<![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, 23 Apr 2014 20:26:42 -0400 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 20:26:42 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Hillary Clinton to Speak at UConn Forum Tomorrow]]> Tue, 22 Apr 2014 11:23:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/%5BNECN%5D031813_hillary_4pm-E_NECN1500kMP4_640x360_2349611753.jpg

Hillary Rodham Clinton is visiting UConn tomorrow to speak at a forum designed to bring scholars and leaders to campus.

Clinton is scheduled to speak at the Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum at the university's Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The event will be open to UConn students, faculty and staff from the Storrs and regional campuses. No tickets will be available to the general public.

The former U.S. secretary of state is often mentioned as a possible candidate for president, but said she has not decided whether she will make another run for the White House in 2016. Clinton is also a former U.S. senator for New York.

In other news, the 1973 Yale Law School graduate is a grandmother to be. Chelsea Clinton announced last week that she is expecting her first child later this year.

UConn says this will be Hillary Rodham Clinton's first visit to the university.

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<![CDATA[Congressional Delegation Calls on Leadership to Extend Unemployment Benefits]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:23:34 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/unemployment6.jpg

More than 48,000  people in Connecticut don't have unemployment insurance benefits and the state's Congressional delegation will be at the Capitol in Hartford today to try to call attention to the issue.

The local delegation is calling on the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives to vote on a White House-backed bill to extend federal unemployment insurance for millions of families.

House Speaker John Boehner has called the bill "unworkable," according to NBCNews.com, and said it fails to include job-creation measures.

The U.S. Senate passed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act this week.

U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Congressmen John Larson (D-Conn.) and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) will attend to discuss the impact the delay in extending federal unemployment benefits has on Connecticut families.

In Connecticut, more  than 48,000 long-term unemployed individuals have seen their benefits expire and are currently without unemployment insurance benefits.

The news conference begins at 1:30 p.m. in Room 1C of the Legislative Office Building  at    
300 Capitol Avenue in Hartford.

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<![CDATA[Lawmakers Push to Stop Advertising of E-Cigarettes to Youth]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:36:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Liquid+Nicotine.jpg

Some local Congress members want to keep children from smoking electronic cigarettes and they held a news conference on Monday about their efforts.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty introduced legislation to prevent marketing e-cigarettes to children and were at the Legislative Office Building on Monday with anti-tobacco activists.

“Having actively worked on smoking prevention and cessation throughout my career and in my children’s classrooms, I am very concerned about the widespread marketing of e-cigarettes to America’s youth,” Esty said in a statement. “E-cigarette manufacturers are shamelessly using flavors like bubblegum and promoting cartoon characters in their advertisements to addict our kids. And social media makes the widespread sharing of these ads just that much easier. I’m proud to join Senator Blumenthal in leading efforts to responsibly regulate e-cigarettes. We’ve made too much progress reducing tobacco use to roll back the clock.”

“Tobacco companies advertising e-cigarettes – with flavors like bubblegum and strawberry – are clearly targeting young people with the intent of creating a new generation of smokers, and those that argue otherwise are being callously disingenuous,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “This legislation would prevent tobacco companies from advertising to young people, helping to ensure they are not lured down a path of nicotine addiction and premature death. I’m proud to join Senator Boxer in this effort to keep young people tobacco free.”

A news release from Esty’s office cites the Centers for Disease Control and says 8 million middle and high school students nationwide have tried e-cigarettes and more than 75 percent of them have also smoked traditional cigarettes.

“Nicotine, a highly addictive drug, has serious impacts on the brain development of children and adolescents. Advertisements for e-cigarettes that highlight flavors like bubblegum or gummy bears and promote cartoon characters are shameless efforts to addict our kids. We’ve made too much progress reducing tobacco use to roll back the clock. This bill is an important first step, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get it passed.” Esty said in a statement.

The news conference was held during National Public Health Week.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Gov. Malloy to Run for 2nd Term]]> Sat, 29 Mar 2014 06:56:42 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/malloy2.jpg

Gov. Dannel Malloy said today that he and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman will run for a second term.

He made the announcement this morning at the Legislative Office Building.

Lee Whitnum, a former U.S. Senate and House candidate known for strongly criticizing U.S. ties with Israel, announced earlier this month that she plans to run for the seat.

A statewide Quinnipiac University poll done earlier this month shows Greenwich businessman Tom Foley has a large lead over his fellow GOP contenders.

He was the Republicans' 2010 gubernatorial candidate and Malloy narrowly defeated him.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a Republican, has announced he will run for governor.

State Senator John McKinney is another Republican candidate for governor and State Senator Toni Boucher is exploring a run for the top job.

Martha Dean, an attorney who helped gun rights advocates challenge the constitutionality of Connecticut's recent gun control law, also plans to run for governor.

This year's state Republican convention will be held from May 16 to 17.

 

 

 



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[CA State Senator Arrested]]> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 19:15:19 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/03-26-2014-leland-yee-leaves-court.jpg

California state Sen. Leland Yee is facing a slew of corruption charges as part of a massive FBI sting operation that surfaced allegations of firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire and drug distribution.

