One day after their company lost a lucrative city contract due to fraud, nine out-of-town doctors ponied up $1,000 apiece to the mayoral campaign of frontrunner Toni Harp.
The donors work for Hamden-based Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists. Their company took in around $800,000 this past fiscal year as authorized orthopaedic caregivers for New Haven government’s workers’ compensation plan, according to the city.
On July 25, city workers received a letter informing them that they could no longer go to doctors from that firm for treatment of work-related injuries under that plan.
The city canceled the outfit’s contract after one of its doctors, Patrick Ruwe, admitted to improper handling of a workers’ compensation case. Ruwe, who lives in Branford, had treated a public works employee for a shoulder injury. He authorized the employee to return to work on light duty for eight hours a day. Then he subsequently signed a form stating that the city should limit the employee to four to five hours of work a day. He signed the form after the employee requested it in order to work a second job, not because he actually needed the hourly restriction, Ruwe admitted. He admitted there was no medical reason for the restriction. (Click here for a full account of that case.)
On July 26 Ruwe (pictured), a prominent physician (named by Connecticut magazine in both 2011 and 2013 as one of the state’s top docs), donated the maximum $1,000 allowed to the campaign of Toni Harp, one of four Democrats running at the time in a Democratic Party mayoral primary. Harp won that primary Tuesday. She is now running in the Nov. 5 general election.
Harp’s latest campaign-finances filing shows eight other doctors from the firm also donating $1,000 apiece on the same date: firm CEO Glenn Elia of Milford; John Aversa of Woodbridge; John Bener of Madison; Peter DeLuca of Branford; Norman Kaplan of Milford; John Kelley of Branford; Thomas Moran of Branford; and Enzo Sella of Branford.
Harp’s campaign filing identifies six of the nine as working for Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists. It leaves the “employer” box empty for three of them.
The episode touches on two broader issues: the relevance of financial contributions to the mayoral campaign; and efforts by the city to get workers’ compensation costs under control.
Money In Politics
Harp’s last remaining opponent in the mayor’s race, Justin Elicker, has made the role of money a central campaign issue.
Elicker participated in the city’s voluntary public-financing program, the Democracy Fund, in the primary. That means he agreed to limit individual contributions to $370 (rather than $1,000) and swear off donations from political committees in return for matching public money. He can’t participate in the fund in the general-election campaign; but he has agreed to continue abiding by the limits.
Harp did not participate in the fund—and has led the pack in fundraising, thanks both to bundles of $1,000 contributions like those from Connecticut Orthopaedic; and from political action committees.
Harp has consistently argued that donors won’t influence her decisions if she becomes mayor. In a campaign debate last week, she called the Democracy Fund a waste of public money that could be better spent on young people in hard economic times. Elicker and other public-financing proponents argued that the system keeps government more honest and can save taxpayers more money in the long run by preventing wasteful contracts or other spending on behalf of large donors. (Click here and on the video for more on that debate.)
Elicker specifically mentioned Connecticut Orthopaedic and four other bundlers in a flyer released Sunday night. (Read about that in the bottom half of this article.)
“Why is Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists donating so much money to the Harp campaign?” he asked in the flyer (pictured at the bottom of this article).
Toni Harp said in an interview Thursday that she had no idea that the firm had had a city contract. In fact, she said, she had never heard of the firm before.
“Frankly when somebody mentioned them, I was really kind of perplexed why they would give to a municipal campaign,” Harp said.
She disagreed with Elicker’s argument about the Democracy Fund limiting the influence of donors. She said she sees no difference in the ultimate potential influence on a candidate if he or she receives multiple $370 donations from people who work for the same company, or multiple $1,000 donations.
Harp said campaign donations have never influenced her decisions over her 26 years as a state senator and alderwoman. And her donors know that, she said.
“I always raised money from people. The reality is that it never had any impact on me. I always do what I think is right,” she said.
“You do what you think is right. You do what you think is fair. It’s transparent. People see your thinking. I think people who give don’t expect a quid pro quo. They just want a meeting, maybe, to give their point of view. But they don’t expect you necessarily to go along with it or to give them any special favors. Even the people that I’ve spoken with have made it clear that they don’t expect a quid pro quo.”
A 2nd Chance—With Strings Attached
The city canceled the contract with Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists (COS)—and with another doctor, Stephen Piserchia, who took in about $80,000 in the past fiscal year —as part of an ongoing effort to crack down on workers’ compensation abuse and skyrocketing costs.
By the 2009-2010 fiscal year, annual workers’ compensation claims had doubled in under a decade. A City Hall working group has succeeded in lowering that rate of increase since then (see the yellow line in the accompanying chart) and is continuing to target fraud. It is also pursuing a policy of finding more light-duty assignments for employees with physical injuries rather than have them remain out of work altogether.
Workers’ compensation claims cost the city $11.4 million in that peak 2009-10 fiscal year, according to the city. The figure dropped to $9.6 million in the fiscal year that ended
Since the July 25 letter to city employees, COS sought to have its contract reinstated. The group’s CEO, Elia, met with city officials to discuss the matter. It acknowledged Ruwe’s misstep, called it a departure from the company’s overall performance. The city agreed to reinstate the firm in the city workers’ compensation provider network—under the condition that Ruwe, a Yale College and cum laude Yale School of Medicine graduate, not be included. And that the firm’s doctors won’t again keep city workers sidelined for non-medical reasons. Elia also promised to assign a staffer to work with the city “to return injured employees to full-time employment as soon as it is medically appropriate,” according to a letter Elia wrote to the city on Sept. 3.
The city’s still tallying the costs for which COS will reimburse it, according to Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts.
Elia wrote in the letter that his firm “acknowledges and accepts the city’s position regarding” the city worker whom Ruwe helped get time to work the second job. (The city fired the employee. A city union appealed the firing to the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration. The board upheld the firing.)
“[T]his was clearly an isolated event, and COS has a long standing history of providing high-quality and cost effective medical care to city employees,” Elia wrote.
Elia and Ruwe could not be reached for comment for this story.
