<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Connecticut Political News, NY and CT Politics, and More]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:20:48 -0400 Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:20:48 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Pelto Sends Message With Write-In Candidacy for Governor]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:45:47 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/93014pelto00000000.jpg

Former Democratic state representative Jonathan Pelto failed to collect enough qualifying signatures to earn a spot on the November ballot, but that hasn't stopped him from running for governor.

“My sense is we went up to the gate, we shook the gate, we weren’t able to knock it down but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to say we’re here,” Pelto said during an interview Tuesday.

Pelto is running a write-in campaign for the state’s highest office and has registered with the Secretary of the State to receive votes.

Any Connecticut voter can write in a candidate for office, but the votes will only count if the candidate has registered prior to the election.

He says he wants to use his candidacy as a way to showcase issues that are the most important to him and to Connecticut residents who urged him to run.

“It’s a way to be pushing the envelope,” Pelto said. “It’s a way to be heard and so we’ve learned that we got to use every possible route you can against a system that doesn’t like to hear outsiders.”

Pelto says he’s received hundreds of messages and phone calls urging him to get into the race. The main issue most people have talked to him about is the role of the Common Core Standards in Connecticut public schools.

The standards were developed by governors several years ago and were adopted by nearly every state in the U.S. Pelto says the process by which they’ve been implemented has been anything but transparent.

“The Common Core, the standardized testing, the privatization of our schools, the fact that Gov. Malloy and his education commissioner basically lied to parents about their rights under the common core testing system,” Pelto said, listing his grievances.

Gov. Dan Malloy has continuously defended his record on the education.

Pelto and his running mate Ebony Murphy say their main goal is to keep issues that are important to them and their modest following in the forefront. They pledge to work long after the election to make that happen.

Pelto and Murphy will be getting the word out about their candidacy using a direct mail effort.

“Even if we can only use our limited resources, a subset of the electorate, it’s part of the process,” Pelto said.

<![CDATA[1 Month to Register to Vote in General Election]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:22:59 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Voting-Sign-Generic-Ballot-1.jpg

If you have not registered to vote, you have a month to register to vote in the November general elections.

To cast a ballot on Nov. 4, you must register online htpps://voterregistration.ct.gov or by mail by Tuesday Oct. 21 and the final deadline to register to vote in-person at town or city offices is Tuesday, Oct. 28.

This year alone, at least 53,940 new voters have registered, including 15,924 Democrats, 10,303 Republicans and 26,276 unaffiliated voters, according to the Secretary of the State’s Office.

Overall, there are a total of 1,931,880 registered voters in Connecticut, 706,211 of whom are Democrats, 402,840 of whom are Republicans and 803,564 of whom are unaffiliated voters. 

“I strongly encourage any eligible voter with a driver’s license to use our online voter registration system to sign up to vote,” Merrill said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Nov.  4, polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Following is the breakdown of voter registrations in Connecticut:

  • A Better Future: 2
  • A Brookfield Party: 3
  • A Connecticut Party: 1
  • A Sentinel Party: 23
  • Canterbury First: 2
  • Chatham Party: 10
  • Democratic: 706,211
  • Enfield Taxpayers Party: 2
  • Friends Of Saybrook: 13
  • Green: 1,641
  • Guilty: 1
  • Independence: 13
  • Independence For Montville: 8
  • Independent: 15,446
  • Independent Choice: 1
  • Libertarian: 1,691
  • Milford Independent Party: 6
  • Norwich for Change: 1
  • Open: 8
  • Pro-Bethel: 2
  • Realistic Balance: 4
  • Reform: 11
  • Republican: 402,840
  • South Windsor Citizens: 1
  • Spring Glen Party: 8
  • Swing: 1
  • The Hampton Party: 1
  • U-It: 6
  • U/i: 1
  • Unaffiliated: 803,564
  • Unaffiliated (Conservative): 1
  • We The People: 44
  • Winsted Independent: 37
  • Working Families: 276
  • ===========
  • TOTAL 1,931,880
  • Democratic 15,924
  • Green 70
  • Independent 1,205
  • Libertarian 138
  • Reform 1
  • Republican 10,303
  • U/i 1
  • Unaffiliated 26,276
  • Winsted Independent 1
  • Working Families 21

Learn more at the Secretary of the State’s office Web site, including if you are registered to vote, how to register to vote, where your polling place is or to download an application for an absentee ballot if you will be out of town or physically unable to be in their polling place on Election Day.

<![CDATA[CA Plastic Bag Ban Approved]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:23:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/212*120/Plastic+Bag+Ban+Store+Counter+copy.jpg

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags Tuesday.

The measure, first proposed by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles, would prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies in 2015 and at convenience stores in 2016.

It includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to producing reusable bags and lets grocers charge 10 cents each for paper and reusable bags.

The bill had sparked one of the most contentious debates in the last weeks of the legislative session, with aggressive lobbying by environmentalists and bag manufacturers.

Moments after Brown signed the measure, the American Progressive Bag Alliance called it a “back room deal between grocers and union bosses to scam California consumers out of billions of dollars without providing any public benefit – all under the guise of environmentalism.”

The group plans to launch a referendum effort for the November 2016 ballot to repeal the measure.

San Diegan Laura Quinn-Stalker had mixed feelings about the news.

“Although I reuse my plastic bags constantly and will miss that,” she posted to NBC 7’s Facebook page, “I think this is important to do.”

“Won't see a dime saved in my pocket. Now, I have to buy garbage bags,” Oxnard resident Wade Wilson posted.

For years, a statewide plastic bag ban has been an elusive goal for lawmakers trying to reduce the buildup of plastic waste in oceans and waterways that costs millions of dollars to cleanup.

About 100 local jurisdictions in California already have adopted similar bans, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Education Group Backs Malloy]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 18:35:28 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/dan+malloy+5.jpg

One of the state's biggest teachers unions announced Monday that its board believes Gov. Dan Malloy deserves another four years.

"It wasn't a close vote" said Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, a group that touts a membership of more than 40,000.

The group cited its history with the governor, as well Malloy's priorities of improving public education as its rationale for throwing its support behind the Democrat in the race.

“We examined the facts associated with both candidates based on the interests that were expressed to us by our members, and an examination of those facts shows clearly that the governor is the better candidate for teachers, students and the betterment of public education," Waxenberg added.

Malloy said the endorsement didn't come as a surprise, given the topics that are important to him.

“We know what works," Malloy said following an event in Middletown on Monday. "Good summer programs, more intensive teacher involvement, team teaching, allowing teachers to have time to work together to turn around a school is important.”

Both the CEA and the governor used the platform of the endorsement to slam Republican Tom Foley's education plans that he rolled out last week.

Waxenberg and Malloy called Foley's framework for improving schools a "disaster."

“Up until the last few weeks he had no plan for public education" Waxenberg said. "We did the research on his plan and what we found is that plan is a recipe for disaster.”

