Monday, July 03, 2006

Skullduggery In "Corrupticut"

Lots of people go into politics these days for the right reasons.

To get free stuff.

There was the mayor who liked to be plied with $100-plus bottles of Bordeaux. The governor who took a free hot tub. The state senator who was given a job that paid $30,000 for doing nothing -- and then demanded a raise.

The past few years have revealed so many tales of graft, malfeasance and all-purpose criminality by public servants in Connecticut that it's hard to choose the most brazen. But for Kevin J. O'Connor, the U.S. attorney here, one moment stands out.

It came in June 2004, while then-Gov. John G. Rowland (R) -- he of the hot tub -- was facing impeachment in the legislature for improperly taking gifts. Even in that fraught time, O'Connor said, federal agents recorded state Sen. Ernest E. Newton II (D) -- he of the no-show job -- asking someone for a bribe.

"I thought to myself, you know, 'What are these people thinking?' " O'Connor said.

When Connecticut forefathers nicknamed their state "The Land of Steady Habits," this was probably not what they had in mind. But a tradition of bad behavior by officeholders persists here, despite numerous prosecutions and attempts at reform.

If more proof were needed, it has come in the past few weeks, with three new scandals involving current or former big-city mayors.

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