The head of the city firefighters’ union, Jimmy Kottage, came to COS’s defense after learning of the original July 25 letter announcing the decision to cut the firm from the provider network. In a note to Rob Smuts, Kottage vowed his union would “advocate aggressively against this prohibition.” He argued that the prohibition would “unduly penalize fire fighters and their families. This prohibition will effect care, therapy and our award winning work hardening program that rehabilitates injured fire fighters.”
City employees received a new letter this Tuesday informing them that some COS surgeons have been reauthorized to treat them for work-related illnesses.
Piserchia remains banned from treating workers. He could not be reached for comment for this story.
“Patients under your treatment are unusual in not often being released to light duty, which is likely a major contributor to the length of time they remain out of work and total cost to the City for their claims,” City Hall’s Rob Smuts wrote to Piserchia in a Sept. 4 letter about the decision.
Since then, Smuts reported, “Dr. Piserchia has told me he is gathering some data to refute the analysis from CIRMA [the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, which administers the city’s workers’ compensation plan] that was the basis for his exclusion, but right now he is still excluded.”
Piserchia’s name, by the way, does not show up on Toni Harp’s contribution lists.
Anyone who has worked for a huge city contractor knows that the contributions made by partners and staff are pennies on the dollar compared to what is expected (if not guaranteed) in return.
Elicker’s chart likely underestimates the amount contributed by these contractors and slumlords, because it doesn’t include low level staff contributions that fly under the radar.
If Harp is elected, we can expect a constant stream of headlines like this one. And if she does away with the Democracy Fund, as she recently proposed, our children can expect that too.
Earlier in the year, Harp said that she might participate in the Democracy Fund in a future race. It’s a new race now. Harp’s best move right now would be to come out immediately as a clean elections candidate, swear off PACs, and refund all contributions in excess of $370, like Elicker has done.
She would instantly get a bump of support if she did this. Now that Fernandez is out of the race, she has no excuse not to.
posted by: citoyen on September 12, 2013 4:51pm
When the latest donor lists came out last week, I noticed the name of one of these doctors. I went to him once, briefly; had a very unpleasant office visit, and never went back.
I could not for the life of me imagine why he would want to donate to Toni Harp’s campaign (or any New Haven election campaign, for that matter.)
Pay to play, pay to play. Old song in these parts. Old tradition. Never to die??
posted by: HewNaven on September 12, 2013 4:51pm
I am certain that the majority of residents who voted for Harp have never heard of the Democracy Fund, or, at the very least they don’t understand why we have it. Why else would they vote for a pay-to-play Senator like Harp who promises favors to rich, white doctors from suburban towns? This is why we have the Democracy Fund, folks. So, we can hopefully, one day, do away with the politics as usual.
posted by: robn on September 12, 2013 4:54pm
This is hilarious. Haven’t Harp supporters been crowing for the past two days about the power of democracy and how money doesn’t taint elections and about how there’s just no basis for assuming that large out of town contributors curry favor with the candidate? So seriously folks…Toni didn’t know who this firm was even through they were her largest contributor to date? seriously?!? SERIOUSLY?!?
posted by: citoyen on September 12, 2013 4:57pm
One more note: isn’t it interesting that the 9 doctors assumed it was a potential *Harp* administration that would feel kindly about their donations?
posted by: FacChec on September 12, 2013 5:02pm
I am having a difficult time rationalizing how the NHI reports this investigative story, which for the most part is a back story, and which the NHI does not do as a practice. CT Orthopedic, had been contracted with the city since 2001, and must have been contributing to the Destefano campaign since 2001. So how is it that now COS can be linked to the 2014 Harp campaign and be called into question for what was revealed by the city as a cancellation of contract occurring in 2009 as follows:
“By the 2009-2010 fiscal years, annual workers’ compensation claims had doubled in under a decade. A City Hall working group has succeeded in lowering that rate of increase since then (see the yellow line in the accompany chart) and is continuing to target fraud”.
The city canceled the contract with Connecticut Orthopedic Specialists (COS) who has been contracted with the city from 2001 to 2013 consecutively.
COS has since been reinstated by the city as a vendor, but without the services of Dr. Ruwe.
City employees received a new letter this Tuesday informing them that some COS surgeons have been reauthorized to treat them for work-related illnesses.
So what’s the connection NHI is trying to make between Harp and the fraud which occurred during Destefano’s watch? If individuals wish to contribute to a political up to $1000 it is perfectly legal. If anything this article will ensure that COS will have to compete for service contracts under the Harp administration.
This is purely a contrived story, which ranks far below NHI journalistic standards.
posted by: Bill Saunders on September 12, 2013 5:09pm
There needs to be a DOW Jones style system that tracks all of these political investments. It is no different than buying stock, with greater potential payout, on the public’s back.
posted by: LuvNewHaven on September 12, 2013 5:11pm
So Jason Bartlett, will Senator Harp be returning that money to these donors? Inquiring minds want to know.
posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on September 12, 2013 5:14pm
I AM CURIOUS, as to who the city employee who told the doctor to place them on “light duty” at only 4 or 5 hours a day, so as to work the second job, is not identified? It sounds as if several crimes were committed by the patient, and the doctor, yet this is the first time I have heard of this. It was never in the papers and is obliviously a case of fraud that would have been covered by taxpayers dollars. Why is the story so vague on facts, and what is the source? Has it been corroborated? And if so, why as there been no prosecution? Is the employee/officer still employed and paid by New Haven? It’s one hell of a story, but is any of it factual? I know it is almost impossible for a candidate of any kind to pursue slander or libel, due to the time element, which means that election day will come far sooner, than any case can be settled, so rarely do you see any candidate pursue this avenue for the lies made by word of mouth, or in the press, as their is no way to determine the extent of the damage to an ongoing campaign.
But will The Connecticut Orthopedic Group have recourse against the independent, or the mystery source of the story, or the city itself, if an employee has “exposed” this less than factual account, because of their own political agenda.
Something smells fishy, and it’s not the folks named and mentioned in this article.
[Editor: The doctor admitted what he did under oath. The facts came directly from him and from the Connecticut Orthopaedic firm, which admitted to them.]
posted by: HhE on September 12, 2013 5:18pm
“Frankly when somebody mentioned them, I was really kind of perplexed why they would give to a municipal campaign,” Harp said.