Foley's education priorities included creating a new system to allow students in failing schools to transfer into better public schools and allowing the money to follow the child.

Foley also proposed establishing an A-F grading system for all public schools to allow parents to see the quality of school that their child attends.

In a statement, a Foley campaign spokesman responded to the CEA support for Foley saying, "Tom Foley remains committed to real education reform, including addressing the needs of the 100,000 children who are in under-performing schools and closing Connecticut's achievement gap which remains the worst in the nation."

Malloy, in full campaign mode while talking to reporters in Middletown, said Foley's "education plan was horrendous, quite frankly.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Senators Search for Ways to Reduce Veteran Suicide]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 17:57:46 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/veteran+suicide+meeting.jpg

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy met with doctors and mental health professionals with the Veterans Administration on Friday to brainstorm ways to reduce the suicide rate among veterans.

“There has to be more for us to do,” Blumenthal said at the forum in West Haven.

The group of about a dozen spoke for an hour on issues relating to returning veterans and their mental health needs.

“There’s a consensus that if we get them in the [VA] system, then the rate of suicide goes down,” Murphy said during the group discussion.

Doctors who work with veteran patients echoed that sentiment.

“One of the things we need is access to good mental health. If you're going to be treating a much larger veteran population then you need to have adequate mental health services” said Ismene Petrakis, chief of the Mental Health Service Line.

Doctors also said more public awareness about services that are already available would be very helpful.

On average, 22 veterans commit suicide every day according to the VA.

About 18 percent of all suicides in Connecticut from 1999 to 2010 were veterans, according to the VA.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[State Rep. Votes Illegally, Fakes Home Address: Officials]]> Sat, 27 Sep 2014 11:06:20 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/state+rep+christina+ayala.jpg

State Rep. Christina “Tita” Ayala, of Bridgeport, was arrested Friday after violating state election laws and providing authorities with fabricated evidence that she lived at an address other than her own, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice.

According to the DCJ, Ayala, 31, voted in local and state elections in districts other than her own between 2009 and 2012, including Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee elections, a municipal primary election, a state primary election and the 2012 Bridgeport state general election “in districts inconsistent with location of her residence.”

She’s also accused of presenting the Elections Enforcement Commission with false evidence indicating that she lived at an address that was not her own.

Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill called the news of Ayala's voter fraud arrest "a very troubling development."

“Anyone who holds public office takes an oath to uphold the law," Merrill said. "While everyone is entitled to their day in court, voter fraud is a very serious crime for which we have zero tolerance. The punishment is very severe for anyone who gives false information when registering to vote. This arrest underscores the strength of our system in Connecticut for enforcing our election laws, from the State Elections Enforcement Commission to the Chief State’s Attorney’s office who investigate and prosecute these felonies.”

Ayala has been charged with eight counts of fraudulent voting, 10 counts of primary or enrollment violations and count of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

The State Elections Enforcement Commission notified the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney of the alleged misconduct in October 2013, the DCJ said.

If convicted, Ayala could receive one-to-two years in prison for each count of fraudulent voting, along with up to five years in prison for each count of enrollment violations and tampering with evidence, according to the DCJ.

She could also be fined $300-500 for each count of voting fraud.

Ayala was released on a promise to appear and is due in court Oct. 7.

She faced domestic violence charges following an argument with her boyfriend in 2013, just weeks before taking office, that were subsequently dropped.

Ayala was also fined $350 in connection with a hit and run incident.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: Connecticut House Democrats]]>
<![CDATA[Dems Unimpressed With Foley's Plan for Taxes, Education]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 22:16:30 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tom+foley+in+new+britain.jpg

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tom Foley laid out his plans for education and taxes in front of New Britain City Hall on Wednesday.

Foley called the outline his "Urban Policy Agenda" and said the plan is specifically designed to improve Connecticut's cities and towns.

"Connecticut's future is no better than the future of our cities," Foley said during a press conference Wednesday.

On taxes, Foley said one of his first goals would be to cap personal property taxes 30 mils, which could help middle- and lower-income families save money, specifically on cars.

“The car tax is simply too high in our cities and distorts markets," Foley said. "People deserve to drive the kind of car they want and can afford and the car they own shouldn't affect where they choose to live.”

Foley's plan to cut car taxes could lead to savings of approximately 60 percent in Hartford and around 30 percent in places like New Britain, Bridgeport and New Haven.

Foley says his plan would cost the state about $30 million in tax revenue.

He said it wouldn't throw any wrenches into his plan to keep spending flat in Connecticut for two years if he's elected, even though the amount of money going in would decrease as a direct result of the tax cut.

"Thirty million dollars is a very very small amount in a $21 billion dollar state budget. I think we can run this state on $21 billion dollars and reimburse cities for the lost revenue by reducing the car tax,” Foley said.

Democrats say the plan doesn't make any fiscal sense.

Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, a Democrat from Berlin who serves as the House Majority Leader, said tax cuts don't pay for themselves.

"What priorities are not important? What is willing to cut?" Aresimowicz asked. "What are the services that our residents need on a day to day basis that he’s going to get rid of to provide these cuts?”

Democrats said any tax plan that doesn't have details on how to pay for reductions is simply empty rhetoric.

On the issue of education, state Democrats came out firing against Foley earlier in the day after the release of a campaign political ad in which Foley says children in failing schools can't find opportunity once they leave.

Once again, Democrats criticized Foley for his lack of specifics in the 30-second ad.

"We need to see the facts and at some point in this election. I hope Tom Foley will start providing facts and not little soundbites that he thinks voters in the state of Connecticut will just buy and vote for him on," said Aresimowicz.

Democrats said they're concerned that a Foley administration could strip resources from urban schools.

Foley says he wants to inject free-market principles into some of the state's lowest performing school districts and would work to institute a student transfer program for some districts.

"We’re going to give them the choice" Foley said. "If they’re in a lousy school, we’re going to give them the ability to go to another school and if that’s hard on the school that’s leaving, that’s not the children, that’s the fault of the adults at that school and maybe other factors.”

Foley said parents would have a good idea about the performance of the schools based on a new A-F grading system he would propose.

He wants state and local education funds to "follow the child" but insists that if students leave failing schools, it's best for everyone, even if money leaves schools where the cash is needed.

Foley said he's not afraid to challenge some of the state's lowest-performing schools with what amount to threats when it comes to student achievement.

"Children will get moved from those schools and they will lose resources and eventually if they aren’t able to recover and fix it they’ll get reconstituted, just like we’ve reconstituted schools in Hartford," Foley said.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Chris Christie Stumps for Foley in Stamford]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 20:48:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/christie+foley.jpg

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appeared alongside Republican candidate for governor Tom Foley in Stamford today.

The two shook hands and made the rounds at Curley's Diner just off Main Street in Stamford on Tuesday afternoon. The New Jersey governor focused on Foley's business credentials ahead of a fundraiser across the street, where he was due to appear with longtime baseball manager Bobby Valentine.

