He hasn’t hired any staff yet. In fact he doesn’t know how many staff members he’ll even be allowed to hire, but that’s not stopping Richard Blumenthal from gathering names and collecting resumes.
Blumenthal, who will be sworn in as a U.S. Senator on Jan. 5, said because the new members haven’t received their budget yet he doesn’t know how many staff members he’ll have. What he does know is that he’ll need a chief-of-staff, legislative director, and state office director.
“I have begun interviewing to hire some of the key people,” Blumenthal said Friday after a press conference on one of his last acts as attorney general.
Blumenthal expects to make a decision on those key positions within the next couple of weeks because he wants them in place by Jan. 5.
“It’s very exciting to be in a legislative body with such a storied and profoundly significant history,” said Blumenthal. “To be grappling with some of the issues which are so challenging, but critical.”
Asked about the first piece of legislation he plans to introduce Blumenthal said “The first priority is jobs and the economy and everything and every issue is being viewed through that task.”
At the moment, Blumenthal said he still doesn’t know how he will fare when it comes to committee assignments, but he’s expressed interest in the Commerce, Armed Services, Judiciary, and Veterans’ Affairs committees. He said he knows it’s unlikely he would join soon-to-be senior Sen. Joseph Lieberman on the Armed Services Committee, but he expressed an interest anyway.
Blumenthal has already made several trips to Washington D.C. to meet with Senate leadership and go through freshman orientation. He said he has introduced himself to all of the Democratic Senators and most of the Republicans during his visits.
He’s also sent his wife to do a little Washington D.C. apartment hunting.
“My wife Cynthia is finding a one-bedroom apartment where I can crash the evenings that I’m there,” Blumenthal said.
He said he’s going to continue living in Connecticut and with his youngest daughter still in high school he will be back on the weekends and perhaps some week days.
Meanwhile, he’s also helping Attorney General-elect George Jepsen transition into the office he’s held for the past 20 years.
“We’ve been talking to each other and I’m giving him my views on cases, and people,” Blumenthal said.
As far as staff is concerned, there are only four staff positions the attorney general has discretion over and the rest are considered civil servants.
In a phone interview Friday, Jepsen said he’s filled at least one of the four slots with Anthony Krize, his campaign scheduler, and has created a transition team, which includes Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford Aaron Bayer of Wiggin and Dana, and Fran Brady, outgoing president of the Connecticut Bar Association, to help him find the right deputy attorney general to manage the office of more than 300 employees.
Even though most of the positions are civil servants some whom have been with the office for longer than 20 years. Blumenthal said Jepsen will have discretion over how he deploys the assistant attorney generals.
He said he told Jepsen that he doesn’t want to be part of that conversation.
“You should do it on your own. Whatever you feel is the right thing to do,” Blumenthal recalled telling Jepsen.
Jepsen said he expects those pieces will fall into place after he hires a deputy attorney general to manage the 14 departments.
“I’m not looking in the short term to make any significant changes,” said Jepsen.
Meanwhile, Jepsen maintained that his first priority as attorney general will be introducing enabling legislation that gives his office the power to implement the financial services law authored by outgoing U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd.
The topic of financial reform is likely to be discussed next week at the National Association of Attorneys General. Jepsen will attend the training for new attorneys general in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
He said the training is paid for by the national association and it’s his understanding that the state isn’t paying him to attend.