May be she ought to ask. If not them, herself.
posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on September 12, 2013 5:22pm
Harp and everyone else is unable to answer why this group has donated so much money. I think the taxpayers of the City of New Haven should call Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists (203.407.3560)and ask why they’ve decided to donate so much money to a mayoral campaign in a town where they don’t live or vote.
posted by: ramonesfan on September 12, 2013 6:05pm
Who didn’t see this coming from a mile away? She hasn’t even taken office yet, and already she’s acting like DeStefano ....
posted by: ebw1957 on September 12, 2013 6:14pm
One thing our “leaders” in Hartford learn is how to milk the lobbyists and big contract holders. Not one of these donors live in the city. 2+2=?
This is the tip of the iceberg I am sure.
If I lived in New Haven I would not vote for specifically due to her time in Hartford.
posted by: beyonddiscussion on September 12, 2013 6:16pm
I applaud the city for cracking down on workers’ comp fraud and on docs who commit fraud. But the question is who can do the best job of being mayor for all the people of New Haven. Let’s face it, the Democracy Fund is no guarantee of the integrity or lack of bias of a candidate. I’m sure Mr. Elicker, the detail guy, knows everybody who has contributed to his campaign and will at the least be more likely to listen to the case made by Mr. Stratton, for example, and those he got to ante up. The Democracy Fund is taxpayer dollars subsidizing elections. Does it mean we will have more honorable public servants? I don’t know. The test is in how the individual governs, isn’t it?
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 12, 2013 6:16pm
If you all want to know the real deal on the city of New haven.Get this Book.I read it years ago.In fact one of the Journalist the late Jack Newfield was a good friend of mine.
City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York
In “City for Sale,” two of the country’s most respencted investigatine journalisrts Jack Newfield and Wayne Barrett will take you back, towing you through the Parking Violations Bureau scandal recount the incredible story of the descent of the Koch administration into criminality. In their compelling account of payoffs and threats, of secret deals made by the overlords of the all-powerful clubhouses, Newfield and Barrett expose the behind-the-scenes story of the true workings of municipal power in America today.
And if you think this is not happing in New haven. I leave you with this.
Today’s reformer is tomorrow’s hack Brooklyn boss Meade Esposito.
posted by: True that on September 12, 2013 6:29pm
Just two days ago, voters had a chance to put an end to politics as usual in New Haven, but chose to continue down the same ridiculous path by choosing Harp. Once again, when anything questionable arises, Harp’s response is, “I dont know anything about that? I wondered why myself?”. How she can be allowed to skate past her multiple character challenges and still be elected should be a case study in political psychopathology. There is no conclusion to draw other than that thousands of New Haven voters, all this who voted for Harp, are cognitive dissonant. When presented with strong information that runs counter to what they believe, they simply dismissed it as do smokers who read the side of a cigarette package yet continue to puff.
renaissance management gave $4,000.00 that should have gone to it’s back taxes. It should be illegal for any company owing taxes in this state to make contributions to political campaigns. New Haven democrats, you are boing to get what you asked for.
posted by: WestvilleCitizen on September 12, 2013 6:36pm
Dose Harp actually believe this statement she made?
“I think people who give don’t expect a quid pro quo. They just want a meeting, maybe, to give their point of view. But they don’t expect you necessarily to go along with it or to give them any special favors. Even the people that I’ve spoken with have made it clear that they don’t expect a quid pro quo.”
Harp is so tone deaf about conflicts of interest that she is unfit to be mayor. And remember, she is the head of the state APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE in Hartford. This is no unsophisticated candidate. It is absolutely painful to see her lack of ethical sensibility.
Having lived in her neighborhood for six years and never met her, at least I know how I can finally get an appointment to see her.
Senator Harp, can you tell me how much $ you charge for a meeting? Just a quick hello - no quid pro quo - just a meeting to hear me out Senator? Would it cost more for a handshake? An autograph? How about your autograph on a little bill I need help with?
posted by: anonymous on September 12, 2013 6:46pm
Why hasn’t Harp adopted her supporter’s (Former Mayor candidate Nemerson and his “Brancati Team”) idea of posting contributions on her website as soon as they are received? It was a good “ethics” idea even though Nemerson never actually followed through on it and he dropped out of the race to endorse Harp. That would be a good start.
posted by: Albatross on September 12, 2013 6:55pm
Kudos, NHI, on a revealing quote: “...People see your thinking. I think people who give don’t expect a quid pro quo. They just want a meeting, maybe, to give their point of view. But they don’t expect you necessarily to go along with it or to give them any special favors. Even the people that I’ve spoken with have made it clear that they don’t expect a quid pro quo.”
Obviously, neither candidate nor donor would publicly acknowledge a quid pro quo as that would be admission of a crime.
I have been struck by Harp and her affiliates’ rhetoric, with regard to its use of variations on the word “conversation” to describe action. It obfuscates what candidates might actually do—Harp wouldn’t grant favors, she’d have “meetings” – and purposely leaves outcomes vague. (Why would donors come to said meeting, if they weren’t expecting something?)
It breaks my heart that citizens energized by ostensible “engagement” have pegged their hopes to a pretense of inclusiveness, only to be treated as pawns. I’d like to think that whatever the outcome of the election, campaign-time is not the only time our point of view is actively sought.
posted by: citoyen on September 12, 2013 7:15pm
A final thought: It is so very depressing that voters in New Haven, and the administrations they elect, over so many years, have caused New Haven to become known as a trough at which to feed. Employees abusing benefits, people with city contracts to provide goods and services—come one, come all.
I’ve noticed that the commenter Razzie likes to fling around in these columns the term “Haters’ Ball.” I’m tempted to start using the term “Feeders’ Ball.”
posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on September 12, 2013 7:16pm
I am wrong. Once I was able to access the Comp Commissioner’s Case Decision, and again this is my failing, or my computer’s. But even that recorded judgment does not explain why these events did not proceed into a criminal court. That is if testimony was accurate and truthful. Those key weaknesses may be why the city did not go forward with a prosecution. In that case, it seems, that the condemnation of individuals, and CT Ortho, seems somewhat presumptuous in the article.
posted by: Fairhavener on September 12, 2013 8:11pm
DeStefano 3.0, and this is only the beginning.
posted by: HewNaven on September 12, 2013 8:29pm
posted by: Esbey on September 12, 2013 9:50pm
She is admitting that her donors are buying access, which can’t help but change city decisions. Folks who make donations get to make their pitch to her while others may not. If I were a city contractor, I would feel that I had to pony up. “City for Sale.”
posted by: Noteworthy on September 12, 2013 9:56pm
Fraud and Ignorance Notes:
1. Seriously, how many times will Toni Harp claim ignorance on matters of fraud, deceit and the screwing of taxpayers? She shows a callous and continuing disregard for matters that affect her credibility and our pocketbooks. And we are to believe this will change if she becomes mayor?