A federal complaint unsealed Wednesday accuses the San Francisco Democrat of engaging in a conspiracy to traffic firearms and accepting campaign donations in exchange for official acts. In one instance, Yee, who has been a strong advocate for gun control during his decade in the state Legislature, warning that such business dealings are "not for the faint of heart," according to the complaint.

He was charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license, and to illegally import firearms as well as a scheme to defraud citizens of honest services.

Yee and Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, leader of the Chee Kung Tong Free Masons in San Francisco, were among 26 defendants charged in the federal criminal complaint Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California said. 

The federal criminal complaint, filed on March 24, charges the defendants with firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire, drug distribution, trafficking in contraband cigarettes and honest services fraud, the FBI announced. According to the affidavit

If convicted on all charges, Yee could face more than 100 years in prison. His bail was set at $500,000, unsecured, with the provision that he not leave the state. He was released from custody late Wednesday afternoon.

Yee is due back in court on Monday.

Chow's charges include money laundering and conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes.

One of the places the FBI searched Wednesday was at the San Francisco Chinatown office of the Chee Kung Tong at 36 Spofford Street, where Chow, a notorious former Chinatown gangster, conducts business. Chow was arrested during the raid.

Firefighters were seen going inside with a circular saw and later said they had cracked a safe.

According to the complaint, a pattern of alleged racketeering activity emerged as FBI undercover agents infiltrated the CKT through introductions made by Chow and others.

Over the course of the undercover agent's relationship with Chow and other defendants, the complaint shows, the undercover agent informed the group that he was interested in generating income from illegal schemes. He was then inducted into CKT as a "consultant," and allegedly introduced to a number of the defendants in order to launder money, traffic narcotics, firearms and purpotedly stolen cigarettes and liquor and engage in murder-for-hire schemes over the course of multiple undercover operations.

The FBI also arrested Keith Jackson, a well-known political consultant who owns San Francisco-based political consulting firm Jackson Consultancy.

Leland Yee leaves the federal building in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

State Senator Yee leaves the federal building in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

Chow also introduced Jackson -- a "consultant" to the CKT -- to the undercover agent. Jackson and his son Brandon Jackson allegedly responded to the undercover agent's request for weapons, selling him various types of firearms and two ballistic vests.

Jackson, Brandon Jackson and another defendant allegedly conspired on a murder for hire scheme at the undercover agent's request.

The complaint also says that Jackson is a close associate of Lee and has been involved in raising campaign funds for him from at least through May 2011 to the present.

Yee, who has served in the state Legislature for more than a decade, was elected to the State Senate in November 2006 and represents District 8, which includes San Francisco and San Mateo County. The former San Francisco supervisor and 2011 mayoral candidate is currently running for secretary of state.

The complaint alleges that starting in 2012 and continuing until now, Yee and Keith Jackson allegedly raised money and campaign funds for Yee's secretary of state campaign by soliciting donations from undercover FBI agents in exchange for multiple official acts.

The compaint also alleges that Yee and Jackson were involved in a conspiracy to traffic firearms.

The complaint details how, starting in May 2011 and continuing for several months, Jackson allegedly asked an undercover FBI agent to make contributions to Yee's San Francisco mayoral campaign. The agent declined to make contributions but introduced Jackson and Yee to a business associate, who was another undercover agent. When Jackson and Yee asked the agent for campaign contributions, it resulted in at least one personal $5,000 donation.

The complaint claims that Yee tried to get rid of a $70,000 debt after losing the November 2011 election by making a call to the California Department of Public Health in support of a contract with the second undercover agent's purported client and writing an official letter of support in exchange for a $10,000 campaign donation.

Yee allegedly made the call on Oct. 18, 2012, and provided the letter around Jan. 13, 2013. Jackson accepted the $10,000 on Nov. 19, 2012.

Yee is known for his efforts to strengthen open records, government transparency and whistleblower protection laws.On his website, Yee promises that if elected as secretary of state, he will be "committed to fair elections and expanding access to our democracy."

He was honored last week by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional journalists for his efforts to uphold the California Public Records Act.

Chow, who ran a Chinese criminal organization and was convicted of gun charges, was released in 2003 after spending 11 years in prison. He has since been praised for his involvement in the community and for trying to turn his life around.

On what appears to be Raymond Chow's Facebook page, Chow displayed a picture of a certificate of honor presented to him by Lee that honored him "for his tenacity and willingness to give back to the community and working 'in the trenches' as a change agent."

Chow also appears to have been tweeting from the Twitter handle @RaymondChow10, using hashtags that included "sunoftheunderworld," "mafia." and "chinatown." His last tweet was on Nov. 17, which shows him at his sister's birthday, enjoying a glass of red wine.

Chow has also posted pictures of him with other notable public figures and local business owners, including former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and a picture of another certificate of recognition from state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

Yee's arrest shocked the Chinese-American community, many of whom view him as an important figure in San Francisco politics.

Officers from the California Highway Patrol and Sergeant at Arms were stationed outside Yee's state Capitol office in Sacramento Wednesday morning, where the FBI agents conducted a raid, taking computers and other documents, according to KCRA-TV.

The FBI confirmed to KCRA-TV that it had raided homes and businesses in the Bay Area and Sacramento Wednesday morning, issuing multiple search warrants and making arrests.

