They raised the Costa Concordia on Tuesday. The 114,000-ton, 900-foot-long cruise ship had been on its side off the coast of Italy since January 2012, wrecked by a blundering captain who let the ship go off course and into submerged rocks. His name was not Tom Foley, but the similarities are striking.
The Republican gubernatorial hopeful and former ambassador to Ireland will need a crew as skillful as the one that lifted the Concordia to rescue his sinking exploratory campaign from his clumsy attack on the dodgy practices of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration.
Foley unleashed his claims against Malloy last Sunday in an interview with Dennis House on WFSB's Sunday public affairs program, "Face the State." It was a halting, bewildering performance that the Greenwich businessman began with disclaimers about his thin sources, standards of proof and a nutty notion that perceptions matter as much as facts. If two people whisper the same thing in Foley's ear, he seemed to say, that makes it true.
Foley's political missile featured four warheads of accusations. He believes there was an undisclosed financial and business connection between Malloy and Daniel Esty, before Malloy was elected governor in 2010 and he appointed Esty as the commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Foley also criticized Malloy for using the University of Connecticut Foundation to finance the governor's trip to the exclusive annual gabfest in Davos, Switzerland.
Foley pointed out that Connecticut's health care exchange awarded a sweet public relations contract to Malloy confidant and former aide Roy Occhiogrosso's business. Foley also claimed that Malloy's people are muscling municipalities to use a favored law firm for their bond work.
Two of these complaints are true. The UConn Foundation footed the bill for Malloy's ego-stroking gambit to Switzerland, a dubious use of donated funds. Global Strategies, the firm where Occhiogrosso works, did get a contract with the agency running the new health insurance exchange that launches on Oct. 1. It was a contract awarded under competitive bidding rules. Foley is right to raise questions because the public knows the snagging of lucrative state contracts often includes an element of stinking political influence.
Foley has not substantiated the other two charges with any documents or corroborating evidence from someone willing to step forward and talk facts. Last year, the Oxford English Dictionary proclaimed "omnishambles" the word of the year. Those Brits must have known Foley would be running for governor again.
What a mess he's made in less than two weeks since he announced his exploratory campaign. Foley attended one of the nation's elite prep schools as a teenager. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Business School. He's made a fortune in business. He lost the 2010 gubernatorial race to Malloy by a whisker. Success in other endeavors does not mean someone will be a skillful politician.
Look at Malloy. He has won many elections. On paper, he ought to be an accomplished, admired governor of a safe Democratic state. Instead, he's been an epic failure. Last week, a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis reported what everyone but Malloy and the most devoted members of his claque refuse to acknowledge. The state's economy is a mess. Malloy's own omnishambles. That's what Foley should have talked about.
In 2012, the Hartford and New London metropolitan areas shrank. New Haven grew not at all and Fairfield grew by as much as Hartford contracted. State residents, especially the Republican ones who will decide their party's nomination, want to know what Foley's going to do about this. They'd like him to emphasize his vision to restore the conditions for opportunity and the jobs that accompany it to flourish in the state.
The people of Connecticut live Malloy's failures every day as he lards hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on those who know how to play crony capitalism. Foley ought to have been able to make the case of what's gone wrong and how he'd right it. Instead, he's veered onto the shoals.
CBS News reported that in raising the Concordia, "The trick has been to roll it over, without having it fall to bits." The helpless hulk is headed for demolition. The same course Foley set.