Christie, who serves as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is tasked with promoting Republican candidates for governor in predominantly left-leaning states. Christie said he's in a unique position to help Foley in his second bid for the governor's office.

"The strategy is to talk more about jobs and more about the economy, more about lower taxes and more about opportunity, and that's the strategy Tom Foley's been following since the day he got into this race," Christie said. "He doesn't need to change. Understand, I'm from New Jersey. I know what it's like to run in a state like this."

Some union groups opposed the visit, alleging that Foley's decision to align with Christie is bad for the state. Gun control advocates also rallied across the street in opposition to Foley and Christie's stances on the issue.

It's Christie's second trip to the state in recent months. In July, he attended a fundraiser in Greenwich alongside Foley. Christie said he plans to return for additional events with Foley prior to the race.

"Tom Foley is a Republican that I support," Christie said.

Christie, who is rumored to be a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said the governor races in Illinois and Connecticut are the closest in the country.

Foley will also receive the support of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who plans to attend a private reception at a home in West Hartford on Oct. 19.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Money From Gun Groups Entering Governor's Race]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 23:10:38 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Tom+Foley+Dannel+Malloy+1200.jpg

Groups affiliated with pro- and anti-gun control campaigns have begun pouring money into the political scene over the past month, as Election Day draws near.

According to filings with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, contributors have spent than $130,000 so far during the 2014 race.

Pro-gun groups have contributed more than $63,000, while anti-gun groups have contributed about $75,000.

Groups on both sides of the issue did not returned requests for comment.

Quinnipiac Univerisity Political Science Professor Scott McLean, who focuses on elections and campaigns, says Republican Tom Foley needs to be careful around the issue of gun control because some pro-gun groups may attempt to pull him to the right on an issue to which he hasn't spent much campaign time.

“Foley wants this to be a referendum on Gov. Dannel Malloy," McLean said. "He doesn’t want this to be a referendum on the gun law that Connecticut passed."

McLean said people in Connecticut who are very passionate about the gun issue are simply living up to their promises when it comes to contributions.

"The anti-gun control groups are fulfilling a promise or a threat that they made – 'If Connecticut passes these laws, we’re going to be working hard to defeat Dannel Malloy' – and I think the pro-gun control groups are simply trying to counter that,” McLean explained.

On the other side, McLean acknowledges that the gun issue isn't exactly an issue worth sparring over for either candidate.

“I think all of these groups coming into Connecticut has more to do with what happened before the election than the election we’re in now" McLean said.

<![CDATA[Connecticut Treasurer Candidates Trade Barbs]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 20:35:41 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tim+herbst+denise+nappier.jpg

The normally mundane race to operate Connecticut's state pension funds, among other duties, has turned into a political war of words between the incumbent Democrat Denise Nappier and Republican challenger Tim Herbst.

Herbst, Trumbull's first selectman, went on the offensive after it was confirmed that Nappier's campaign had been conducting some form of telephone polling across the state.

"She refuses to debate me on the issues of importance to the taxpayers but she does have time for her campaign to conduct polling that is very misleading," Herbst said during an interview Monday. "She's ignoring me and she's ignoring the media."

On the second issue, NBC Connecticut has submitted numerous requests over the past several weeks to interview Nappier in her bid to once again become Connecticut's treasurer.
Nappier has not responded to those requests.

Nappier also has not appeared at a public event during her campaign in quite some time.

Connecticut's Democratic Party did not respond to requests for comment on either issue.

Nappier addressed Herbst's criticisms of her campaign tactics with a statement through her campaign spokesperson, Rose Ryan.

“A number of positive and negative messages were tested—including negative comments that Mr. Herbst has made regarding our campaign. If Mr. Herbst would like to learn the difference between a tracking and push poll, I can put him in touch with the appropriate people," Ryan said in the statement.

Herbst denounced Nappier's decisions, arguing that her public persona is essential to letting pensioners know the state of their funds.

“It’s disconcerting because the treasurer is the second most important position in state government," Herbst said. "You’re responsible for billions of dollars of taxpayer investment. Billions of dollars of taxpayer assetsthat affect the security of tens of thousands of workers."

Denise Nappier has held the position of state treasurer since 1998.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Decision 2014: The Candidates Speak]]> Sun, 21 Sep 2014 10:55:31 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Tom+Foley+Dannel+Malloy+1200.jpg

In this week's episode of Decision 2014, NBC Connecticut wraps its arms around the race for governor as it approaches seven weeks until election day.

Political Reporter Max Reiss interviews Gov. Dan Malloy who acknowledges that his bid for reelection is the"political fight of his life." Gov. Malloy talks about his record on taxes and jobs and even pledges to keep tax rates flat if he's reelected to the job he's held since January 2011. The governor proclaims that the race in 2014 "is about choices" and the "future of Connecticut."

Republican candidate Tom Foley, who's running for the state's highest office for the second time, says he has the plan for Connecticut to emerge from the economic doldrums. Foley pledges to work to trim the state's sales tax rate, in addition to working to cut several business taxes. Foley even says he would work to eliminate some taxes that cost more to collect than they actually provide in revenue.

In a preview for Sunday's edition of Meet the Press, Anchor Gerry Brooks discusses Connecticut's campaign season with NBC's Moderator of the Meet the Press Chuck Todd.

Episode 11The Candidates Speak

  • WATCH: Max Reiss interviews Gov. Dan Malloy.
  • WATCH: Todd Piro interviews with Tom Foley.
  • WATCH: "Meet the Press" Moderator Chuck Todd tells Gerry Brooks what he's hearing about the Connecticut gubernatorial race in Washington D.C.

<![CDATA[Jury Begins Deliberations in Rowland Trial]]> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 19:01:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/rowlandclosing09182014.jpg

Federal prosecutors did their best Thursday to lay out their final case against Connecticut's former governor John Rowland.

"Use your common sense," Asst. U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei told jurors in court.

Mattei worked to connect all of the dots surrounding Rowland and his connections to a pair of Republican congressional campaigns.

Rowland drafted a contract to work for Mark Greenberg in 2010 and later provided help to the campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley in 2011 and 2012.

“What was he selling? What was he getting paid for?" Mattei asked jurors.

He argued that it was Rowland himself who recommended that both Greenberg and Brian Foley, Wilson-Foley's husband, pay him through secret means.

Rowland, prosecutors allege, urged the Greenberg campaign to pay him through the Simon Foundation and urged Foley to get paid through his private attorney for generic consulting work.

Mattei provided the federal government's case first.

Later in the day, Rowland's attorney, Reid Weingarten, worked to rebut the government's position that the former governor helped to orchestrate a conspiracy in order to hide his role from the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice.

"John Rowland did legitimate work for Apple," Weingarten explained to jurors.