State Senator Yee was arrested Wednesday morning on public corruption charges. (Photo: Diane Dwyer)

Yee’s press secretary, Dan Lieberman, declined to comment when contacted by NBC Bay Area. An official statement would be released sometime Wednesday afternoon, he said.

Yee's arrest would make him the third Democratic state senator fighting charges this year.

His arrest comes just one month after prosecutors announced federal bribery and corruption charges filed against state Sen. Ron Calderon.

Prosecutors say the Los Angeles-area Democrat accepted about $100,000 in cash bribes and other perks in exchange for his supporting or opposing bills. Calderon has pleaded not guilty.

Earlier in the year, Democratic Sen. Rod Wright was found guilty of multiple charges that stemmed from accusations he did not actually live in the Southern California district he represents. Wright is appealing the conviction.

Both Wright and Calderon have taken a leave of absence from the state Senate.

Democrat Derek Cressman, who is one of several candidates also running for secretary of state, called Yee's arrest a "wake-up call."

"We are clearly beyond the point of looking at one bad apple and instead looking at a corrupt institution in the California senate," Cressman said in a statement. "The constant begging for campaign cash clearly has a corrosive effect on a person's soul and the only solution is to get big money out of our politics once and for all."

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said that he was shocked and disappointed by the news.

"Leland Yee has been a part of public service for a long time, sorry to see that tainted by these allegations," Lee said.

A man was charged last year for threatening Yee over legislation that he proposed to limit rapid reloading of assault weapons.

Yee is the first Chinese American ever elected to the California State Senate. He emigrated to San Francisco from China at age 3. Yee graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and receieved a master's degree from San Francisco State University. Yee and his wife Maxine have four children.




Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[House Minority Leader Cafero Announces Retirement]]> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 12:41:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Larry+cafero+retirement+1200.jpg

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr. (R-Norwalk) has decided not to seek re-election in the fall and announced today that he  retire at the end of the term.

Cafero made the announcement on the floor or the House on Wednesday afternoon and said the state Legislature has made him a better person.

There was a bipartisan show of support and he received a standing ovation. 

NORWALK, CT – Today issued the following statement in response to news that his fellow Norwalk legislator, Lawrence F. Cafero, Jr., does not plan to seek re-election this fall.

"It is with a great deal of sadness that I heard Larry Cafero won't seek re-election this fall. Larry is my friend and someone who I'm going to miss,” State Senator Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) said in a statement. “We maybe from different political parties, but that never stopped us from coming together on issues that were right for our state and important to Norwalk. He is someone who I respect and so do Norwalk's voters, who've returned him to office many times.”

Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman also released statements about Cafero’s decision.

“During his 22 years serving in the House of Representatives, Larry Cafero has consistently been one of the most passionate and energetic voices at the State Capitol,” Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said. “He has fought hard for his constituents year in and year out, and he’s done it with character and good humor.  I’m proud to have worked with him across the aisle on critical issues like job growth, improving Connecticut schools, and making our state a safer place to work and live.  Aside from being a colleague, he’s become a friend, and I wish him, his wife Barbara, and their children the very best.”

Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman called Cafero is an “institution” in the General Assembly. 

“His leadership, quick wit, and good heart will be greatly missed.  I was a State Representative when he was elected — from day one he has vigorously represented his district and been a strong advocate for his constituents.  For more than two decades, Representative Cafero has been generous of his time and expertise in encouraging Connecticut to be a better, stronger state,” Wyman said in a statement.
 

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<![CDATA[Large Crowd Gathers for Doctor-Assisted Suicide Bill Hearing]]> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 17:41:06 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Assisted+suicide+bill+Connecticut+.jpg

More than a hundred people signed up to testify at a public hearing in Hartford, Conn. on Monday as debate began on a controversial bill that would allow terminally ill patients to end their own lives.

The public health committee of the state legislature is hearing both sides of the debate as they decide on a bill that would give patients who are at least 18 years old the right to obtain lethal medication from doctors.

Advocates arrived at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford as early as 7 a.m., more than three hours before the hearing began.

Quinnipiac University conducted a poll earlier this month that found Connecticut voters support physician-assisted suicide, 61 percent to 32 percent.

Barry Williams, a former lobbyist from Glastonbury, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and said he could see himself making this decision down the line.

"It's the last choice that people have in their lives to make," he said.

A 1969 Connecticut law states that a person who ‘‘intentionally causes or aids another person, other than by force, duress or deception, to commit suicide’’ is guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

Last year, two doctors and end-of-life advocates sued to seek a clarification of the state’s decades-old ban on assisted suicide, citing concerns about Connecticut doctors being prosecuted for giving medications to their dying patients.

A judge ultimately dismissed the suit, saying it was a matter for the legislature to decide.

State Attorney General George Jepsen was among those who testified in support of the measure.

"It's an idea that's time has come," Jepsen said at the hearing.

Many people say this proposed legislation is dangerous and promotes under-treating of patients.

Michael Culhane of Connecticut Public Affairs said the "aid in dying" bill would violate a major tenant of the Catholic Church – "that life is sacred from conception to natural death."


Earlier this month, the Archdiocese of Hartford called upon parishioners to ask lawmakers to vote against the bill.

