April 18, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • 12:00 AM EST
Mayor Eddie Perez continues to campaign for re-election on the taxpayer dime with yet another four-color Mayor's Update mailer to Hartford residents, which he can legally do until three months before the primary.
Whatever the statutory time limits, Perez continues to push ethical boundaries. But that's not the worst of it. Donating to his re-election campaign seems to be the cost of doing business for Hartford contractors.
Let's look behind the curtain on a very sloppy April 10, 2007 campaign finance report to see who is privately financing the Perez for Mayor 2007 campaign. Eddie has about $100,675 in the bank, and in the past three months, his juggernaut raised $75,750 from 157 individual donors and $7,805 from nine Political Action Committees.
His next closest competitor in the fundraising category, I. Charles Matthews, has some $40,000 in the bank, with $30,000 of that coming from I. Charles himself. The rest of the pack is far behind.
Thus, it should come as no surprise to anyone that 76 out of Perez's 157 contributors do business with the city, and they are responsible for $36,750 of the $75,750 total this report. Some of them are listed as having donated in March 2003, which seems kind of strange, because Perez was re-elected in November, 2003. Some of them don't have a year listed at all.
The average donation, then, is $482.48.
"Oh my God," said one political observer. "Sounds like pinstriped patronage to me."
For example, Diggs Construction, the Wichita, Kansas-based firm overseeing a 10-year, five school, $200 million renovation schedule, has given the Mayor $1,000, or $250 donations from four people during four days in early April, 2007.
One of those donors, Mary DeSanti of Hamden, appears to be related to, if not the wife of Joseph DeSanti, the Operations Manager for Diggs who sends out quarterly school building reports.
Imagining the spontaneous dinner-time conversation is delicious fun.
"Joe, I've been reading the newspaper lately, and Mayor Eddie Perez seems like a courageous, visionary man," Mary might have said as she dished out the mashed potatoes. "I think he is doing such a great job educating the kids of Hartford, and leading Connecticut's capital city, I want to support him. Do you think he could use $250?"
"Well, honey, if you feel that strongly," Joe might have responded. "And we did budget $250 this quarter for political patronage donations, and Perez's largess does help put a roof over our heads, so I don't see why not. Please pass the aspargus."
In reality, DeSanti mentions DuBose Architects in the April 9, 2007 update to Perez about the progress of the Noah Webster Micro-Society School. Chalk up DuBose on April 9 no year for $1,000 in donations, two at $500 apiece.
Next on the school building list would be architects Jeter, Cook & Jepson, who are on the bedeviled Hartford Public High School project. JCJ is covering itself for $2,000: a $1,000 lump from Hartford's Peter Stevens (March 8, 2003) plus another four donations at $250 (March 21, 2007), including one from partner David Jepson of Glastonbury.
More educational architects like Tai Soo Kim and Robert Emma know where their bread is buttered. Kim leads the Alfred E. Burr Elementary School redesign, and he forked up $500 (March 2, 2003). Emma is a partner of Amenta/Emma Architects, which is working on the listless Pathways To Technology Magnet school. Emma gave a cool grand (March 21, 2007).
Or how about Gilbane Construction? Another city contractor, another six donations of $300 each plus $1,000 from William Gilbane of Barrington, RI for a total of $2,800. No year is given on the William Gilbane donation, but the other six all came in within three days of each other in early January 2007.
Nor can we forget Imagineers, who rounded up $2,300 on April 10, no year, from Arthur Anderson and four other donors over at the Farmington Avenue fiefdom. And three Manaforts (Frank, Lauren and Angela) of the famed Manafort Brothers construction have produced $300 apiece, or $900 total on April 4, 2003.
Tired of the cronyism yet? Is the chronology or are the numbers making your head spin? We're not close to done. We haven't touched on the big names.
These are the folks moving the city in a new direction, like Northland Investment Corporation CEO Lawrence Gottesdiener. On March 29, 2003, according to the report, "Gottesdien" plunked down a pretty t-bill. Gotta protect all those investments, Larry? The Mayor is one of the few people who thinks that building a taxpayer-financed hockey arena is a good idea.