He detailed the emails and correspondence Rowland had with Apple Rehab CEO Brian Bedard about consulting for the company.

Weingarten also pointed out that it was Rowland's idea to hire former Democratic Speaker of the House John Ritter to lobby on the group's behalf in the State Legislature.

Weingarten conceded the point that Rowland was intimately involved in the Wilson-Foley campaign but insisted that he served in that role as a campaign volunteer and not a paid consultant.

“If this is a sham, then why are they going back and forth? Why are they keeping this up?" Weingarten asked the jury. "What’s the point? Foley sharing the guts and substance of his business? It makes no sense.”

The jury started deliberations shortly before 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

The group will consider seven counts against Rowland. The former governor and member of Congress faces one count of conspiracy and two counts each of falsification of records, causing illegal campaign contributions, and causing false statements.

<![CDATA[Tea Party Calls on Visconti to Drop Out of Race]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:40:47 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/visconti091614.jpg

Connecticut Tea Party leader Tanya Bachand has written an open letter to unaffiliated candidate for governor Joe Visconti, a Republican, calling on him to vacate the race.

She sent a first draft of her letter to a few of her fellow Tea Party activists and she said the reaction was universal.

“Everybody was thinking the same thing and I put it down to paper,” Bachand said during an interview.

Bachand says the consensus among her fellow Tea Partiers is that Visconti's candidacy could spell doom for the Foley campaign by stealing right-leaning votes.

“This is not so much about being pro-Foley as it is making sure, two fold, one that Malloy does not get reelected and Foley’s our best shot at that and two that the Tea Party principles and ideals survive past this election,” Bachand said.

Visconti said when he received the letter that he refused to read it.

“I don’t read anything that starts with, ‘You can’t win,’” Visconti said.

In response, Visconti released a web video that displayed photos of him with several of the Tea Party leaders who signed the letter, along with photos of him at political rallies.

The unaffiliated candidate actively participated in the Tea Party movement in Connecticut and said he feels that leaders across the state are turning their backs on their core beliefs.

“They basically surrendered their principles. This is what they’ve done,” Visconti said Tuesday. “Tom Foley is not a conservative. He will not repeal Common Core. He will not repeal SB1170. He won’t even seek to repeal these. That’s what the big argument is.”

Tea Party groups concede that Tom Foley is not the ideal candidate.

Bachand even said, “Foley isn’t a panacea,” and added that the effort to get Visconti off the ballot has more to do with maintain the momentum of the movement.

“This is not about surrendering our principles. This is about making sure that our principles survive to fight another day,” Bachand said.

<![CDATA[State Leaders Look to Improve Internet Reliability]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 18:04:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Internet00000000.jpg

State leaders joined city and town officials Monday to announce the start of their effort to improve broadband internet speed and reliability across the state.

“There is a need today for cheaper, easier access to ultra-high speed internet access,” said Connecticut Consumer Counsel Elin Katz.

Katz and State Sen. Beth Bye said Connecticut has been left out in the cold compared to other cities and states across the country when it comes to broadband and fiber projects.

The systems are known in tech circles as “Gigabit” networks.

Twenty-nine cities around the United States have access to gigabit networks through several providers that include AT&T, Google, Centurylink and Cox.

“None of these places are in New England,” Katz said.

Three municipalities have partnered with the state in sending out the request for qualifications – New Haven, West Hartford and Stamford.

State officials insist that creating the new networks isn’t just an infrastructure improvement.

“This is about economic development,” Bye said during the press conference.

Katz explained that the average Internet speed for a household in Connecticut is about 9 megabits and the goal is to improve that to about 1,000 megabits.

Representatives from tech companies in attendance applauded the state’s effort to improve their business conditions.

“This is a proud moment for a tech startup to be in Connecticut,” said Zack Beatty with SeeClickFix, a New Haven-based company that allows users to report non-emergency issues that are going on in their neighborhoods.

“It’s a very exciting tech scene but we’ve reached a point where we’re seeing the tech community grow in New Haven, in Connecticut and beyond and yet you’re not seeing the infrastructure grow with it,” Beatty said.

He said improved broadband would allow employees to work seamlessly from home without issues.

“It’s not about bandwidth. It’s about reliability,” Beatty said.

The initial RFQ was sent to prospective Internet partners and state officials said they expect to receive more information on the future of high-speed broadband in November.

<![CDATA[Decision 2014: The Q-Poll]]> Sun, 14 Sep 2014 12:58:31 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/visconti+foley+malloy+decision.jpg

This week’s episode of "Decision 2014" focuses on the first Quinnipiac poll of the general election.

According to the poll, GOP challenger Tom Foley leads Dan Malloy 46 percent to 40 percent in the race for governor, but the biggest surprise may be that unaffiliated candidate Joseph Visconti received 7 percent.

Visconti joins George Colli in the studio to talk about where his support is coming from and where he stands on issues other than guns and education. He also debuts his newest web advertisement.

Also, CTNewsJunkie’s Christine Stuart breaks down the poll and what it all means with Max Reiss.

Todd Piro discusses the legality of campaign ads and why the governor was able to use video from an NBC Connecticut broadcast without the station’s consent.

Finally, we introduce you to GOP Treasurer hopeful Tim Herbst of Trumbull.

Episode 10 – The Q-Poll: What’s it all mean?

  • WATCH: Unaffiliated candidate for governor Joseph Visconti, of West Hartford, reacts to his unexpectedly strong showing in the first poll of the campaign.
  • WATCH: CTNewsJunkie.com’s Christine Stuart breaks down Q-poll and what it all means.
  • WATCH: Todd Piro explores the legalities surrounding campaign advertising.
  • WATCH: Meet GOP candidate for treasurer Tim Herbst.

You can watch "Decision 2014" every Sunday at 10 a.m. on NBC Connecticut.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Visconti Says He'll Be a Factor in November]]> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 21:35:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/SEGMENT_1_091414_1200x675_328698435972.jpg

Unaffiliated candidate for governor Joe Visconti says all you have to do is look at the numbers in the recent Quinnipiac Poll to see why he’ll be more than a doormat during the November election.

“They don’t want to go to Malloy and they don’t want to go to Foley,” Visconti said during an exclusive interview with George Colli on NBC Connecticut’s "Decision 2014."

“Sixty-two percent of [Foley’s] support says they just don’t like Malloy and they don’t really like Foley, so they’re voting against Malloy," Visconti explained. "We’re looking to take that vote from Tom.”

Visconti has billed himself as an alternative conservative candidate, even going so far as to call himself a “Red State Republican,” referring to how his views more closely identify with those of Southern Republicans than those of the Northeast variety.

Visconti, according to the Q-Poll, takes voters who would typically vote for either Republican Tom Foley or Democrat Dan Malloy.

Doug Schwartz, of Quinnipiac University, says that even though Visconti is pulling a respectable seven percent of likely voters in early to mid-September, that’s a figure that’s likely to change.

