About that Investigative Report…


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Let me tell you a secret.

Back in March 2021, I got a phone call from Sara Bronin asking me not to run a story on her organization’s failure to register and report its lobbying activities.

Her organization — Desegregate CT – was pushing hard for the passage of a bill in the state legislature that would in part shift the balance for approving new housing away from local public hearings and participation.

At the time, a public hearing in the Planning and Development Committee of the General Assembly had stretched for nearly 30 hours, from Monday morning into Tuesday, largely due to the advocacy of Desegregate CT.

In support of those efforts, Bronin had been raising and spending tens of thousands of dollars – far above the $3,000 annual threshold to register as a lobbyist, and the $100 monthly threshold for filing reports.

Bronin did not call to dispute the truth of our story, but instead to plead her case, that the story would upset the applecart at a particularly delicate time for the passage of SB 1024.

I had also gotten wind that Desegregate CT was busily trying to comply with the law retroactively, in a sense ‘fixing’ the facts on the ground before her organization felt compelled to return our unanswered calls.

What Bronin didn’t know at the time was that the story had already been written, but that hours before I had decided it wasn’t quite a story, and it didn’t go to print.


Because while I uncovered a surfeit of sloppiness and perhaps arrogance on the part of Desegregate CT, I didn’t find any material wrongdoing or skullduggery. And the organization was trying to make it right.

Really, what was the point of intervening — for this — in a year-long public brawl over housing and development between Desegregate CT and its opposition, CT 169 Strong?

As a newspaperman, what I saw was rough-and-tumble, but substantive, and frankly good for democracy. And I guess every other news organization agreed, because no one else reported the story, which was hardly secret in another week.

So that’s where we left it.

Now jump ahead three years to an new investigative report in CT Mirror – which has never hidden its rather emphatic support for one side of the equation – reporting that CT 169 Strong had sent out a mass email in May urging readers to “REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER, THIS IS THE VOTE TALLY IN THE HOUSE! VOTE SMART IN 2024…” According to CT Mirror, CT 169 Strong also singled out the votes of three state house representatives.

The problem?

Alexis Harrison, a key organizer behind the organization, had already registered to run for a seat in the state house.  And that seat is currently held by one of those three representatives – Fairfield Democrat, Jennifer Leeper.

Now that’s weak tea, at best.

Don’t get me wrong. Andrew Brown and Ginny Monk are among the best reporters in the state. And the tone is moderate. But the news hardly justified the editorial decision by CT Mirror to post this…

From my perspective, that social media post by the news nonprofit — tailor-made for November — is probably as much a violation as the accusation in question.

To say nothing of the irony that the SEEC is taking the time for an investigation even as the state’s election watchdog complains that it lacks the staff to investigate actual wrongdoing.

I try not to be cynical, and perhaps more will come out, but it’s hard not to smell a political hit and what amounts to an abdication of the need to win the war of ideas when other means are more expedient. They aren’t.