Other development titans include Simon Konover (April 10, no year, $1,000), Sanford Cloud, Jr. (April 10, no year, $1,000), Phil Schonberger (March 2003, $1,000), Simsbury's Richard Weaver-Bey (March 20, 2003, $250) and Martin Kenny of Trumbull on the Park (Dec. 31, 2006, $250).
Robert Macfarlane (April 10, no year, $1,000) of Rye, NY is working on the Colt Gateway project. Add another $1,000 (April 10, no year) from Rebekah Macfarlane of Hartford (daughter of Robert). She is a developer whose given employer is "Homes for," I know it says something else, but Perez's campaign finance report cuts off the end of names, addresses and occupations.
It is really Homes for America Holdings, and it is involved in the Colt project.
Perez's spreadsheet features movers and shakers like business magnate Robert Patricelli of Simsbury (March 29, 2003, $1,000), Hartford Republican Richard Wareing (March 18, 2003, $250, plus $250 from his wife Rebecca), car dealer Tony March (March 30, 2003, $1,000) and former commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Labor Shaun Cashman (April 4, 2007, $150).
Paul Puzzo, who was the former lavishly paid CEO of Community Renewal Team (where Perez sat on the board of directors), was once repudiated by the federal government for his spending excess while heading the anti-poverty agency. Perez said nothing, Puzzo remains on contract at CRT, and he found it in his generous soul to proffer $150 March 18, 2007.
The lobbyists check in, too. From the corps of hundreds, only seven of them have anted up $2,150. Patricia LeShane, who gave $1,000 in two $500 installments, has listed two different occupations. For the first donation March 19, 2003, she is a consultant at Sullivan and LeShane; come March 31, 2003, she is a lobbyist.
The biggest individual block by far, though, is a bundle of $16,450 contributions from 21 executives and physicians at St. Francis Hospital, all submitted in March 2007.
I wonder if there's a memo or an email on that not-for-profit computer system somewhere that talks about influencing the outcome of a political campaign. From what I understand, 501(c)3's are supposed to keep their noses clean (which is why Ted Carroll of Leadership Greater Hartford stepped away from Eddie's campaign).
None of this gang of 21 lives in Hartford, so I imagine they all met at Max's after work, and over a few beers decided that Eddie was the smartest choice to lead the city for the next for years? Or did they all have visions from Jesus that told them to do it?
Or, we could look at the City of Hartford Department of Development Services website for an answer, where it announces proudly that "St. Francis Medical Center received approval to build a new 8-story, $125M, 230,000sf medical building in the block bound by Ashley, Asylum, Atwood and Collins St."
Technically, that block can't possibly exist, because Ashley, Collins and Asylum all run east-west, and are parallel to each other. But hey, it's John Palmieri and Roger O'Brien, so who needs a map?
And that's another funny part. Out of the 157 donors, only 31 people live in Hartford. They donated $17,200, only slightly more than the combined effort from St. Francis. Of those 31 donors, 14 of them (responsible for $9,500) have city contracts.
So $39,000 of Perez's cash comes from outside this city (as does much of contender Art Feltman's, who appears to have had a Florida fundraiser).
This past weekend in Litchfield at a Dennis Kucinich rally, I bumped into Harwinton First Selectman Frank Chiaramonte (Chiaramon on the report), a Democrat who gave $100 to Perez March 4, 2003.
When Perez was student at the Greater Hartford Community College, Chiaramonte was a professor.
"I know the criticism, the power hungry stuff," Chiaramonte said of Perez. "I think his heart is in the right place. He's trying to do the right thing for Hartford."
"It was a mistake," Chiaramonte said. "There were not good viable alternatives...But I don't see anything that Eddie has done wrong."
Does Perez really need to raise $250,000 to be Mayor of one of the poorest cities in the United States?
"I wish we had public financing of campaigns," Chiaramonte said. "This stuff is ridiculous."