“As we Bishops have pointed out, ‘physician-assisted suicide does not promote compassion because its focus is not on eliminating suffering, but on eliminating the patient…,” a letter from Archbishop Leonard Blair says. 

Opposition at the hearing was not limited to religious grounds.

"The medical society, the various hospice associations in Connecticut, they all say it's not necessary and they are the ones who take care of us at the end of our lives," said Peter Wolfgang of the Family Institute of Connecticut Action.

But Jepsen emphasized that the bill wouldn't compel patients to decide in favor of doctor-assisted suicide.

"Choice means choice," he said.

Gov. Dannel Malloy said earlier he supports people having a document that spells out their final wishes, but he's "a little uneasy" when it comes to enacting state policy that calls for "proactive actions to end life.

The hearing began at 10:30 a.m. in Room 1D of the Legislative Office Building. Lawmakers had expected a big crowd and set up Room 2D as an overflow room.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
NECN]]> <![CDATA[Scott Brown Readies N.H. Senate Run]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 18:15:09 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP19064830984.jpg

Former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts officially announced Friday he has formed an exploratory committee for a bid in New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race this year.

However, the Republican did not officially say he will run against the state's Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, NECN reported.

Brown blasted Obamacare Friday, and also talked about what his party needs to be doing to move forward.

Brown said he is looking forward to meeting people in New Hampshire as he starts traveling around the state starting Saturday.

"Obviously I have to do some listening and learning and find out from everybody what their concerns are and make sure I have a full understanding of the challenges, and then I'll make a further decision down the road," Brown told reporters after the speech.

There are already other Republicans in the U.S. Senate race, but analysts agree that Brown would immediately be the frontrunner if he officially ran against Shaheen.

Democrats in the Granite State have been preparing for months now for Brown's announcement.

Earlier Friday, Fox News cut its ties with Brown when he notified them of his intentions.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Feds: DC Mayor Got Illegal Funds]]> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 15:45:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/20140310+Jeffrey+Thompson.jpg

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray knew that his 2010 campaign received money donated illegally by a businessman with multimillion-dollar city contracts, and even asked personally for the funds, federal prosecutors alleged in court Monday.

Businessman Jeffrey Thompson, 58, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to violate D.C. and federal campaign finance laws by funneling more than $3.3 million in unreported donations to at least 28 local and national candidates and their campaigns beginning in 2006.

The candidates who benefitted from the illegal donations are not named in the court filings. However, in court, prosecutors confirmed that Gray was the person called "Mayoral Candidate A" who met with Thompson to discuss the fundraising, presented Thompson with a $425,000 "one-page budget" -- and agreed to keep the fundraising secret by referring to Thompson with the code name "Uncle Earl."

Gray also asked Thompson to pay $40,000 for improvements to a friend's home, prosecutors said. In court, Thompson acknowledged giving $40,000 to a close friend of Gray and $10,000 to a relative of Gray.

In total, Thompson -- whose company had a contract worth $300 million a year with the city -- funneled $668,800 to "a political candidate for Mayor," the charging documents say. Those documents also claim that the unreported donation was made "in coordination with" the candidate.

Gray refuted the claims in an interview and said he was innocent. “I maintain these are lies,” Gray told News4’s Tom Sherwood Monday afternoon. “These are absolute lies.”

Gray attended a mayoral forum Monday evening, just hours after the allegations surfaced. His supporters were in full force, chanting, 'Four more years!' Gray again told News4 the allegations are untrue. 

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said in a press conference late Monday that more charges may be forthcoming as Thompson continues to help investigators. Many other candidates were implicated in Thompson's plea agreement, including a candidate for mayor in 2006, a candidate for D.C. Council At Large in 2008 and a candidate for Ward 4 council in 2007.

Also connected: candidates for Congress and a candidate for president in 2008, prosecutors said in court filings. The presidential candidate is believed to be Hillary Clinton, who has said she did not know of the fundraising and has cooperated with the investigation.

“Election after election, Jeff Thompson huddled behind closed doors with corrupt candidates, political operatives, and businessmen, devising schemes to funnel millions of dollars of corporate money into local and federal elections,” Machen said. “Today's guilty plea pulls back the curtain on years of widespread corruption. With Mr. Thompson's cooperation, we have the opportunity to hold many wrongdoers accountable and to usher in a new era of honesty, integrity, and transparency in D.C. politics.”

Gray is running for re-election campaign in D.C.'s April 1 Democratic primary for mayor; early voting starts next week. 

THE CASE AGAINST THOMPSON

Thompson was charged with two felony counts of conspiracy in a criminal information filed Monday morning. He appeared in court Monday afternoon, where a judge said he faces two years in prison. If he complies fully with the terms of the plea deal, one count carrying an 18-month sentence could be dropped and he could serve a total of six months on the second count.

The sentence also could be reduced to home confinement.

Court documents allege Thompson solicited relatives, friends, employees and others to make donations to candidates and assured them he would reimburse them for these "conduit contributions" -- which he did with personal money and money from his company. On his company's books, the payments were listed as "advances" and "bonuses," prosecutors said.

Thompson's company also paid for in-kind gifts to candidates, which prosecutors called "shadow campaigns" in a detailed statement of the case against him. That included $653,000 in money for "Mayoral Campaign A" and $608,750 to the candidate for president.

