The willingness of potential Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley to publicly impugn Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Dan Esty's character and integrity, based on unsubstantiated gossip, is deeply offensive.
Dan Esty has been a friend and colleague for almost 20 years. He is a person of extraordinary intelligence and unquestioned integrity. He has served in the public sector, under a Republican president and a Democratic governor, with vision and commitment. There are few more respected figures in the field of energy and environmental policy than Dan, and the people of Connecticut are fortunate that he accepted the position of DEEP commissioner. Certainly, it was not a step that he needed to take to advance his professional career.
Mr. Foley's comments indicate that he made no effort to verify independently the validity of his charges that Dan gave then-candidate Dannel P. Malloy a no-show job in 2010 in return for an appointment. Further, Mr. Foley obviously thinks that he is under no obligation to do so. It is therefore Tom Foley's behavior and values, not Dan Esty's, that are now at issue — behavior and values that should stand as lessons for all candidates of what not to do.
I am a lifelong Republican but I am no longer a resident or a voter in Connecticut, so I will not have the opportunity to express my views about these circumstances in the Republican nominating process. I remain, however, deeply committed to the values of the Connecticut Republican Party, of which I was an active member for almost 50 years. I have been a registered Republican all of my political life, serving as an appointed state executive and an elected local official in Connecticut.
I was a member of the Connecticut Republican State Committee and an alternate delegate to two Republican national conventions from our state. I served as an assistant secretary of transportation in the administration of President George W. Bush. Throughout my career in politics and public service, I have always been proud of my identification as a Connecticut Republican.
Although I admire Gov. Malloy's leadership during the several crises that the state has faced during his time in office, I hold no brief for his record on fiscal and economic issues, and, were I still a Connecticut voter, as a Republican, I would expect to support his opponent in the next election. But, in light of these recent events, I could not imagine supporting Tom Foley for the Republican nomination. Governors are expected to demonstrate discretion, restraint and ethical leadership. Instead, Mr. Foley's lack of judgment and absence of character in the Esty matter have made me question his values and whether he would maintain the traditions of Connecticut Republicanism.
Mr. Foley has said that, in choosing to make no attempt to verify his serious charges, he was following journalistic norms. I am not a journalist, but it seems to me that the models that Mr. Foley is following are not the reporters he cited, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, but rather Rush Limbaugh and other radio and television entertainers, who will say anything about anyone to get attention.
Mr. Foley is certainly within his rights to criticize Dan Esty's judgment and views, his actions as a commissioner and his competence. But to charge him with what is essentially criminal behavior, based not on evidence, but on idle chatter, violates the values that I most prize. Politics is a tough game, but candidates need to rise above tactics like these. Instead, Tom Foley has established a standard of reckless and irresponsible behavior that can only discourage people of integrity and commitment from participating in public life.
I hope that the nominating process will allow Connecticut Republicans to express their views on Mr. Foley's actions. I remain confident that Connecticut Republicans and all the state's voters will say that they want Connecticut's traditions of integrity and fairness to govern this process, even if they have failed to influence Tom Foley's behavior.
Emil H. Frankel of Washington, D.C., was Connecticut transportation commissioner from 1991 to 1995 and a selectman in Weston from 1999 to 2001.