DINARDO: GOV. RELL IS ‘LYING’; BAD DAY FOR CT POLLSTERS

As Gov. Rell refused to explain newly released e-mails that contradict her explicit contention that she didn’t know that a UConn profressor was helping her campaign committee with a poll earlier this year until she read it in the paper, the Democratic State Party Chairman said Rell was “lying [to Connecticut residents.]” It was just another development in a day that turned out to be a very bad one for pollsters in Connecticut.

The latest development in “Dautrich-gate” has the governor, like her press staff, going dark about e-mails that indicate the governor was fully aware that UConn professor Ken Dautrich was polling for the governor to help her politically in the state budget crisis. While Rell denies knowing about it, Her chief of staf, Lisa Moody wrote an e-mail to Dautrich responding, to a draft of a poll he sent her last April 7, saying, “Governor thought it it was great too—thanks.” The governor did scold members of the media yesterday, saying “…it’s a mistake to take individual e-mails…[and] try to piece them together….” Huh? Isn’t that exatly what good investigative journalists do? Does the govenor and her staff expect reporters to simply print what the adiminstratin spoon-feeds them?

Democratic State Party Chair Nancy DiNardo responded by asking rhetorically if Dautrich was “available to conduct a focus group or poll about how Connecticut residents feel about their Governor and her staff lying to their faces.” The State Auditors are investigating to see if public money was misspent. The State Elections Enforcement Commission is investigating whether campaign money was spent, and whether Rell’s office got a break on the price which could constitute an improper in-kind contribution to her campaign.
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Qunnipiac University’s high-powered, Manhattan public relations firm was busy defending Q- polling director Douglas Schwartz’s decision to give advanced results of a July Q-Poll to the governor’s office. Rell was one of the subjects of the poll. E-mails show on this past July 27, Schwartz relayed information about the results of a poll to a retired Rell press secretary who then gave it to Rell’s Chief of Staff Lisa Moody; all done the day before the poll was released to the public. The spokesman for the Q-Poll’s p.r. firm said such actions were alright under Q-Poll policies. Several polling experts expressed surprise at Schwartz’s actions saying while there is no standard ethical code on releasing results to a subject of the poll early, it’s not generally good practice if the researchers want to keep their credibility.  Dr. Jeffrey Stonecash, a political science professor and noted polling expert at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship said what Schwartz did was “right up to the edge of being unethical.”

One doesn’t have to be Zogby, Harris, CBS/New York Times, NBC/Wall Street Journal, or ABC to figure out it’s patently unfair to give poll results to one of the subjects of the survey a day early. It’s gives that person (in this case the governor) adequate time to craft reponses to the survey’s findings—develop arguments, write talking points and generally prepare to spin the results. The VP said Schwartz “complied with our practices.” Schwartz, for his part, has a reputation for doing some pretty solid pro-Rell spin of his own when holding post-Q-Poll news conferences to analyze each poll’s results.
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And as the HS reported yesterday, a new poll of Bridgeport Democrats purporting to show state Rep. Chris Caruso leading Mayor Bill Finch by 4% in a possible rematch in 2011 is flawed. It claims to have a margin of error of plus or minus 3%. However, a noted Syracuse University professor and polling expert says that’s “impossible” given the sample size of 350 people. “No. No way. It’s not possible. Something’s wrong,” responded Jeffrey Stonecash, Ph. D., a professor at Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship. If the margin of error is false, it calls into question the entire poll. Dr. Stonewall said it take would a survey of about 1,000 people to get a 3% margin of error.

All and in all, a pretty tough day for some of the folks who survey public opinion in Connecticut. Will the public lose some confidence in these polls? That remains to be seen.
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The state General Assembly will not be meeting anytime soon to attempt to override Gov. Rell’s veto of a bill that among other things, would have funded a needs assessment and service contract for children of incarcerated parents. It also would have exempted the Judicial branch from having to make $7.8 million in cuts over the next two years.

There isn’t the required number of votes in the state senate (24) to make the override happen. House sources said they had the 101 votes they need A House Dem. spokesman is quoted as saying “We will continue discussing a possible override internally [and let you know].” One can read that, “The Senate doesn’t have the votes, we’re moving on.”

Both the governor and the lawmakers who don’t want to spend the $1.3 million on the program are being incredibly short-sighted on this one. As The Hanging Shad wrote Tuesday, “If one wants to look at the issue from a purely economic perspective—which one shouldn’t—but the Rell administration and certain lawmakers have, the bill would save money in the long run. Studies show that intervening in the lives of locked-up parents and their children benefits society with reduced recidivism, less chance of the children following the parent into jail and the promotion of healthy child development (National Conference of State Legislatures).”
A short-sighted veto of funding now may very well result in millions being spent down the road on the children having an increased chance of ending up with a screwed-up life—in prison, treatment or adding to crime.
Further troubling is the fact that according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) study released in August of 2008, 2.3 % of the nation’s population of children under the age of 18 has a parent in jail. The number of kids with a father in prison increased an eye-popping 77% nationwide since 1991 according to the BJS study. One in every 15 black children across the U.S. has at least one parent in jail. One in every 41 Hispanic children has a parent locked up. These are national numbers and not Connecticut-specific but certainly indicate the depth of the problem in general.
Yes, ecomonic times are still tough and the state budget is in the red. However, we’re talking about the lives of children, who through no fault of their own, have at least one parent in prison. They are the big losers in all of this. Not exactly a “profile in courage” for some of our elected officials.