The document also allege "Candidate A" met with Thompson in June 2010, when the candidate promised to use the code name, "Uncle Earl."

Gray told News4 he agreed to that because Thompson was worried then Mayor Adrian Fenty would find out Thompson was supporting Gray and interfere with Thompson's companies' contracts with the city.

“Initially he said no, that he wouldn’t raise money for the campaign,” Gray said. “He was fearful of what would happen to him because of the Fenty administration.”

“With respect to him raising money for my campaign, I thought that was being done in a perfectly legitimate fashion,” Gray said. “I’ve said that from day one and I maintain that, to my knowledge anyway, it was a perfectly legitimate experience.”

THREE-YEAR INVESTIGATION LED TO THOMPSON

A big player in both local and federal politics, Thompson owned multiple million-dollar companies with large contracts from the city. That included the most lucrative contract the city gives out, worth more than $300 million each year for Thompson's company D.C. Chartered Health Plan, to provide health care services to the city's poorest residents.

Thompson stepped down from D.C. Chartered Health Plan in April 2012, after FBI and IRS agents raided his home and office. He then left his accounting firm, Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, in July 2012.

The investigation that led to his guilty pleas began in spring 2011, after Gray was elected. U.S. Attorney Machen began looking into whether Gray or his campaign aides secretly gave cash and checks to Sulaimon Brown, a minor candidate for mayor, in return for Brown's aggressive attacks on then-Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Brown contended the campaign did pay him and also rewarded him with a $110,000-a-year city job, from which he was later fired for inappropriate conduct.

Since those allegations caught Machen's attention, nine people with ties either to Thompson or to Gray's 2010 campaign -- including Thompson himself -- have pleaded guilty to various charges over the course of the investigation.

Two Gray campaign supporters, Howard Brooks and Thomas Gore, pleaded guilty to covering up the payments to Brown.

In July 2012, Jeanne Clark Harris, a long-time supporter of Gray and business partner of Thompson, pleaded guilty to funneling more than $650,000 from Thompson to a shadow campaign for Gray. "The 2010 mayoral election was corrupted by a massive infusion of cash that was illegally concealed from the voters in the District," Machen said at that time.

Not long after, three business associates of Thompson's -- Troy White, Lee Calhoun and Stanley L. Straughter -- pleaded guilty to helping Thompson illegally fund national campaigns, including Clinton's.

Last August, Vernon Hawkins, a longtime associate of both Thompson and Gray, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about the shadow campaign. During Hawkins' plea hearing, Gray's name was mentioned for the first time as the beneficiary of the shadow campaign.

In addition, former D.C. Councilmember Michael A. Brown has admitted to taking money from Thompson. Brown has admitted to taking about $120,000 in secret, illegal campaign donations in 2007 and 2008 in conjunction with Harris and a businessman only identified as "Co-Conspirator 1." Media reports have identified "Co-Conspirator 1" as Thompson.

Though the investigation has continued for three years, Gray remains a front-runner in the race for mayor. A poll for NBC4, WAMU, the Washington Informer and Marist released in February shows Gray leading the race.

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<![CDATA[Back to Business after Presidential Lunch]]> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 08:08:57 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/President+Obama+at+Cafe+Beaureguard+Cafe+1200.jpg

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama had the head table of all head tables at Cafe Beauregard in New Britain.  With just 45 minutes notice, he and his entourage lunched at the small restaurant.

On Thursday, Cafe Beauregard let anybody in.

"Little busier than usual!" said Rob Chiovoloni, who opened Cafe Beauregard with his wife in December.  Their business model relies on people making the walk from nearby government and office buildings.

"With the really severe winter, that's eaten into that. So this is coming at the right time. We've worked out most of the kinks in the operation," Chiovoloni said.

The restaurant is in a corner spot that's been a revolving door for eateries. Passersby say it's different from its predecessors.

"It is rather costly," said Linda Freeman.

But regulars said they're there because Cafe Beauregard is different from its predecessors. Some customers said they weren't aware of who had come in for lunch on Wednesday until they came in on Thursday.

"I didn't even know Obama was at this coffee shop," said Edward Haugabook. "But now that I do, I'll make sure I'll be there from now on. And there's some good coffee."

If President Obama does return, he'll find the chair he used high above the customer service area, ready for him.

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<![CDATA[Voters Call Gov. Malloy's Tax Refund a Gimmick: Poll]]> Thu, 06 Mar 2014 08:42:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/%5BNECN%5D121512_malloy_5PM-E_NECN1500kMP4_640x360_2316664201.jpg

In January, Gov. Dannel Malloy's proposed using the state’s $155 million surplus to mail tax refund checks of up to $110 per household.

A Quinnipiac University poll released this morning found that voters, 63 percent to 23 percent, consider the plan a political gimmick, not good public policy.

Republicans called the idea a gimmick, 83 percent to 9 percent, while independent voters, 71 - 19 percent, agreed.

Democrats are divided, with 41 percent calling it a gimmick and 39 percent say it's good public policy.

When faced with open-ended questions about, 36 percent of voters said the economy and jobs should be the top priority for Malloy and the State Legislature, with 14 percent saying taxes, 11 percent for education and 8 percent saying budget/government spending.