2. Any firm caught defrauding taxpayers should just be banned. Period. No exceptions no do-overs.
3. Changing medical firms does not hurt fire fighters. That’s a really, really stupid position for the union to take. They want to support a firm that defrauds taxpayers, their employer. Sadly, this is one more example of the union taking adverse positions to the best interests of taxpayers.
posted by: Dean Moriarty on September 12, 2013 11:08pm
Those who feel the need to defend Harp here, and castigate NHI for the article are, I’m assuming, turning a deaf ear to a most significant quote from Ms Harp: “Frankly when somebody mentioned them, I was really kind of perplexed why they would give to a municipal campaign”. I can only draw two conclusions from this. A: it’s an absolute misrepresentation of her understanding, because hey, uninformed New Haven voters won’t question this, or B: Ms Harp would appear to be incompetent to hold the office of Mayor if she truly doesn’t understand what this donation implies. Whether it’s A or B, she certainly won’t be getting my vote.
To quote Mr. Townshend once again: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.
posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on September 12, 2013 11:26pm
I ask again, when is this paper going to reveal to the public The Elicker Experiment’s largest donors?
Elicker asks, “Why is Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists donating so much money to the Harp campaign?”
Allow me to take a crack at the Experiment’s question. Just as the voters said on Tuesday, they too can’t take a chance supporting an Experiment.
posted by: WestvilleCitizen on September 12, 2013 11:45pm
Amen, Dean Moriarty. Harp is either lying or she is clueless. The problem for would-be Harp supporters is that either option makes her incompetent to be mayor.
posted by: Esbey on September 12, 2013 11:52pm
BLJ: to answer your question the NHI has already published a list of all 4 candidates major donors, by name, complete with pretty graphs. The “major donor” cutoff was $1000 for Harp and Fernandez, but much lower for Elicker and Carolina because they refused such large donations. Thus someone who gave $370 to Carolina had their name published, and someone who gave $500 to Harp did not.
It is not the NHI’s fault that Elicker’s list is not full of rich suburban city contractors. They did criticize Elicker for having donations that were largely from certain parts of New Haven, as opposed to Harp whose donations were on one hand largely not from New Haven, but on the other hand her New Haven donations were more spread out across the city.
posted by: SwampfoxII on September 13, 2013 12:28am
After reading this, I am now on board with entirely public funding of campaigns and doing away with private donations. It smells too bad and only makes people more distrustful of politicians. As for that doctor who “doctored” the light duty note, he should get disciplined by the state. And that worker who asked for the note so he could fake it to work a second job, he should be FIRED.
posted by: anonymous on September 13, 2013 12:56am
Jenkins: Notwithstanding his mom, Elicker’s donors almost entirely live in New Haven and gave a few bucks each. He had about 3X more New Haven donors than Harp did, going into the primary. The Harp Experiment is fueled almost entirely by massive contributions from out of town contractors and PACs - checks of $500 to $1,000 each which all will be doubled now that we are in a new cycle.
Under all these circumstances, investigating Harp’s outside donors and Hamden fundraisers is a lot more interesting and newsworthy than investigating some actual New Haven resident who donated 100 bucks because they know that Elicker killed DeStefano’s terrible plan to sell off all of our parking meters to an out of town contractor.
Speaking of which, Did Harp get any donors from the Parking Meter privatization companies or their lobbyists yet?
posted by: True that on September 13, 2013 3:08am
@Brian Jenkins’ comments reflect the cognitive dissonance I referred to in the previous post. Instead of even contemplating the idea of pay for play, which Toni unintentionally validates by guaranteeing a meeting with large donors, Harp supporters go on the attack against her opponent. Harp’s supporter take a Sweet Brown, “ain’t nobody got time for that” approach to her character deficiciences. I have contended from the outset that Harp lives in a parallel political universe where She receives large donations so that those donors can be lucky enough to get an hour of her time in a meeting. These donors don’t expect anything more, so they are willing to pay $8,000.00 for an hour of Harp’s time. REALLY? Harp should go into entertainment and charge appearance fees.
She is either tone-deaf beyond belief, or absolutely clueless. Either way, this city is in serious trouble if she wins in November (and, for the record, I am moe Elicker fan). There is a huge hand basket available tom give New Haveners a ride back to the same place we should have left - corruption and malfeasance. There were other hand baskets three days ago, but new havenl democrats chose the one adorned with shiniest bows and most glitter.
For nine months in 2008 and 2009, I served on a “blue ribbon” budget review panel convened by the aldermen to propose changes to the city budget that would be acceptable to the city.
Despite my near-cluelessness about municipal budgeting, I was elected chairman by the other panelists. I learned a lot and, along with other panelists, worked very hard to make realistic proposals. The panel put in hundreds of hours of volunteer time in an effort to make a positive contribution to city government. Our final report is available at http://www.newhavenbudget.org.
During my time as chair of the panel, I tried repeatedly to get a meeting or even a phone conversation with Senator Harp to get a sense for her vision of the future of PILOT, ECS, and other funding sources New Haven depends on.
I spoke repeatedly with her assistant Phyllis Silverman in this effort. I was never able to get that meeting. At one point it was scheduled, but then immediately canceled.
To read Senator Harp’s words here, that campaign contributions are a way to get a meeting with her, is profoundly disappointing.
I wasn’t a contributor, but a constituent volunteering a huge amount of time away from my job and family to try to better understand the way our city works. I could not get a meeting.
In nine years as an engaged citizen of New Haven, I have never once seen Senator Harp at a public meeting on education or the budget.
Anyone paying attention to this race knows that I am supporting Senator Harp’s opponent. I have kept out of the NHI comments section because I have friends and colleagues on both sides of the contest, and I haven’t wanted to alienate people.
