Former Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano

It is truly mystifying why Connecticut’s credulous corporate press corps continues to believe and propagate the myth that “moderates” exist within the Connecticut GOP.  Consider, for example, the press corps’ characterization of Len Fasano, the retiring Republican state senator and minority leader.  CT Mirror’s Mark Pazniokas called him a “centrist Republican.”  Hearst Connecticut Media claims Fasano is a “solid moderate”, while in 2017 the Manchester Journal-Inquirer asserted he was “exactly the kind of moderate the Republican Party needs to counter the extremism in its national leadership.”

Yet if one scrutinizes Fasano’s legislative record, it is abundantly clear that far from a “moderate,” Fasano is a typical hard-right Republican.

Consider the GOP state budget composed under Fasano’s leadership in 2017, when Republicans held half the seats in the state senate.  Fasano kept his budget secret until minutes before the session’s end, avoiding vetting by any committee in the legislature.  If one looks at what’s in it, it’s no wonder Fasano kept it secret for so long.

Though he had served in the legislature for years during the rampant corruption of Republican governor John Rowland, Fasano’s budget proposed eliminating the Citizens Election Program that provides public funding for elections; tripling the amount that corporations could contribute to campaigns; and permitting tens of thousands of dollars of corporate money to seep in through “leadership PAC’s.”  Fasano was once again hanging a “For Sale” sign on the Connecticut legislature.

Fasano’s budget included devastating cuts to education.  He proposed slashing half a billion dollars from the state’s colleges and universities over the biennium, including $308 million from the University of Connecticut, which UConn board of trustees chairman Larry McHugh called “the worst attack on public education I have seen in 34 years.”  University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst warned the cuts “would decimate the university for years to come.”

Fasano’s GOP budget attempted to eliminate the $37 million Roberta Willis Scholarship that helps 15,000 low-income and minority youth attend college; cut $23 million from grants for the state’s poorest school districts, while redirecting millions to schools in the wealthiest communities; and eliminating $150 million in dedicated funding designed to close achievement gaps in poor school districts, substituting block grants instead.

Fasano’s legislative record belies his hostility to working people.  He repeatedly voted against raising Connecticut’s woefully inadequate minimum wage.  He opposed creating the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which today helps some 200,000 low-income working families make ends meet.  His 2017 budget called for the EITC’s complete elimination.  Fasano virulently opposed paid family and medical leave, rights enjoyed by the citizens of five other American states and every other developed country on the planet.  He also opposed providing paid sick leave for Connecticut workers.  And he voted against establishing Connecticut’s ACA health insurance exchange, AccessHealthCT, that today provides health insurance to over 100,000 Connecticut residents.

CT Mirror’s Pazniokas claimed that Fasano, “kept his distance from (President Trump), declining an invitation to be a Trump delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention.”  In fact, far from distancing himself from Trump, Fasano has consistently supported him by refusing to criticize any of Trump’s policies, and maintaining a long, shameful silence in the face of Trump’s litany of racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic rants.  When Trump was impeached for attempting to extort an American ally for personal political gain, Fasano claimed, that he “doesn’t know if he should be impeached or not.”  And while Trump engages in a purge of military and federal employees he deems disloyal to him, Fasano keeps silent.

When Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress passed its SALT deduction cap, which was specifically designed to punish Democratic states, including Connecticut,  increasing federal taxes on Connecticut taxpayers by over $10 billion, Fasano kept silent.  When the Trump administration attacked women’s right to abortion by enforcing a “gag rule” making it illegal for Title X recipients to perform abortions or provide information or referrals for abortion, forcing Planned Parenthood of Southern New England to decline $2.1 million in federal funds, Fasano said nothing.

Perhaps Fasano’s most shameful act was blocking the nomination of Connecticut Supreme Court Associate Justice Andrew McDonald, an openly gay man married to another man, to serve as the court’s chief justice.  Under Fasano’s direction, every GOP senator voted against McDonald, despite McDonald’s brilliant record of public service and the absence of any hint of corruption.  Despite Fasano’s transparent excuses for blocking his nomination, the truth was that this was a vote of anti-gay bigotry.  Indeed, opposition to gay marriage is part of the national platform of the GOP, which reads:  “Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society…We condemn the Supreme Court’s lawless ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which…was a ‘judicial Putsch..’”  Fasano voted his party’s line.

Len Fasano is every bit as anti-union, anti-women’s rights, anti-immigrant, anti-healthcare, and anti-worker as any Republican from Mississippi or Tennessee.  It’s all there in his record.  The mystery is why Connecticut’s press corps continues to pretend otherwise.

Sean Goldrick lives in Greenwich.

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