The poll also asked about how the state has handled snowstorms.

Voters approved, 86 percent to 10 percent, of the way Malloy is handling this winter's snowstorms.
However, he received failing grades on other issues, including handling of the economy and jobs, taxes, education and the budget.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THE POLL

"Gov. Dannel Malloy gets great marks for his handling of the snowstorms, but low marks for voter priorities, the economy and jobs, taxes, education and the budget," Schwartz said.
 

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<![CDATA[Connecticut Voters Back Assisted Suicide Bill Almost 2-1 ]]> Thu, 06 Mar 2014 08:12:39 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/hospital-generic-loma-linda.JPG

Connecticut voters support allowing doctors to legally prescribe lethal drugs to help terminally ill patients end their own lives, a Quinnipiac University poll released today finds.

"Public support for allowing assisted dying in Connecticut is a very personal issue, crossing partisan, gender and age lines," Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in a statement.

The poll found support to be 61 percent to 32 percent.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THE POLL

Quinnipiac also found voters to be closely divided on whether they would ask a doctor to help them take their own life. Thirty-nine percent said no in all cases, while 33 percent said they would if they were terminally ill and another 12 percent would if they were terminally ill and in pain.

On another emotional issue, Connecticut voters favor the death penalty 57 percent to 34 percent when asked a simple "favor or oppose" question.

However, voters are divided 47 percent to 47 percent on whether they approve or disapprove of a 2012 law that replaces the death penalty with life in prison with no chance of parole.

Women approve the new law 50 to 43 percent, while men disapprove 52 - 43 percent.

"Support for the death penalty has dropped 10 points in three years, from a high of 67 percent to a low of 57 percent. Perhaps this is a case of opinion following policy, as Connecticut abolished the death penalty in 2012," Schwartz said. "As we've seen in our past polls on the death penalty, when voters are given the choice of the death penalty or life in prison with no chance of parole, support for the death penalty drops. When asked the question this way, voters are evenly divided."

 

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<![CDATA[Local Dairy Farmer Gets Presidential Recognition]]> Thu, 06 Mar 2014 00:36:21 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Wade%27s+diary+picture.jpg

President Barack Obama was in Connecticut today to push his proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 and gave a shout-out to a local business owner.

Obama gave special recognition to Doug Wade, the president of family-owned Wade's Dairy in Bridgeport, a dairy that was started up in 1893 and now has 48 employees.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience I've never been through before," Wade said, of the president's remarks.

Wade met with U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez last week when the official was in Connecticut.

"One of the secrets to their success is that they treat employees like part of the family, so Doug pays his own workers fairly," Obama said of Wade's Dairy.

But it doesn't end there.

Wade writes editorials, talks to fellow business leaders and meets with elected officials to make the case for a higher minimum wage, Obama said. 

"Keep in mind that Doug spent most of his life as a registered Republican. This is not about politics. This is about common sense. It's about business sense," Obama said. 

Wade still has his original paystub from the 1970s, when he was making minimum wage, according to the president, and that money went 25 percent further than it does today.

"It looks like the paycheck that I got when I was working at Baskin-Robbins," Obama said. 

Wade, his family and his business reflect the message that believing hard working and coming together to raise the bar for everyone, Obama said.

"Businesses have to understand that this is good for business," Wade explained. "The dollars that the working poor put into the economy will be spent immediately."

Suzann Soto, credit and collections manager at Wade's Dairy, said she's been with the dairy for six years and plans to stick around.

"I'm offered flexibility here," she said. "I'm treated like family and I'm very happy here, so I don't see myself going anywhere."

She said Wade's Dairy is "there for you" and makes sure the employees get everything they need, adding that the pay and flexibility has helped her as a single mother.

"We're very proud we can afford to pay people what we pay them, and I just think it keeps everybody happy," said Doug Wade's son, Ryan. "I'm a big believer in 'you get what you pay for,' and we definitely get it back from our employees."

Before the speech, Obama and the governors dined at Cafe Beauregard in New Britain, a local establishment that pays employees more than minimum wage.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[President Visits CCSU]]> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 16:14:36 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/210*120/obama+af1_1.jpg Images from President Barack Obama's visit to CCSU on Wednesday, March 5, 2013

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[New London Workers to Get $10.10 Minimum Wage]]> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 12:55:22 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/new+london+city+hall+722.jpg

The mayor of New London plans to sign an ordinance into law today to make minimum wage for municipal employees and contractors $10.10.

“I will be proud to sign this ordinance into law,” Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said. “I hope other municipalities and employers will follow New London’s example, because no one working full time should be forced to live in poverty.”

During the State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama announced an executive order for federal contractors to pay employees at least $10.10 an hour. He also urged mayors, governors and state legislators to raise wages as well and the mayor said he was inspired by that call.

“President Obama issued a call to action,” Finizio said. “I am proud that today New London becomes the first city in our state to answer that call.”

Mayor Finizio will sign the ordinance at 1 p.m. in the mayor’s office and said this is the first ordinance in the state to enact the $10.10 wage.

He is signing it the day before the president comes to Connecticut to push his $10.10 minimum wage plan.