But this is too much. This kind of politics must end.
posted by: okaragozian1 on September 13, 2013 7:34am
Politicians do get contributions from a variety of donors. However, when a politician has received a contribution from a person who is not in keeping with their core beliefs the politician has returned the contribution. Toni Harp should be big enough to send back monies she received from people who - by virtue of their conduct - are not in line with her sensibilities. By not returning these questionable contributions she sends a message.
posted by: HewNaven on September 13, 2013 7:49am
Brian L Jenkins,
Elicker participated in the Democracy Fund. That means his donations were capped at $370. His “top donors” were ordinary citizens, roughly 800 of 1,000 were New Haven residents. He refused all special interest money.
Harp, meanwhile, took donations, in thousand-dollar increments , from various individuals and organizations hoping to do business with a potential Harp administration. Most of Harp’s donors reside outside New Haven and many of them are rich, white males. Its sort of an Old Boys Club amongst Harp donors, and she wants to do their bidding. If that’s not the case, Harp would have already sworn off special interest money and corporate donations and promised to be more ethical in campaign fundraising. She has not done that, so she’s going to owe a lot of favors. City for Sale!
posted by: David S Baker on September 13, 2013 8:12am
To credit Harps campaign, they HAVE figured out that ‘Joe Voter’ does not want to follow the local election money trail. Joe does not even have time to follow the candidate’s platforms. That part of Joe’s brain is maxed out following sports teams, television serials, paying bills, and gossip at work. Joe just wants to vote for whomever promises instant gratification. People who talk to Joe about complicated things remind him of annoying classes at school and/or being at work. If the NHI, The Democracy Fund, or Elicker want to reach Joe about Campaign finance conflicts of interest they had better grossly simplify and add some flash and trash. Joe does not like complicated plots involving numbers.
posted by: wendy1 on September 13, 2013 8:12am
Who would you rather elect? A man who’s been to prison (and doesn’t want to go back) or a man who’s going to prison.
posted by: Righteous Cyclist on September 13, 2013 8:25am
Brian L Jenkins it’s like I’ve been saying all along. Elicker’s biggest donor is the democracy fund. Nobody else donated more than $370. So now with Elicker we’d have a mayor who don’t listen to nobody. You can’t trust a man like that cus you don’t know were you stand with him. And I said before the unwashed masses who do NOTHING for OUR new haven can’t be allowed to control this town. That’s the coalition he wants.
Toni has always know who her friends are, and she know how to play ball. That’s how we’ve gotten things done in New Haven and how we’re gonna get things done in the future.
posted by: woosterbill on September 13, 2013 8:31am
@ Brian L. Jenkins 11:26pm
I’m not sure you actually want this information, since if you did it would have been ridiculously easy to find and doing so would have forced you to stop mindlessly suggesting that the NHI is somehow giving Elicker a pass.
Here are two NHI stories that give the names and occupations of every single person who’s given the max $370 donation to Elicker, so you won’t need to ask again:
That is well said. All Harp has going for her is the fact that most people aren’t paying attention. Most people will never even hear the debate of issues even though many of these issues (e.g. campaign finance) will directly affect their neighborhood. I’ve said it before here, when it comes to winning an election, you can’t dumb it down enough. The majority of voters do not watch debates or read news articles. Sad but true.
posted by: tred on September 13, 2013 10:27am
would someone please tell what, in 20 years of service, Toni Harp has ever actually done for New Haven? i want specifics.
posted by: citoyen on September 13, 2013 11:33am
Thank you very much for your post, and for being willing to break your self-imposed rule by submitting it. My jaw dropped as I was reading it.
I’m only sorry it is so far down in this thread that relatively few people are likely to see it.
Perhaps you may be willing to break your rule at least once some other time, when a story is more fresh, so that more are likely to see the important thing you have to say?
posted by: TheMadcap on September 13, 2013 11:42am
Finally, we have some specifics on what that nebulous ~25 years of experience~ actually means. Guys, experience doesn’t always mean better, and in politics it often means just more experience at BSing people.
posted by: Champ358 on September 13, 2013 11:51am
I think that this mayoral race is good sign for New Haven. Harp, Elicker and Fernandez made for a good field of candidates. Carolina, not so much but everyone is entitled to run.
I do support Harp fo mayor but i think that Elicker is an excellent candidate. The anti Harp chorus is becoming increasingly shrill and is attempting to turn the campaign into a smear campaign. Their major topic seems to be campaign finance. The source of funds is not in dispute as far as I can tell. Is there any evidence of fraud or underreporting? Is there any illegality or irregularities? I agree that a level field of campaign finance would be a positive step but I am also not sold on the PUBLIC finance option.
As to Harp’s experience as a public servant, how is there any question that she has been a thoughtful and competent legislator. She has represented New Haven under both Republicans and Democrats and she is experienced in putting together deals that are workable.
As to the issue of labor union support, why is this a negative unless you are a supporter of big business and anti-union. I would much rather have union input into public policy rather than corporate (and Yale is corporate). Union bashing has become fashionable due to the right wing drift of political discourse in this country.
Elicker is a good candidate, Harp is a better one. For New Haven, Harp should bring Elicker into her government and help groom him as her successor. After 4 years of having to make difficult decisions, he will be a terrific mayor. It is not yet his time.
posted by: Fairhavener on September 13, 2013 11:54am
As a commoner, and New Haven resident I cannot afford to pony up $1,000 for meeting with Toni Harp where we will “converse,” does Harp Corp. offer a payment plan? Also, do I have to pay 1k per meeting? What is the rate? And is it fixed?
posted by: Razzie on September 13, 2013 12:08pm
These statement from FACCHEC (5:02 pm)deserve repeating:
“I am having a difficult time rationalizing how the NHI reports this investigative story, which for the most part is a back story, and which the NHI does not do as a practice. CT Orthopedic, had been contracted with the city since 2001, and must have been contributing to the Destefano campaign since 2001. So how is it that now COS can be linked to the 2014 Harp campaign and be called into question for what was revealed by the city as a cancellation of contract occurring in 2009 as follows:
“So what’s the connection NHI is trying to make between Harp and the fraud which occurred during Destefano’s watch?”
