One of the biggest head-scratchers in a budget season of full of them was the State Employee Bargaining Coalition (SEBAC) singlehandedly giving the then-little known Yankee Institute relevance. Yankee previously toiled in near obscurity, showing up mostly on radio talk shows or in newspaper op-eds masquerading as nonpartisan think tank.
Then along comes SEBAC which has been having a tough year as it is, and accuses Yankee of hacking into state email systems to engineer the defeat by the rank and file of the concessions deal worked out by SEBAC and the Malloy administration. Turns out, there wasn’t a shred of credible evidence to support the accusation. Going down like a drowning man, SEBAC made the accusation probably because they needed to blame someone other than itself for the deal going down in flames. Yankee was the closest guy in the water, so SEBAC grabbed.
Making an unsupported accusation is one bad move but then asking straight-shooting Attorney General George Jepsen to investigate knowing there was no evidence, was just plain stupid. When Jepsen said the charges of tampering with the rank and file deal were baseless, SEBAC’s response was basically, “Well, they must have been so good at it, they weren’t detected.”
Generating public sympathy for the Yankee Institute is a tough order to start with. Prior to SEBAC’s profile-raising charges, Yankee was so obscure that a vice president of Trinity College in Hartford where the institute rented space for years, hadn’t even heard of them (which was probably the best case scenario for Yankee—they’re now getting booted).
The Yankee Institute has utilized a lazy state news media for years. Their main man in the media, Fergus Cullen, was for years indentified as a spokesman for a nonpartisan think tank. Waving his Yale credentials, Cullen would consistently blather right-wing talking points. For years, while working for the state Senate Democrats, The Shad would try to get reporters and talk show hosts to identify Cullen and Yankee for that it is: Cullen is a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party and the Institute is nothing but a Republican tool (there are many of those as well). But thanks to SBAC, the Yankee Institute now has a profile. Yes, it’s been a very bad year for SEBAC.