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Another Bridgeport scandal

What is it about Bridgeport?

State Sen. Dennis Bradley Jr. this week became the latest Bridgeport politician to face charges of corruption. Bradley is alleged to have stolen from a program that is intended to prevent corruption — the Citizens Election Program — which publicly finances campaigns so that state elected leaders don’t become beholden to special-interest donors.

An indictment charges Bradley with one count of conspiracy and five counts of fraud. Also indicted was his campaign treasurer Jessica Martinez, a former school board chair in the city, who in addition to the charges filed against Bradley is also charged with lying to the FBI and committing perjury before the grand jury.

Candidates who accept funding under the Citizens Election Program can only spend it for specified campaign purposes and cannot raise money privately. According to the indictment, Bradley, a Democrat, allegedly stole from an $84,140 CEP grant for his primary in 2018, while soliciting private donations for his campaign.

The federal indictment alleges he then tried to misuse a $95,710 grant for the general election that year but failed when challenged by election officials.

Bridgeport is the home of Mayor Joe Ganim. During his first time as mayor, Ganim was forced from office and imprisoned in 2003, after being convicted on 16 charges of extortion, bribery and racketeering. He served seven years. In 2015, Bridgeport voters again elected Ganim as mayor. Go figure.

And Bradley is not the first Bridgeport state senator to get in trouble. In 2005, Ernest Newton pleaded guilty to federal felony corruption charges and also served several years in federal prison. His political comeback was unsuccessful.

While Bridgeport will be Bridgeport, our greater concern is for the future of the Citizens Election Program, created after the pay-for-play scandal that drove Gov. John G. Rowland from office and into prison (for the first of two times). In state House and Senate races the program has been successful in giving equal financial footing to newcomers challenging incumbents and in reducing the corruptive influence of money in politics.

It has not worked of late in gubernatorial races, however. In 2018, neither of the major party candidates participated.

But abuse of the program, such as that alleged involving Bradley, has been rare. CEP deserves continued public support, despite the black eye by way of a Bridgeport pol.

 

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 Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. 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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