Foley Right To Challenge Legislators' Ethics

Republican governor hopeful Tom Foley might be naïve. His proposal to raise ethical standards at the state Capitol is unrealistic.

But we suspect he's right that pointing out the gamy nexus among elected officials, lobbyists and state contractors resonates with the public.

Mr. Foley, who lost the governorship to Democrat Dannel P. Malloy by less than 1 percent in 2010 and says he is going to try again next year, came to the Capitol last week in the role of skunk at the garden party.

He didn't win any popularity contests with the political class by characterizing the statehouse in testimony before the Government Administration and Elections Committee Monday as sleazy and disgusting and a bubble in which corruption is tolerated.

Mr. Foley would toughen up conflict-of-interest standards. Through state Sen. Joe Markley of Southington, he introduced a bill that states "no public official, state employee or member of the immediate family of a public official or state employee shall receive $1,000 or more during a calendar year" from major state contractors or a business that employs lobbyists, among others.

As written, the bill is far too broad. It could disqualify many thousands of Connecticut residents from running for public office, according to some estimates. It could, moreover, end the service of officials such as House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz of Berlin, who works for a union, and House Minority Leader Larry Cafero of Norwalk, who works for a law firm with a lobbying practice and whose wife works for a company that employs a lobbyist.

Mr. Foley looks a little foolish for not scoping out his bill's implications before having it introduced. And he probably shouldn't have gone into the hearing with all guns blazing.

But he deserves the public's thanks for emphasizing the need for tougher conflict-of-interest standards for state officials.

If state government weren't promising territory for unearthing conflicts, a federal grand jury wouldn't be sniffing along the same paths.

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