“This is purely a contrived story, which ranks far below NHI journalistic standards.”
The rest of the comments strike me as purely partisan posturing. The DF would not have prevented these contributions, only made them smaller in size. As long as Elicker financiers like Atty Stratton continue to bundle their max limit contributions and evade the DF contribution limits, they cannot claim any moral superiority over the doctors at COS.
posted by: David S Baker on September 13, 2013 12:28pm
“Suppose three comparable companies bid to repair the Grand Avenue Bridge. One of them had contributed to the mayors campaign. Do you think they could have an unfair advantage over the other two companies?”
I say some version of this knocking on doors a lot. It’s like shouting into an empty silo 90% of the time.
posted by: citoyen on September 13, 2013 1:06pm
Razzie, for heaven’s sake. If CT Ortho Surgeons have had a city contract since 2001, and during that time have been contributing to DeStefano, as FacChec presumes and you echo, and then the minute their current contract is canceled they donate a massive $9,000 to the Harp campaign—then the connection between the Harp campaign and what happened on DeS’s watch *is precisely that they know how the game is played, and are seeking to continue to play it.*
posted by: anonymous on September 13, 2013 1:10pm
Razzie, as Tim lays out for you above, the differences in campaign finance and ethics are as clear as night and day. Even Harp’s supporters, Gary Holder Winfield and others, have spoken out on this and run using the Democracy Fund themselves, criticizing Harp for not using it. Her behavior seriously undermines our democracy.
Also, regarding “bundlers”: Sure, you might find a civil servant somewhere in Holland who arranges a special meeting in return for $370 contributions to their favorite charity. But that does not mean that Holland is anywhere near as corrupt as the global average. http://bpi.transparency.org/bpi2011/results/
posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on September 13, 2013 1:35pm
@ Tred, Since it will take us a few days to put into writing all of Toni’s accomplishments and service rendered. Why don’t I be a gentleman and yield to you first, to talk about The Elicker Experiment’s accomplishments and service only as it relates to NEW HAVEN. Given the fact that he just moved from New Canaan not long ago, you should be done in about two minutes.
I’m amazed as I read the various comments from you Elicker Experiment enthusiast. If one were to truly believe the descriptions such as how honest he is, how brilliant he is, how transparent he is, how exciting he is and how handsome he is. One would think that you East Rock lovers were trying describe Jesus Christ.
The vast majority of The Elicker Experiment’s lovers, have never met the guy. But because he appears to be real, that bodes well enough for many.
Toni may not be what some of you in East Rock want in a mayor, but having known her for more than 25 years, there is one thing I do know about her and that most voters do want is, she’s authentic.
I sincerely hope that the Experiment holds onto the key to his closet tightly, so as not to unmask the truth before November. What that truth is? I don’t know.
posted by: Dee Rien on September 13, 2013 2:44pm
“Since it will take us a few days to put into writing all of Toni’s accomplishments and service rendered.”
Really, Brian? It will take that long? She has been running for mayor FOR MONTHS. This list should have existed, and been touted and repeated by her supporters, FOR MONTHS. And yet, it’s after the primary, and still no such list exists. That alone is very telling.
The question was, what has Toni Harp done, SPECIFICALLY, for New Haven during her time in Hartford?
Don’t try to change the subject. You’ve known her for 25 years, you say. Answer the question.
Near the bottom of the comments section of this article http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/can_elicker_get_black_votes#cmt , CedarHillResident gives an overview of the work Justin has been involved with specifically in the Cedar Hill area. My guess is that he is similarly involved in other areas of Ward 10 and the City, hopefully others from those areas will confirm and expand on that. I’ve met Justin a couple times and spoken to him briefly and have found him to be engaging, genuine, thoughtful and well-informed. This has been reinforced by following his efforts on the Board of Aldermen to question parking meter monetization, propose cuts to the mayor’s budgets, take the issue of illegal dirt bike riding seriously, support transit studies, and seriously question the sale of High and Wall Streets to Yale, among other things. I am extremely excited that he talks about zoning reform in the city, which is one of my primary interests and one that would have an enormous impact on the city. I also support his use of the Democracy Fund, which I think is important. The short amount of time that he has lived in the city (about 7 years) is a concern of mine, but it is not entirely a negative. While this limits his understanding of the city and the number of connections he can make, it also limits his ability to govern through patronage, in my opinion. Ideally he would have remained an alderman for a few more terms before trying to run for mayor, but John DeStefano’s incumbency was becoming absurd and someone needed to step-up. Justin is the only remaining candidate that was willing to challenge DeStefano before he announced that he wouldn’t seek re-election. Conversely, Harp announced that she wouldn’t run and backed Holder-Winfield, then turned about-face and ran - probably at the behest of outside influences - public unions, city contractors, etc. - that hope to control the city through her mayoralty, as evidenced by her campaign donors.
posted by: Razzie on September 13, 2013 3:01pm
And are you suggesting to me that Elicker supporters like Atty Stratton, who bundle their max contributions as a way of getting around the DF contribution limits, ARE NOT expecting to curry favor with Elicker in the event that their unethical donations are successful in helping him win? Then explain to me why Atty Stratton made that contribution in his kids name, and why Elicker has not returned it.
I repeat again, for the record: The Democracy Fund is a VOLUNTARY ballot access mechanism. It is not mandatory and was never designed to be used as a partisan weapon against any candidate who decided not to participate. IT IS NOT A LITMUS TEST OF ANYTHING.
posted by: anonymous on September 13, 2013 3:10pm
Harp is similar to Christine Quinn. She would have a long list, but it would mean very little.
Voters are looking for energy and integrity.
As you may know, Quinn was the initial front runner in the NYC election (which is really the general, there, unlike in New Haven where the general is the general). She had been the “most popular” politician for many years. DeBlasio was stuck in fourth place.
Similarly, Harp was the initial front runner in New Haven. Elicker trailed in second or third place.
Ultimately, people paid attention to DeBlasio. He quickly overcame his name recognition challenge and blew Quinn (and the others) away, even though Quinn had all the big labor endorsements.
DeBlasio was speaking the language of today, not the language of the 1980s. He was seen as having the energy, integrity, and “speak truth to power” abilities that are needed to lead a great city.