It also comes on the same day Quinnipiac University released a poll saying Connecticut voters support raising the state's minimum wage.

Of those who participated in the poll, 42 percent want to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

New London’s City Council passed the ordinance on Monday night with a vote of 6 to 1 vote.

“Some of the hardest working people in America work at low-paying jobs, and they deserve the dignity of a fair wage,” Council President Wade Hyslop said in a statement.
 

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<![CDATA[Surprises, Runoffs Likely in Texas Primary]]> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 13:08:07 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Vote+Generic+Vote+Tuesday+Voting+Sign.jpg

Gov. Rick Perry isn't on the ballot, but a new member of the Bush dynasty is. Wendy Davis can clinch a feat no woman has achieved in Texas since Ann Richards. Heavyweight Republicans are trying to survive, and a new voter ID law gets a major test.

Throw in a March blast of winter weather that could dampen turnout, and Texas' primary elections Tuesday figure to be anything but ordinary.

The results will begin the biggest reshuffling of state power in a decade. Although most of the competitive primary races are on the Republican side, Davis' bid for governor headlines a roster of underdog Democrats girding instead for the Nov. 4.

That's the only day that matters to Davis and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott in the year's marquee showdown. Neither has a competitive primary, leaving Davis poised to become the first female gubernatorial nominee in Texas since Richards in 1994, and Abbott the first new GOP nominee after 14 years of Perry.

But a frigid forecast could leave voters with a dangerous -- or at least dreary -- drive to the polls. Meteorologist say freezing rain overnight Tuesday could sock Central Texas, the Houston area should be wary of elevated roads and a biting cold will be felt most everywhere.

"It doesn't take much when you're not used to winter weather," National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis Cavanaugh said.

Unlike Davis and Abbott, few other Texas candidates have the luxury of uneventful primaries.

The conservative star power of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has GOP candidates -- from local races to statewide offices -- jostling farther right and wooing voters with vows to emulate Cruz's no-compromise style. Even U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, two of the state's most powerful Republicans, have spent money campaigning against longshot challengers who say the incumbents have grown moderate in Washington.

But changes are far more likely in Austin. Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who lost to Cruz for the Senate seat in 2012, appears headed for his first runoff in 11 years on the job.

Millions of dollars have been spent between Dewhurst and three prominent challengers: state Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. The race has been the nastiest and most competitive this primary season, with the four all taking aim at President Barack Obama in television ads when they're not sniping at each other.

Primary runoffs are set for May 27. Settling GOP nominations for attorney general, comptroller and agriculture commissioner may also have to wait until then.

"When there's a fair amount of negative out there it makes the electorate very unpredictable," Patterson said Monday. "You couldn't accurately poll it -- or you could and that poll would be good for probably about four hours."

Noticeably absent this primary season has been Perry, who announced last summer he wouldn't seek re-election but continues mulling a 2016 run for president. The longest-serving governor in Texas history hasn't endorsed in major races or even heard his name mentioned much in campaigns by his fellow Republicans.

They've instead talked about the future of the Texas GOP, which is expected to include George P. Bush in a prominent role. The 37-year-old nephew of former President George W. Bush, and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is running for land commissioner.

"Help is on the way," Bush told supporters in El Paso on Monday. "After this primary season, we will go out there and fight the good fight."

For Democrats, who haven't won a statewide election in 20 years, the primary serves little but an early test of voter strength. A team of Obama campaign veterans launched the group Battleground Texas last year to give Democrats a chance and will watch turnout Tuesday to gauge their efforts so far.

Another race being closely watched Tuesday night involves U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, who at age 90 is the oldest member of Congress. Five GOP challengers are vying against him in an effort to deny him an 18th term.

Election administrators say the primary will be the first real test of the state's new voter ID law, which the Republican-controlled Legislature passed in 2011 but wasn't enacted until last summer amid legal challenges. No major problems or controversies flared when the law debuted in November during a low-turnout, off-year election.

Associated Press Writers Will Weissert in Austin and Juan Carlos Llorca in El Paso contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Poll: Voters Support Minimum Wage Increase]]> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 08:27:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP487342670089.jpg

A new Quinnipiac University poll finds that Connecticut voters support raising the state's minimum wage.

The poll comes the day before President Barack Obama comes to Connecticut to push his proposal to do just that.

The statewide poll released on Tuesday morning says support for an increase is 71 percent to 25 percent.

The Quinnipiac University poll offered voters four choices and 42 percent want to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

This is something Gov. Dannel Malloy has said he supports.

Days after the president's State of the Union Address, Malloy proposed raising Connecticut's minimum wage from $8.70 to $10.10 over the next three years.
 
The poll also found that 25 percent of voters want no increase, 20 percent want to increase minimum wage to more than $10.10 per hour and 8 percent want to increase minimum wage to something less than $10.10 per hour.
 
Voters (47 to 28 percent) said a minimum wage increase would help rather than hurt Connecticut's economy.

The support is also divided by party.

Republicans oppose the increase, 53 to 41 percent and said, 57 to 17 percent, that it would hurt the economy.

Among Democrats, 93 to 6 percent, support the increase, while independent voters support it 73 to 23 percent among.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Jerry Brown to Seek Fourth Term as California Governor]]> Thu, 27 Feb 2014 18:00:06 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/02-27-2014-jerry-brown.jpg

Gov. Jerry Brown made it official Thursday and announced plans to seek re-election.