“One thing also to keep in mind, historically, third party candidates tend to see their vote go down the closer you get to election day. We’ll have to see. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen in this case,” said Schwartz.

Visconti cares most about issues that many political experts have labeled as “Tea Party.”

For example, Visconti wants to revisit Connecticut’s use of the Common Core State Standards, the national set of benchmarks was later linked to Department of Education “Race to the Top” funds that were eventually controversial for the way states were awarded them.”

“Education has to be local,” Visconti said, of the Common Core. “There are some good things in anything. So you can pick out a lot of things in Common Core that could look good. Most of it’s been rejected. The kids stress and anxiety number one. The way they dropped this on the public is the first thing we hear from parents and kids.”

Visconti has the potential to be influential on the November ballot, but the Q-Poll also showed that the margin between heavy hitters Malloy and Foley remains at six points with or without Visconti on the ballot.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Malloy Ad Not Endorsed by NBC Connecticut]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 12:23:06 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/malloyadforweb.jpg

A political advertisement supporting Governor Dannel Malloy began airing on NBC Connecticut and other media outlets on Wednesday.

The ad features a portion of an NBC Connecticut newscast, along with a headline from NBCConnecticut.com.

The law does not allow NBC Connecticut to censor the ad, but the content was used without our permission and in no way constitutes an endorsement by NBC Connecticut.

Photo Credit: Malloy for Governor Ad]]>
<![CDATA[Rowland's Attorneys Cross-Examine Brian Foley ]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 19:13:02 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/brian+foley.JPG

Attorneys for former Gov. John Rowland spent Tuesday morning cross-examining Brian Foley in a federal corruption trial for a case alleging Rowland's involvement in illegal campaign activities.

Rowland is accused of taking $35,000 in unreported payments to advise Foley's wife, Lisa-Wilson Foley's 5th District Congressional campaign and offering to do the same for Republican candidate Mark Greenberg in the past.

The clear goal based on their line of questioning was to get Foley to prove that Roland was hired legitimately and that his work for his wife's campaign was secondary.

On several occasions Foley told defense attorney Reid Weingarten that “I would not have hired Rowland if I didn’t think it would be primarily beneficial to the campaign.”

But throughout Foley's Tuesday morning testimony, he said that Rowland did a great deal of legitimate work.

"It was real deal," Foley told defense attorneys.

The work included Rowland hiring former Connecticut House Speaker Tom Ritter as a lobbyist to help the nursing home business, Apple Health Care, that Foley owned. Apple Healthcare is the parent company for Apple Rehab facilities.

Rowland provided Foley's company with a report about the possible closure of nursing home in Connecticut at one point and spoke directly with Apple Rehab executives in his consulting efforts related to nursing homes.

Foley even commended Rowland for his work helping the company and said he did a lot of work for the company in 2011.

Foley also conceded that it was his attorney's idea to not mention the political work that Rowland would contribute to Foley's wife's campaign, and the contract was even struck with Foley's attorney's office directly. However, he also said he never told his attorney that he hired Rowland as a way to get him involved in the campaign and said that he gave him misleading information.

"I wasn't telling the whole story," Foley said in court.

He said that he transferred $100,000 checks once a month in September 2011 to his wife.

"I wasn't trying to hide this," he said.

Foley admitted to using Apple Rehab resources to support his wife's bid for Congress and said he asked Apple Rehab employees to help the campaign and attend debates. Of his 5,000 employees , Foley said that 12 donated to Wilson-Foley's campaign or came to debates.

When the information about Rowland's work for Apple Health Care and consulting on Wilson-Foley's campaing, Foley said he was "concerned."

On Rowland's work for the campaign, Foley admitted that "Lisa did not want to be seen in public with Mr. Rowland." Foley also said that Rowland advised against putting Wilson-Foley on Apple Rehab TV ads to avoid breaking election laws.

Foley admitted that his $500,000 contribution to his wife's campaign was done in secret and that he didn't even consult the campaign's Washington-based firm that handled some of their campaign finance dealings.

He also said that same firm, Patton & Boggs, advised that there was no issue with hiring Rowland as a consultant for Apple even if he did some volunteer campaign work on the side.

Foley said that months after the election in question, Rowland called him asking to do more work and Foley was surprised because an investigation was already under way.

Foley said that he and Wilson-Foley struck a deal with the federal government and that he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor so that his maximum prison sentance was 1 year.

"I think it'll be the same whether he's convicted or aquitted," Foley said. "I think it'll be the same way. That's from my heart."

The initial deal provided that his wife wouldn't be charged, but he said that changed. Foley said his "hope is to get as little" jailtime as possible.

"It's like being found guilty of stealing a lobster from a lobster pot," he said describing his reduced misdemeanor plea.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

<![CDATA[Blumenthal Calls on Pharmacies to Stop Selling Tobacco]]> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 18:55:14 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/061314Cigarettes.jpg

After CVS followed through with its corporate pledge last week to stop selling tobacco products of all kinds, Sen. Richard Blumenthal stood in front of a Hartford Walgreens and called on all other big pharmacy chains to do the same.

"A company that promotes health and wellness cannot profit from death and addiction, and this is inevitably what smoking causes,” said Blumenthal.

CVS became the first chain to stop selling all tobacco products including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and cigars.

It's the largest chain of retail pharmacies in America and reports earnings of more than $120 billion each year. Tobacco-related sales account for about $2 billion.

Blumenthal said CVS stepped up to do the right thing and that Walgreens and Rite Aid need to follow suit.

“I hope that customers will reward CVS and likewise put pressure on Walgreens and Rite Aid and other pharmacy chains to do the right thing, do it as soon as possible, just as CVS said it will.”

Rite Aid and Walgreens did not return a request for comment.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: Shuttershock ]]>
<![CDATA[Decision 2014: The Fighting 5th]]> Sun, 07 Sep 2014 17:33:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/decision+2014+episode+9.jpg

On this week’s episode of "Decision 2014," the focus turns to the 5th Congressional District.

Stretching from Farmington west to New York and north to Massachusetts, the district has been the race to watch over the last few election cycles, and this year is no different.

First-term Democratic Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty is being challenged by Litchfield businessman and Republican Mark Greenberg.

This is Greenberg’s third attempt at becoming the congressional representative from northwestern Connecticut.

He speaks with George Colli about what’s different this time around, the impact of being the first witness called in the federal trial of former Gov. John Rowland and how he would describe his position on guns to families in Newtown.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty sits down with Max Reiss and discusses the impact the tragedy in Newtown had on her first term and whether she will take a pledge against accepting the help of outside money.

Reiss will also wrap up the week that was in the Connecticut governor’s race, including the visit by former President Bill Clinton to New Haven.

And before his exclusive interview with President Barack Obama, we talk with the new moderator and host of “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd, about how he feels going into his first show.