The NYC election is over. In New Haven, the election is in November.
posted by: LuvNewHaven on September 13, 2013 3:24pm
Harp suggests that she doesn’t reward favors, but when asked whether she would keep the Housing Authority of New Haven director, Karen DuBois-Walton, in her current job, Harp said, “She’s my [campaign] chairman! Of course I would keep her.”*
Folks say we need a change and that it’s time for a female mayor in New Haven.
I agree that we need a change, but it it is far more important that we get rid of the infamous New Haven cronyism, not change whether we have to say “Mr. Mayor” or “Ms. Mayor”.
We need a mayor that won’t look the other way when something is fishy, and Toni Harp is NOT that woman.
Decades of trading favors in the Senate and taking cash “just to be heard”, and turning a blind eye to her family’s million-dollar tax evasion appear to have left Toni Harp incapable of even seeing right from wrong anymore. It’s all just convenient shades of gray.
posted by: LuvNewHaven on September 13, 2013 3:58pm
Participation or not in the Democracy Fund was a litmus test for many voters, myself included.
Don’t tell me how to think or how to make my choices.
posted by: TheMadcap on September 13, 2013 4:18pm
What exactly is the point in mentioning while using the Democracy Fund, supporters can just bundle payments to get around the $370 limit, they can do the same outside of the democracy fund, except now its bundles of $1,000 each instead of $370.
posted by: cedarhillresident! on September 13, 2013 4:29pm
Let’s assume that you are correct that both candidates would pay-back their campaign contributors with political favors, city contracts, etc. when they get elected. Would you rather those favors and contracts go to city residents with businesses and homes in the city that pay city taxes and send their children to school in the city like Mr. Stratton and the other 75% of Elicker’s contributors that live INSIDE the city, or would you rather those favors and contracts go to out-of-town residents and businesses like COS and the other 75% of Harp’s campaign contributors that live OUTSIDE the city?
Assuming the worst and both candidates would payback their donors, I would rather have city residents getting those favors and contracts since that money would largely be returned back to the city in form of taxes, local purchases, and support of local organizations.
Also, Elicker has spoken specifically about addressing the patronage system of government in New Haven, that has flourished for a long time, while Harp seems unaware that such a problem even exists.
“Elicker criticized both Harp and Fernandez for taking campaign donations from political action groups and contractors who may be interested in doing work for the city and said his management ability is evident in raising about $150,000, in limited amounts, from 1,000 donors, mainly New Haven residents, with voters the only people to whom he will be accountable.
Particularly with the city’s budget challenges, Elicker said New Haven has to be run efficiently and effectively and not through patronage. “We have to move beyond that,” he said.
“I think I bring new ideas and new energy to government. ... I’m someone who is honest and direct and brings actual policy solutions that I know how to implement,” he said.”
“I think people who give don’t expect a quid pro quo. They just want a meeting, maybe, to give their point of view.” - Toni Harp
1) Justin has taken a solid stance against patronage. 2) Toni seems completely aloof on this issue, and therefore more likely to continue New Haven’s system of patronage-based governance. 3) Even if Justin were to turn back on his word and repay his campaign donors, it is better to have New Haven residents (75% of his donors) being given special treatment because that help is largely repaid to the city through taxes, purchases, etc., then for out-of-town donors (75% of Harp’s donors) being given special treatment because it leaves the city and it don’t come back.
posted by: Esbey on September 13, 2013 5:07pm
@ Razzie, what favor do you suppose that Mike Stratton wants from the city?? Unlike Dr. Ruwe in the story above, Stratton Faxon doesn’t do any business with the city. Stratton is a personal injury attorney and I can’t think of any favor that the Mayor of New Haven could do for his business even if the Mayor wanted to.
Mike Stratton donates and works for New Haven because he cares about his city just like all the other folks of all factions running for the thankless job of Alder. I admire them all including the very admirable candidate that lost to Stratton in the primary. Probably, Dr. Ruwe cares about his city too, but the key point is that his city isn’t New Haven.
We know what favor Harp has promised the slumlords (get rid of LCI) and she herself happily says she is selling “access” to her suburban donors and that she will favor city agencies run by her supporters.
On NHI the Harp supporters say “it isn’t illegal, so what” but I am not impressed by the slogan “Toni Harp: Not Actually Breaking the Law.”
posted by: LuvNewHaven on September 13, 2013 6:44pm
Jonathan Hopkins, WELL SAID! That is a excellent and resounding point. Even if both candidates did the worst thing possible, Elicker is still the better choice for New Haven.
Esbey, I think you’re on to something here. “Toni Harp: Not Entirely Honest, But Hey, She’s A Woman”.
posted by: cedarhillresident! on September 13, 2013 7:40pm
Ya know what kills me….is the very people that voted for her are the ones that will be hurt the most!
posted by: Eddie on September 13, 2013 7:59pm
Stratton’s major agenda seems to be cutting taxes and city services. The NHI reports:
Nearly, every other elected leader in New Haven agrees that New Haven’s top priorities are: Education, Jobs and Safety. Stratton’s top priority seems to be at odds with this consensus.
I don’t know that it is fair to call the desire to lower taxes a special interest. But cutting services to lower taxes is something that I’m guessing many of Justin’s donors will pressure him to do. This could adversely affect many of New Haven’s residents. It is a pressure that conflicts with his stated agenda, and might be an area in which he is forced to compromise.
I just read where Mr Holohan was the chairman of a blue ribbon committee—read the report—very impressed—was never contacted then but am very interested in being contacted now as we are in the middle of negotiations-and we are always thinking holistically as the biggest piece of the budget—our members have always considered our community in a large way and it has shown over the years in the sacrifices we have made in our contracts—with your experience in the past, Tim, I invite you to call me if you feel you have any suggestions as we move forward—860-227-6668-Tom
Razzie misunderstands the nature of public financing:
I repeat again, for the record: The Democracy Fund is a VOLUNTARY ballot access mechanism. It is not mandatory and was never designed to be used as a partisan weapon against any candidate who decided not to participate. IT IS NOT A LITMUS TEST OF ANYTHING.
It can’t be mandatory because the Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech and therefore can’t be limited by law in any meaningful way.