Brown filed paperwork in Alameda County in search of a fourth term as California's governor. The 75-year-old Democrat tweeted a picture of the filing with a link to the announcement.

In a statement posted on a campaign web site, Brown said: "Four years ago, I asked that you support my candidacy for governor based on my bringing an 'insider’s knowledge but an outsider’s mind' to fix the budget breakdown and overcome Sacramento’s poisonous partisanship. Now, four years later, a $27 billion deficit has become a surplus and our credit rating and public confidence are rising. State budgets are not only balanced but they are on time and free of the rancor of past years."

The announcement, which comes ahead of the June primary, has long been expected as Brown has been fundraising for another run. He faces no opposition in the June 3 primary.

His Republican opponents for governor include former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, Southern California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, and Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount.

Brown has made progress easing the state's long-running budget problems, but California is facing a potentially devastating drought, aging freeways strangled with traffic and multibillion-dollar unfunded pension bills.



Photo Credit: @JerryBrownGov via Twitter]]>
<![CDATA[CA State Sen. Surrenders]]> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 09:40:13 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/california-senator-ron-calderon.jpg

Embattled California State Sen. Ron Calderon pleaded not guilty Monday after he was charged last week with a long list of federal bribery and corruption allegations.

The 56-year-old Montebello Democrat was traveling when the 24-count indictment was announced on Friday, and FBI officials said he agreed to surrender when he returned.

Prosecutors said Calderon accepted about $100,000 in cash bribes, chartered plane trips, high-end golf trips and gourmet meals. Calderon allegedly accepted these bribes in exchange for supporting or opposing legislation.

Wearing handcuffs and shackles, Calderon pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Monday and was set to be released upon releasing his passport and his wife signing a $50,000 surety bond. A trial date was set for April 22.

Tom Calderon, the state lawmaker’s brother, also faces charges in connection with the alleged scheme.

“The charges allege that the defendants traded influence for cash, and used kickbacks and other tactics to keep the system working in their favor,” said Bill Lewis, FBI assistant director in charge.

The indictment charges Ron Calderon with mail fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.

Ron Calderon is also accused of paying his daughter $39,000 for a bogus office job and paying around $30,000 for his son’s schooling.

Tom Calderon faces a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering and seven counts of money laundering for allegedly funneling bribe money through a non-profit group and consulting company he operates, prosecutors said.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges Friday afternoon.

Prosecutors said Ron Calderon accepted $28,000 in bribes from Michael D. Drobot, former owner of the now-closed Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, in exchange for supporting legislation that “delay or limit changes in California’s workers’ compensation laws relating to the amount of medical care providers are reimbursed for performing spinal surgeries.”

Drobot has agreed to plead guilty regarding a major health care fraud scheme in another case announced by the U.S. Attorney’s office Friday.

The charges against the hospital executive involve tens of millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks in exchange for a huge number of patient referrals who received spinal surgeries. The referrals led to more than $500 million in bills, which were fraudulently submitted and, in large part, paid by the California worker’s compensation system, prosecutors said.

Law-enforcement sources described the allegations as what could be one of the largest health care fraud cases in state history.

Drobot is suspected of having had a heavy hand for some 15 years in the alleged kick-back scheme, which exploited the spinal pass-through law, which Ron Calderon allegedly kept on the books after receiving bribes from Drobot, authorities said.

Drobot was not indicted in the Calderons’ corruption case, but admitted to paying bribes to the senator, the FBI said. He is scheduled to be arraigned March 31.

As part of a plea agreement, Drobot has agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation of the health care fraud scheme, as well as the government’s prosecution of the Calderon brothers.

In addition to accepting bribes from Drobot, Ron Calderon allegedly also accepted $60,000 from an undercover FBI agent posing as a film studio head, authorities said.

The lawmaker’s attorney, Mark Geragos, called the allegations in the affidavit “false and defamatory,” and Ron Calderon alleged that his office was raided in 2013 after he refused to “secretly record conversations with Senator [Darrell] Steinberg and Senator [Kevin] de Leon.”

If convicted, Ron Calderon faces up to 396 years in prison. Tom Calderon faces up to 160 years behind bars. 

NBC News' Andrew Blankstein and NBC4's Sean Fitz-Gerald contributed to this report.

 



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncell]]>
<![CDATA[ Special Election Planned for 61st Assembly Seat]]> Mon, 24 Feb 2014 15:29:05 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Elaine+OBrien+1200.jpg

A special election will be held on Friday, April 11 to fill the 61st Assembly seat.

State Rep. Elaine O’Brien died on Feb. 21 at the age of 58 after a long battle with cancer. She had held the seat, which represents East Granby, Suffield and a portion of Windsor, since 2010.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that a special election to fill a vacancy in the State House of Representatives serving the 61st Assembly District.  

State law requires the governor to issue a Writ of Special Election within 10 days of a vacancy in the General Assembly and a special election must be held 46 days after its issuance.  

A news release from the governor’s office said Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman is serving as acting governor and signed them today.



Photo Credit: Connecticut General Assembly.]]>