Inside Connecticut's Primary Campaign for Attorney General: Part 1
(August 11th, 2018, by Jim Fellows, Middletown voter)
After watching the Democratic Attorney General debate this week it seemed all three Democratic candidates are claiming to be tireless champions of working families with outstanding levels of experience. Some of these claims were challenged in the debate, so I decided to do some fact checking. Are these all great candidates for progressive voters, as they claim?
Mattei is Authentic, Fighting Against All Corruption (Not just Rowland)
First up was Chris Mattei. His claims about experience and his focus on public interest law were easy to verify and well documented in the media, the public record, and on wikipedia; the biography on his current employer's page agreed. If anything, his claims in the debate seem understated and too humble.
First, according to Wikipedia, he is the only one who did not accept donations from lobbyists, and yet was first to qualify for public financing. I don't recall that was even mentioned in the debate and should have been, as it would set him apart from other candidates in the election.
Next came his claims of years of experience as a federal prosecutor leading a team of lawyers investigating and prosecuting financial crime and public office corruption. His career as a federal prosecutor and director of its Connecticut investigations and prosecutions of financial crime and public corruption were well documented in the press, in the public record, and on Wikipedia; that record contained notable victories that I do not recall being mentioned in the debates.
He was also an "equal opportunity prosecutor" of public corruption, going after both Republican and Democratic party targets.
Not only did he prosecute and jail former governor John Rowland. He also prosecuted and jailed former GOP party leader George Gallo, who plead guilty to bilking his own party's candidates and the taxpayers who support the public election financing fund. In that scheme Gallo sent Republican candidates to a Florida campaign mailing contractor who overcharged by 10% and kicked back the money to Gallo as the GOP chief.
How did the Democratic Party fare under Mattei's watch as a federal prosecutor? Ask Christopher Donovan, whose five year career as Democratic speaker of the house (2009-2013) ended when Mattei prosecuted and jailed his campaign's financial director and another partner in crime. Although Donovan was never charged, his career never recovered from the scandal.
I think I now understand why this extraordinary investigator and public-interest prosecutor was not his party's obvious choice for endorsement.
In my eyes this adds tremendous credibility and I believe it would resonate with voters of both parties in the election. The public is desperate for a non-partisan voice against the corruption and resulting frustrations that impact our lives every day.
Mattei: From Teaching On A Navajo Reservation To Powerhouse Lawyer For Civil Rights
What has Mattei been up to since leaving his career prosecuting Wall Street, politicians, and other criminals including gun traffickers running illegal firearms into CT cities? Here is the bio on his current law firm's page explaining the work he is prepared to do at Koskoff, Koskoff, & Beider PC:
"Chris Mattei is a trial lawyer. His areas of focus include civil rights, products liability, whistleblower actions, securities fraud and election law. Over the past several years, Chris has been called upon to handle some of the highest profile trials in the State of Connecticut. Described by one New York Times reporter as an "incredible powerhouse lawyer," Chris's practice is devoted to protecting individuals and the public from corporate and institutional abuse. Chris joined Koskoff in October 2015."
Okay, that sounds like the same guy who started his career as a teacher on an Indian reservation, something that was also not mentioned in the debates. Apparently he cares about the actual Americans as well as those of us who took their land.
Tong: Counselor to Venture Capital, Private Equity, and Corporate Mergers
Next up was his main rival, the State Democratic Party's endorsed candidate, William Tong, who also claims to have tremendous experience tirelessly defending working families and unions. He is also the Working Families Party candidate, which Tong made a key point of emphasizing repeatedly in the debate. He also has a great smile, though he became petulant when Mattei attacked the veracity of his claims, quipping, '...next you'll ask me for my long form birth certificate.'
So who has he been fighting for in his job as a CT lawyer? The Wikipedia page on William Tong linked me to his legal career, which interested me, since it was a hot topic in the debate, with Mattie repeatedly challenging Tong's claims of serious legal experience in public interest law inside of actual courtrooms.
If I tell you what I found, you probably won't believe me, so I'm going to ask you to look at his page for yourself. Here is a link to Tong's resume page at Connecticut's self-proclaimed 'tier-one Corporate Mergers and Acquisitions leader, Finn, Dixon, & Herling': https://www.fdh.com/attorneys/tong-william
I hope you have now read that for yourself. I am surprised it has not yet been updated, but it is honest, for which I give Tong credit. I made screen shots of what I found on August 11, 2018, should it become less candid as the election proceeds.
This is the guy who characterized his legal work as tireless in support of working families and unions. I'm not sure the voters will agree. While he is promoted by his employer in the field of corporate law mergers and acquisitions as the go to guy in CT for corporations, CEOs, and venture capitalists, he portrayed himself quite differently when talking to voters at the Bethel AME Church in New Haven.
If Tong was running as a business-friendly candidate who was annoyed by government attempts to regulate Wall Street he would be a very formidable candidate whose record would shine in support of that claim. As a supporting document for a candidate claiming to work for progressive causes and working families -- not so much.
His claims to be a champion of working families would only seem true if your definition of 'working families' is limited to CEOs, CEOs involved in lawsuits, venture capitalists, and corporations navigating the problems of SEC and other government regulation. Apparently Tong lives in a very different neighborhood of 'working families' than I do, and this reminds me of another politician from Stamford.
Clearly Tong has some explaining to do. As for Mattei's charge that Tong's record of actual courtroom experience needs an independent investigation to verify, I would say Tong needs to present us with an actual list of the cases he has tried in court. I cannot make that determination without a better understanding of the language used in corporate law on his resume. I will leave that for others to determine.
After this first round of fact checking I am having trouble believing anything Tong says without evidence to back it up. His work at Finn,Dixon, & Herling makes me wonder if Mattei has prior experience investigating this firm when directing the financial crimes unit. They certainly don't promote themselves as a public interest law firm. Here is their welcome page for prospective corporate clients: https://www.fdh.com/
Did Mattei Lose Working Families Endorsement Because Of His Prosecution Of Donovan's Campaign Financial Director?
As for the Working Families Party endorsement, I noted that Christopher Donovan had that same endorsement before his campaign ended in scandal and defeat. I am afraid Tong is in for tough criticism should he make it into the election season. This is not an experience Democratic voters need to repeat.
I will have to update my understanding of the Working Families Party for Part 2.
I began to see why Tong won the endorsement of the Democratic party, rather than Mattei, and I am not a happy voter! I will be supporting Mattei over Tong in this campaign.
As for Tong as an Attorney General: he does not pass my basic test of honesty in campaign claims much less being a person I would want defending the public interest against corporations and financial bigwigs.