Participation in public election financing, where it’s available, is indeed a litmus test of a candidate’s integrity, of his commitment to his ideals overcoming the influence of thousands of dollars in corporate contributions, and his willingness to send a clear message that the election will be contested on the clearly-communicated competing messages.
If Senator Harp is the leader of vision that her supporters believe her to be, she would have embraced this simple method of returning integrity to the contest, even symbolically. Her record of accomplishments and her specific platform for leading New Haven would have carried her through. Instead, four days after the primary, no one still has any idea of her specific plans, and her record, her supporters tell us here, will take “days” to compile.
posted by: LuvNewHaven on September 14, 2013 8:24am
“...seems to be…”
This is all just supposition and inference, none of which is supported by actual fact.
posted by: Eddie on September 14, 2013 10:40am
We know Stratton is a major bundler for Elicker. We know that taxes are a top proirity for Stratton and that he has advocated cutting services to levels that even his supporters believe are too low. We also know that some of Justin’s donors have signed the petition supporting the Phase-in the tax assessment increase (https://www.change.org/petitions/city-of-new-haven-mayor-board-of-aldermen-phase-in-the-tax-assessment-increase). The petition unfairly characterizes many of those who live in New Haven as, “The dependent class, that lives in the city in order to more easily avail themselves to the many services provided.”
Clearly lowering property taxes are a priority for these individuals. We also know that Justin has argued that lowering taxes now would require failing to fulfill New Haven’s legal obligations or sacrificing city services. On one hand you have many of Justin’s donors prioritizing a tax cut, and on the other hand you have Justin claiming that we will need to cut valuable services to achieve this. The fact is that Justin’s stated priorities are at odds with the priorities of many of his donors.
Will Justin cave to this pressure? To be fair answering this question relies on supposition and inference. We do know that in his short political career, he was the primary advocate for the Phase-in the tax assessment increase, which was regressive in nature. But you are right that concluding that Justin will cave to this pressure is supposition. Then again, concluding that Toni will cave to the pressure of her donors relies on similar suppositions and inferences.
posted by: cedarhillresident! on September 14, 2013 12:45pm
All I know is that the democratic party that I support does not think corporations are people and that there money should not be part of politics!!
posted by: Razzie on September 14, 2013 8:03pm
@ William Kurtz @ Luv at 3:58pm
My comment is not to suggest that any voter should think or evaluate candidates in any particular way. If you wish to elevate any single issue as a litmus test of candidate purity, that is certainly your choice. If you wish to make DF participation a single issue litmus test for this mayoral election, that too is your prerogative. However, to state or imply that DF participation was designed to be used in such a way, within its drafters’ legislative intent, is not supported by any factual record. It was not drafted as such, nor intended to be used as a single interest litmus test of candidate purity. Neither does the record support any assumption that the Aldermen who voted in favor of DF, did so with the intent to circumvent the constitutional limitations that election finance laws operate under.
I would caution you, however, that when you invoke Tea Party-like single interest politics, you do a disservice to the notion of participating in an informed electorate. There seems to me to be little separating a person who uses DF as a litmus test for candidate selection from a person who votes for a candidate solely based on the color of their skin, or based upon receipt of a $10 Thanksgiving turkey.
posted by: Razzie on September 14, 2013 9:09pm
@ Esbey—“what favor do you suppose that Mike Stratton wants from the city?? “
Who knows??! That’s an issue to be sorted out by Elicker and Stratton. Certainly, Stratton expects, and will receive, an audience from Elicker on any issue he has in mind.
To reiterate the point made in my original post, the unethical contribution by Atty Stratton was in violation of the DF contribution limits. If Elicker truly believed in the integrity of the DF big money donor requirements, he would have returned the illicit contributions of Stratton and others as a means of reinforcing the restrictions on big money ($1,000 +) donations. Apparently, big money donations are only bad when the other guy gets lucky.
Johnathan—I see no need to delve into suppositions on whose donors are bigger crooks, and on “My crook is better than your crook!” analyses. Each candidate needs to police their own donors. There is room for improvement on both sides.
posted by: mstratton on September 14, 2013 11:17pm
Razzie, what is immoral, unethical, and libelous is accusing me or my adult daughter of unethical conduct because we both gave a $370 contribution to Justin. My adult daughter earns her own money doing 3 different jobs and decided based on spending a great deal of time with Justin to give to his campaign. To denigrate her or me, or accuse either of us for violating a law or being unethical is abusive and wrong. Its obvious you are trying to find something to help justify or even out your candidates fundraising practices which are questionable at best. I am not a bundler. I am not looking for any favors. I am not looking to cut my tax bill. I am simply looking for an honest principled leader to build a sustainable future for our city. I have lived here all my life as a kid, as a cabbie, as a homeless shelter worker, as a dad, as a lawyer for the under dogs against corporate power, as a community activist, as a tutor, and as a supporter of the democratic party. I suggest that you sit down and get to know someone before you draw baseless conclusions about them. Contempt prior to investigation is one of the worst character defects. To be fair I must admit I have done it myself on occasion so I ask only that you be humble enough to admit you might just be wrong here.
posted by: HewNaven on September 15, 2013 1:47pm
Thank you for joining our conversation. I’d love to see Harp and Elicker participate in these online forums as well. Congratulations on the primary victory.
posted by: Razzie on September 15, 2013 4:35pm
Point well taken. The comments given are for illustrative purposes only, and are not meant to apply to you or your daughter personally. I have never met you or heard of you before this political campaign, so I will accept that you entered into politics for noble reasons. I too am looking for an honest principled leader to build a sustainable future for our city. For me, that person is Sen Toni Harp. Regrettably, the relentless personal attacks on Sen Harp, her late husband, her son, and all aspects of her personal life have sometimes yielded excess verbiage in return. Sorry if you (or your daughter) took offense.
posted by: HenryCT on September 17, 2013 11:25pm
For those of us prefer facts to speculation, please give examples in Harp’s 20 years in the state legislature that she has rewarded corporations who have donated to her campaigns. 20 years ought to be full of such examples. Or if they aren’t there, be honest enough to let the public know that.
Is this not a job for the New Haven Independent? NHI publishes the article with the intent of challenging Harp’s ethics. Come up with examples. Or else admit that you have nothing except made-up dirt.