forward to.
Connecticut’s Attorney General seems determined to change our motto to “The Me Too State”. He has, after the big boys have shown him how to do it, sued Microsoft, tobacco companies, George Foreman’s Grill Master and the Girl Scouts of America. Now he’s subpoenaed AIG for the names of the bonus babies, never mind that Congress and that other despicable AG, Andrew Cuomo, already have them. Dick wants his own list, I suppose to demonstrate that he’s on the job. Little men should shut up and sit down, so that no one notices how small they are.
And here’s a scary thought: if, by some miracle, the Demmerkrats get rid of Dodd before next year’s election, this hungry, ambitious snake will be climbing over the bodies of his children to snatch the nomination. And Connecticut being the foolish state that it is, he’d win.