NU Enjoys Power Connections

Northeast Utilities, now facing scrutiny over its slow reconnection of storm-damaged power lines, has established a network of connections with Connecticut's political establishment, including Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration and other officeholders who could affect investigations of the company.

NU's subsidiary, Connecticut Light & Power Co., was hit by a blast of criticism last week from Malloy, who brought in a national consultant to investigate the utility and said he'll be "holding everybody's feet to the fire on this." But such an action could end up warming the shoes of a few people who populate the same political circles as Malloy.

That's because the utility giant has spent millions over the years wiring itself in with government officials of both major parties — and its presence pervades the State Capitol. That longstanding investment is intended, at least in part, to assure that NU finds some receptive ears among executive-branch and legislative decision-makers to minimize its difficulties during bad times like these.

Coming months will reveal how well NU fares in several pending state and federal government investigations of its performance in the disastrous storms of Aug. 28 and Oct. 29. Before all of that plays out, it's worth looking at connections that show either NU's prominence in, and potential influence on, the political power structure.

NU's connections were downplayed in an interview Friday by Malloy's senior adviser and leading spokesman, Roy Occhiogrosso, who until last year was a partner in a consulting firm that does opinion-polling work for CL&P.

The utility's network of connections "hasn't prevented them from becoming the center of the storm. It hasn't prevented them form being criticized, reviewed and investigated," said Occhiogrosso. "I am hard-pressed to see how anyone can claim that that the company's connections are preventing anything from occurring now."

The connections are listed below in four categories: lobbying, representation on Malloy's 2010 transition team, consulting relationships and campaign contributions.

LOBBYING

In addition to employing four lobbyists on its in-house corporate staff to influence Connecticut government officials and legislators during 2011, NU is paying a total of $704,000 to a cadre of politically connected lobbyists this year, records at the Office of State Ethics show.

NU's hired lobbyists (with anticipated 2011 compensation) include the firms of:

--Marc DiBella, son of former state Senate Majority Leader William A. DiBella, ($120,000).

--John Droney, former Democratic state party chairman, ($100,000).

--Anthony DeFilippis Jr., former chief of staff for state Senate Democrats ($72,000)

--Jay Malcynsky, a prominent Republican activist for years and top adviser to past governors ($250,000).

--Delores Malloy — no relation to the governor — a longtime voice at the Capitol for the utility company ($72,000).

--Kevin Reynolds, counsel to the state Democratic party ($50,000).

--John King, past president of the Hartford County Bar Association, who was named last week by New Britain Mayor-elect Tim O'Brien to serve as city attorney ($40,000).

NU's lobbying efforts don't stop at the Connecticut border, by the way. According to the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, NU has spent $32,500 for legislative lobbying in Massachusetts this year. NU and Boston-based NStar are now seeking Bay State utility regulators' approval for a merger that would form New England's largest utility company.

Transition Team

Original source: NU Enjoys Power Connections on Hartford Courant

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