He talks with our own Todd Piro about his vision for the longest-running show on television and how it will remain relevant in era of Twitter.

NBC Connecticut’s "Decision 2014" airs every Sunday at 10 a.m., just before “Meet the Press.”

Episode 9 – The Fighting 5th

  • WATCH: Republican 5th Congressional district challenger Mark Greenberg talks with George Colli.
  • WATCH: 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty sits down with Max Reiss.
  • WATCH: Moderator and host of "Meet the Press," Chuck Todd, discusses the future of the longest-running show on television with Todd Piro, then turns his attention to the Connecticut governor's race.
  • WATCH: Max Reiss wraps up this week's developments in the Connecticut governor’s race.

Web Extras

  • WATCH: Mark Greenberg talks faith, the pledge and charity with George Colli.
  • WATCH: Todd Piro talks sports with "Meet The Press" moderator and host Chuck Todd.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Esty Battles Greenberg in 5th District]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 19:30:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/esty+greenberg.jpg

Rep. Elizabeth Esty is fighting off a familiar opponent from the Republican side in her race to retain Connecticut’s fifth congressional seat.

Esty says that even though she’s a Democrat, she’s managed to find ways to gravitate toward the more moderate and conservative voters in her district.

“I come from a Republican town in Cheshire,” Esty said. “Most of the voters in this district don’t like either party. They’re looking for the folks who can be effective by them. It’s not a party’s party or for that matter. They want to see what you’re getting done. They don’t care what the letter is after your name.”

GOP opponent Mark Greenberg is looking to unseat Esty. Greenberg, who has worked in real estate for most of his professional life, is running for the seat for the third time.

He says the economic conditions in Connecticut just haven’t picked up that way they have in neighboring states.

“It was the economy in 2010 and it was the economy in 2012 and it’s the economy now,” Greenberg said. “Frankly, this state is not recovered from the 2008 depression, I call it: recession-depression.”

The Connecticut 5th District encompasses primarily western parts of the state all the way to the New York State border. Included is Newtown, the site of one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

Esty’s term in Congress started just days after the Sandy Hook shooting. She says the tragedy helped to shape her views on guns and gun control.

“I want background checks for all sales. All commercial sales will help save lives," Esty said. "So will making it a federal crime for trafficking, purchasing something in someone else’s name. Those are the issues that law enforcement has flagged for us.”

Greenberg, however, takes a different look at how the issues of guns and school safety should be handled.

He says Connecticut residents and American citizens have the right to bear arms in responsible ways. Greenberg says the Constitution grants Americans the right to possess guns and that there are other ways to ensure that schools and the general public are kept safe.

“I think the most important thing that we have to deal with is the mental health issue. We have to make sure people that have mental health issues do not possess guns. That they cannot get their hands on them,” Greenberg said.

Voters will have the ultimate choice on which candidate they want to represent them on election day.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Meet Chuck Todd of "Meet the Press"]]> Sat, 06 Sep 2014 09:22:40 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/090714_LSP_Chuck_Todd_1200x675_325741123764.jpg

Chuck Todd makes his debut as moderator of "Meet the Press" on Sunday, and has landed President Barack Obama as his first guest. On Friday, Todd took to Reddit to introduce himself.

The Miami native, who attended George Washington University, was previously NBC’s chief White House correspondent and political director. Despite his years in Washington, the sports lover remains committed to teams outside D.C.; he has been a fan of the Miami Hurricanes and the Green Bay Packers since birth.

Here, from his Reddit “Ask Me Anything,” are five things we learned about the famed political junkie.

When will he shave his facial hair?

Don’t hold your breath — even if, as suggested, it would improve his ratings. When he looks in the mirror, he sees his late father, he says. Shaving his beard would be like getting rid of that piece of his father that he carries with him

Who is one person, now dead, that he would have loved to have interviewed?

Richard Nixon, because it would have been a challenge

How does he see his role as a reporter and moderator?

His job is to push back against bloviation and talking points by being grounded in facts, and to get to the nut of the debate.

How does he feel about his name?

He hates having two one syllable names, and has given both of his children multiple-syllable first names. “I’ve been ‘ChuckTodd’ with every coach and teacher during my childhood,” he wrote on Reddit.

Does he ever get nervous interviewing high profile guests?

He's always a tad nervous. "Any moment can be a career ender," he wrote.

What did he think about the University of Louisville’s football win over Miami on Monday?

His late father-in-law was a star quarterback at Louisville, so criticism of Louisville is off-limits in his house. He’s not upset about Louisville, he says, but about the University of Miami being unprepared.
“It’s time for the ‘State of Miami’ to return, meaning that the best players in the best high school football factories in the country go to Miami,” he wrote.

<![CDATA[Social Conservative Group Endorses Foley for Governor]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 19:10:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/6pfoleystill090414max00000001.jpg

The Family Institute of Connecticut's Political Action Committee decided that the Republican in the race for Connecticut's governor's office is the right man for the job.

"This comes down to one issue," said Peter Wolfgang, of the Family Institute. "The hot issue that we believe is going to attention at the State Capitol is assisted suicide."

Wolfgang said Foley vowed his veto of legislation relating to assisted suicide.

But the Family Institute is more widely known for its right-leaning stances on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

Sources close to the Foley campaign told NBC Connecticut that if he were elected governor, Foley wouldn't change his positions as a pro-choice and same-sex marriage supporting Republican.

Democrats don't buy that.

"We just stand here confused about why Tom Foley would accept the endorsement of an organization that fought basic human rights for so long" said State Sen. Beth Bye, a Democrat in the General Assembly who represents Bloomfield and West Hartford.

Democrats argue that the endorsement by such a right-leaning group could jeopardize some of the state's laws when it comes to issues like abortion and gay marriage, even though a governor's office controlled by a Republican would be handcuffed by a Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

"Our campaign is happy to receive the endorsement of any group that recognizes the need to change direction toward a more proud and prosperous Connecticut," a spokesman for the Foley campaign said in a statement.

Wolfgang says independent voters need to educate themselves on the issues and understand that topics other than assisted suicide just aren't on the horizon in Connecticut.

"Issues like gay marriage and abortion just aren't going to come up" he said.

<![CDATA[McDonnells Guilty on Most Charges]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 18:16:31 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/mcdonnell-guilty-AP977255973421.jpg

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife have been found guilty of most of the public corruption charges they faced in a marathon trial centered on lavish gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman.

The former governor has been found guilty of 11 of the 13 charges against him. Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell has been found guilty of nine of the 13 charges against her.

It was a bombshell ending to a trial that included the dissection of the former first couple's marriage, testimony that Bob had moved out and was living with a priest, and testimony that Maureen had begun frequently texting and emailing the businessman in the case, Jonnie Williams, who wanted help promoting his dietary supplement.

Three of the McDonnells' five children clutched each others' hands and prayed before the verdict was announced, breaking into sobs as their parents' guilty counts were read aloud.

