Another Republican black eye

A bad year for Connecticut Republicans got a bit worse this week with news that a top lawyer and legislative aide for the party pilfered tens of thousands of dollars from a Senate Republican campaign fund.

According to Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano, Michael J. Cronin, 55, of West Hartford, confessed “he removed without authorization tens of thousands of dollars” from the political action committee.

Cronin’s motivations for helping himself to the money were not disclosed. His full-time job is as a state employee — chief legal counsel for Senate Republicans, for which he was paid $175,000 a year. But like many legislative aides in Hartford, Cronin is active in political campaigns. In the recent election Cronin served as the treasurer for the Senate Republican Leadership PAC, created to support the campaigns of GOP state Senate candidates.

Cronin has served as a legislative lawyer in various capacities for nearly 20 years, receiving his latest promotion a few months ago. Fasano said the Senate Republican Office fired Cronin from his Senate job.

The political action committee reported raising $130,167 and spending $113,265 as of Oct. 28, the most recent reporting period, the Connecticut Mirror reported.

The episode raises concerns about how these PACs are managed during the heat of a campaign. Cronin was the sole signatory to authorize the allocation of funds from the PAC. According to Fasano and Collins’ attorney, Ross Garber, a forensic audit will be conducted to determine the exact amount that was misappropriated.

The legislature should change campaign financing laws to require at least two PAC administrators to sign off on expenditures.

The Republican Party will pay contractors who went unpaid because political donations were misdirected by Cronin, said Fasano.

Give the Senate leader credit for confronting Cronin and pushing hard to get answers as to why bills were going unpaid by the PAC. When the truth became evident, it was Fasano who pushed Cronin to contact Chief’s State’s Attorney Kevin Kane and come clean about the misuse of PAC donations and Fasano who followed up to assure he did so.

But this debacle is just one more indication of the dysfunction that dogged Connecticut Republicans in an election that saw an 18-18 Senate split turn to a 23-13 Democratic majority, Democratic dominance in the House grow and Democrat Ned Lamont elected governor. Connecticut Republicans have much work to do to rebuild their shattered house.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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