The couple's son Bobby McDonnell looked at his father with tear-glazed eyes as the former governor's head collapsed into his hands.

Bob McDonnell is "broken" and "devastated," said defense attorney Henry Asbill, who added that he would appeal the verdict.

The government had accused the McDonnells of doing special favors for Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific, Inc., in exchange for more than $177,000 in gifts and loans.

Courtroom observers said two jurors wiped their eyes as the verdicts were read.

As co-defendants, the former first couple was separated in the courtroom, with three lawyers sitting between them. Maureen McDonnell teared up, but appeared composed compared to the emotional reactions of her husband and children.

The McDonnells didn't look at each other as the verdict was read. They left the Richmond courthouse together but got into separate cars. It was a marked difference from the rest of the trial, which verged into soap opera territory as defense lawyers suggested that the McDonnells' marriage was so broken they could not have conspired to obtain gifts, trips and loans from Williams.

Throughout the trial, Bob McDonnell had appeared confident, telling reporters repeatedly that he was sure he would be exonerated and was putting his faith in God.

"All I can say is my trust remains in the Lord," he said in a brief statement as he left the courthouse Thursday with Maureen, before they got into separate cars.

McDonnell, who was once considered a rising GOP star and potential vice presidential pick for Mitt Romney in 2012, now faces, along with his wife, up to 30 years in federal prison when they're sentenced in January.

"This is a difficult and disappointing day for the Commonwealth and its citizens," said Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "Public service frequently requires sacrifice, and almost always requires financial sacrifice. When public officials turn to financial gain in exchange for official acts, we have no choice but to prosecute the case."

Bob McDonnell is the first former governor of Virginia to be convicted of a crime. The commonwealth had long had a reputation for clean politics, a reputation shattered in the five-week McDonnell trial.

Political analyst Bob Holsworth called it "a day of infamy in Virginia."

The Verdict, Count by Count

Bob and Maureen McDonnell were each charged with 13 counts in a 14-count indictment:

  • In the first count against them, the McDonnells were found guilty of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud for accepting gifts and loans from Williams.

  • The next three charges, counts 2-4, involved accepting checks from Williams: On counts 2 and 3, the McDonnells were both found guilty of honest-services wire fraud for accepting a $15,000 check to pay a caterer for their daughter's wedding, and for accepting a $50,000 loan check for MoBo Real Estate, a company the former governor operated with his sister.

  • On count 4, Bob McDonnell was also found guilty of a count of honest-services wire fraud for a $20,000 wire transfer for MoBo. Maureen McDonnell was found not guilty on that charge.

  • On count 5, the McDonnells were found guilty of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right for the gifts and loans they received.

  • The McDonnells also faced six charges of obtaining property under color of official right, counts 6-11: On counts 6-8, they were found guilty of three charges of obtaining property under color of official right for a $50,000 check to Maureen, for the $15,000 check to the wedding caterer, and for a $2,380 golf outing.

  • On count 9, Bob McDonnell was found guilty of obtaining property under color of official right for a $1,424 golf outing. Maureen McDonnell was found not guilty of that charge.

  • On count 10, both McDonnells were found guilty of obtaining property under color of official right for the $50,000 check to MoBo.

  • On count 11, Bob McDonnell was found guilty of obtaining property under color of official right for the $20,000 transfer to MoBo. Maureen McDonnell was found not guilty of that charge.

  • Only Bob McDonnell was charged with count 12. He was found not guilty of making false statements on a TowneBank loan application.

  • In count 13, both McDonnells were found not guilty of making false statements on a PenFed loan application.

  • Only Maureen McDonnell was charged with count 14. She was found guilty of obstruction of official proceeding for a handwritten note to Williams.

They will be sentenced Jan. 6, 2015.

Inside the Testimony

The trial centered on the testimony of the former governor and Williams, the prosecution's star witness. Maureen McDonnell did not take the stand.

Williams was granted immunity for his dealings with the McDonnells and possible securities fraud violations, which had been investigated by a separate grand jury. He testified that he spent lavishly on the McDonnells to secure their help promoting and obtaining state-backed research for Star Scientific's tobacco-derived anti-inflammatory supplement, Anatabloc. Williams intended to share the results of that research with doctors to gain their support of the product.

Prosecutors claimed the former first couple had an "unconscionable amount" of credit card debt and presented testimony that they were eager to accept gifts from Williams, including a $6,500 Rolex watch that Maureen gave Bob for Christmas, a vacation at Williams’ luxurious home on Smith Mountain Lake outside Roanoke, use of Williams' Ferrari and a shopping spree for designer clothes and accessories for Maureen.

Testimony showed Williams loaned $50,000 to Maureen McDonnell that she used to pay down credit debt in 2011. He also loaned $50,000 and $20,000 to MoBo Real Estate, a small company that Bob McDonnell and one of his sisters ran to operate two beach properties.

Prosecutors also said Williams paid $15,000 in catering expenses when one of the McDonnells' daughters got married. And they claimed Maureen had developed a close relationship with Williams, exchanging more than 1,200 texts and calls over a nearly two-year period, including 52 in one day.

In his defense, Bob McDonnell testified he did nothing more than extend routine political courtesies to Williams. Before the indictment, he had apologized for what he described as bad judgment and said he had repaid about $120,000 in gifts and loans, but denied breaking any laws.

A key part of the defense strategy was the claim that the McDonnells couldn't have conspired, because their marriage had deteriorated to the point that Bob McDonnell had moved out and was now living with a priest, who is a family friend. Maureen McDonnell's lawyers called Williams her "favorite playmate."

Both the prosecution and the defense called Maureen volatile and emotional. One prosecution witness called her a "nut bag." Bob McDonnell himself said his wife didn't take well to the role of first lady, calling her handling of behind-the-scenes matters "a disaster." Testimony revealed staff members at the governor's mansion had threatened to resign en masse.

Judge: 'Can't Take Another Second'

After lengthy days of intense testimony -- on day four, the judge in the case said he was stopping testimony because he "can't take another second" -- the jury faced the task of deciding the McDonnells' guilt or innocence.

Judge James R. Spencer issued lengthy instructions to the jury Tuesday morning, including the warning that the testimony of a witness who is granted immunity must be more closely examined than testimony of other witnesses.

The heightened scrutiny was required to determine whether the testimony of the immunized witness is "affected by self-interest," Spencer said.

To be found guilty, Spencer said, a defendant must understand the nature of the conspiracy and deliberately join it.

However, Spencer said a conspiracy does not have to achieve its goals, which could have undercut a defense claim that Williams never received anything of substance, including the research he took preliminary steps to seek.

He also said an agreement need not be stated explicitly by the conspirators and that it didn't matter whether the defendant would have done those favors absent a bribe.

Spencer also told jurors -- who heard from three character witnesses, two for Bob McDonnell and one for his wife -- that "evidence of good character alone may create a reasonable doubt as to a defendant's guilt."

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[2016 Presidential Contenders Flock to NH]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 12:26:49 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rand-paul.jpg

It's still two months from the 2014 mid-term elections, and already numerous potential 2016 presidential candidates are flocking to New Hampshire.

Politico reported on Wednesday that GOP Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will speak at a Generation Opportunity event on Sept. 11 and the NHGOP Unity Breakfast on Sept. 12. Both events will be held in Manchester.

This weekend brings two more Republican presidential hopefuls to the Granite State. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is scheduled to make appearances in Dover and Stratham on Saturday, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will be in Concord, Manchester and Nashua on Sunday.

It was also announced last week that Donald Trump will travel to New Hampshire on Nov. 12 to speak at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communication's 12th annual First Amendment Awards.

Paul, Jindal, Cruz and Trump have all made previous trips to New Hampshire this year.

Vice President Joe Biden, a possible 2016 contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, was scheduled to speak at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Decision 2014: The Education Show]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 10:12:35 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/malloy+foley+first+debate.jpg

In their first debate of this election cycle, Democratic incumbent Gov. Dan Malloy and his GOP challenger Tom Foley picked up where they left off in 2010.

The debate, sponsored by The Norwich Bulletin, was a feisty affair.

Veteran political reporter Mark Pazniokas, of the CT Mirror, joins George Colli to analyze who won, who lost and what we should expect going forward.

Also on this week's episode, outgoing Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor speaks with new NBC Connecticut political reporter Max Reiss on what's gone right and what's gone wrong in his time as the state's top educator.

And Todd Piro discusses special education needs with two advocates and mothers.

Episode 8 - The Education Show

WATCH: CT Mirror's Mark Pazniokas wraps up the first debate of the general election season with George Colli.

WATCH: Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor talks with Max Reiss.

WATCH: Two advocates and mothers talk with Todd Piro about special needs education issues.

<![CDATA[Departing Education Chief Reflects on Successes]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 20:40:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/stefan+pryor.jpg

As he prepares to leave his three-year post as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor says he’s perhaps most of proud of how the dialogue has shifted in and around schools.

“I'm hearing a lot from parents who are saying, 'You know what, we shouldn't be settling for good enough in Connecticut. We should be reaching for true excellence,'” Pryor said during an exclusive interview Thursday.

Pryor announced last week that he will not serve for second term if the opportunity presents itself. He was appointed by Gov. Dannel Malloy in September 2011.

He did face his fair share of challenges throughout his term, including implementing the Common Core State Standards into Connecticut schools. He also grappled at times with the state’s influential teachers unions like the Connecticut Education Association.

“I think that overall it’s been a working relationship with us and with the governor’s office and the commissioner for the improvement of public education,” said Mark Waxenberg, the current Executive Director of the CEA. “We did disagree on issues but we always had the same goal in mind which was always students, teachers, and public education but we did come from a different perspective. I wouldn’t say I was happy to see him go.”

Pryor touted accomplishments like education reform and increasing the amount of funding for and the number of students enrolled in the state’s First Class Pre-K program.

On Common Core, however, is where Pryor found disagreement when it came to implementation with some teachers, but he defended the way the state handled the standards.

“In Connecticut, we've taken the time listening to stakeholders. We can always do more of that but there's been teacher voice, there's been parent voice in the process so we've adjusted our method,” Pryor said.

Waxenberg said he would prefer to see Connecticut-based standards incorporate the Common Core rather than take a mandate from Washington on what’s best for the state.

“Instead of replacing the Connecticut standards with common core, we should be melding them together to make that Connecticut’s are the most rigorous in the country because they have been over the past years,” Waxenberg said.

Pryor said he’s not sure of his last day but has the option to work until the end of 2014.

<![CDATA[CEO of Access Health CT Heads to Washington]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:25:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Access+Health+CT.jpg

Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan is getting a promotion and leaving the department to take a job in Washington to oversee the federal health exchange.

Counihan will join the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services team as Marketplace Chief Executive Officer, where he will lead the federal Marketplace, manage relationships with state marketplaces and run the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which regulates health insurance at the federal level.  He will report to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. 

He is leaving his job in Connecticut, effective Sept. 5.

Malloy said this is a testament to the success of the state's healthcare exchange.

“Kevin’s appointment is a ringing endorsement of the success we’ve had implementing the Affordable Care Act in Connecticut,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a statement. “Since we launched Access Health CT, we’ve cut Connecticut’s uninsured rate in half in this state and nearly 140,000 previously uninsured people now have coverage. We’re very proud of Kevin and sad to see him go, but know that the team in place will continue working hard to provide quality, affordable health care coverage to even more Connecticut residents.”

Counihan said he did not seek out the job, but was recruited.

Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman made the announcement during a noon news conference on Tuesday at the state's health insurance exchange offices on Trumbull Street.

“Kevin and his team have done a tremendous job ensuring Connecticut residents have access to high-quality healthcare. We are proud of what we’ve accomplished here—we’re a national leader with more than 280,000 people enrolled in affordable health insurance,” Wyman, Chair of the Access Health CT Board, said in a statement. “Kevin’s move to Washington is a loss for the state, but I know he’ll bring his strong commitment and considerable skill to his new role, and that is good for the nation. The Access Health Board wishes Kevin all the best in his new role, and we thank the dedicated team at Access Health CT for their continued focus on bringing affordable healthcare to Connecticut residents.”

Wyman said there will be a national search for Counihan's replacement.

<![CDATA[Decision 2014: The Democrats Fight Back]]> Sun, 24 Aug 2014 10:15:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/decision+2014+episode+7.jpg

On this week’s episode of NBC Connecticut's "Decision 2014," the Democrats fight back following the GOP primary election.

Vice President Joe Biden visited Goodwin College in East Hartford and held a roundtable luncheon with elected officials, business and union leaders and students. Biden discussed job training programs and, what he considers, the re-emergence of the middle class in America.

NBC Connecticut’s George Colli was the television pool reporter for the event and he takes us behind the scenes.

Also, Gov. Dan Malloy goes one-on-one with George Colli. The governor responds to several of his opponents' attacks against him and lays out an optimistic view of his first term and reelection chances.

Finally, the chairman of the Independent Party of Connecticut talks with Gerry Brooks about how he sees his party playing a role in this year’s election. The Independent Party endorsed Tom Foley to be their candidate for governor. Foley will join Malloy by having his name listed twice on the November ballot.

"Decision 2014" airs every Sunday from now until Election Day at 10 a.m. on NBC Connecticut.

Episode 7: The Democrats Fight Back

  • WATCH: Go behind the scenes of Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Goodwin College in East Hartford
  • WATCH: Governor Dan Malloy goes one-on-one with George Colli
  • WATCH: Chairman of the Independent Party of Connecticut tells Gerry Brooks why they chose Tom Foley to be its candidate

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
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