The battle for control of Connecticut’s competitive 5th-district congressional seat has been simmering for awhile. But when opposition research is dumped into the public domain, you know the race has reached a full boil and the incumbent is worried.

The re-election campaign of first-term Rep. Elizabeth Esty, operating through a well-oiled surrogate, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, last week released a 99-page “research book” on Republican opponent Mark Greenberg. The DCCC report was ably chronicled by Courant investigative reporter Jon Lender. And a few days after his Lenderizing, Greenberg defended himself through a flack.

The are no earth-shaking revelations here. Greenberg, a wealthy real estate developer and landlord, has been sued a total of 58 times. The DCCC reports this tidbit breathlessly, as if it would make a great exhibit at the lawsuit museum Ralph Nader has planned for his hometown of Winsted.

But if Greenberg, as a developer and landlord, hadn’t been sued multiple times (with or without merit), I’d be shocked. For in this day and age, litigation has become the order of the day. Indeed for some, it has become the preferred method of settling disputes.

An innocent slip and fall on the front steps of an apartment building or an infestation of mice can attract the attention an ambulance full of lawyers whose profession is overpopulated anyway. But hey, politicians have voting records, academics have paper trails, and businessmen have tort trails.

The DCCC oppo dump also includes a peculiar reference to Greenberg’s religion: It says he “identifies as Jewish,” as if his faith were akin to sexual orientation or political affiliation.

But it appears that some of Greenberg’s past statements and positions, as enunciated two years ago when he ran in the GOP primary and lost to former state Sen. Andrew Roraback, will come back to haunt him. Those utterances have to do with public policy and are far more substantive than his legal history or religion.

For one thing, Greenberg favors privatizing Social Security — an idea so unpopular that in his second term, President George W. Bush couldn’t even get his fellow Republicans in Congress to support it. Never mind that the privatization mechanism would only have taken effect if the beneficiary specifically elected to join it, so no one would have been taking the money out of senior citizens’ pockets and gambling it on the stock market without their consent. Still, the idea remains poison, particularly in blue states like Connecticut.

Other policy positions and statements will also make Greenberg a tough sell. The DCCC document notes that Greenberg once bragged, “I don’t know of anyone more conservative than I am.” That might go over well in South Carolina, or even among a small band of right wingers in the politically mixed 5th district. But in general those kinds of pronouncements are not made in polite company in Connecticut, which has the “steady habit” of electing moderate Republicans in the mold of Lowell Weicker, Nancy Johnson, Roraback and, yes, even John Rowland.

According to the DCCC, Greenberg has at various times said President Obama is pursuing “a communist agenda,” has opposed comprehensive background checks for gun purchases, wants to repeal Obamacare, and supports voucherizing Medicare.

Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Such views give Democrats an opening to brand Greenberg as some kind of wild-eyed radical. Oh, wait. They’ve already done that. A billboard on Route 8 in Waterbury brands Greenberg “too far to be right.” And if that message is too subtle, to the right of those words is a tea bag whose tab says “radical right.” Ironically, that ham-handed attack wasn’t the handiwork of the Democratic machine, but of the brothers who own the sign company. They launched similar attacks against former two-time Senate candidate Linda McMahon.

Esty and her fellow Democrats are right and they have nothing to worry about. Greenberg is simply too conservative to represent the fightin’ 5th. But when Esty wins in a landslide on Nov. 4, she will have one person to thank.

The boss of her husband, Daniel, the former commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, did them both a huge favor when he appointed Roraback a Superior Court judge after he lost to Mrs. Esty in the general election two years ago. In putting Roraback on the bench, Gov. Dan Malloy removed the only other candidate with the resources and clout to challenge Mrs. Esty. That left the door wide open for the wealthy Greenberg, who said he would spend whatever is “necessary to get elected.”

So not only has Dan Esty’s return to Yale and the resumption of his lucrative consulting gigs proven to be a boon for the entire Esty clan, but his old buddy (the other Dan) greased the skids for Mrs. Esty’s return to her $175,000 a year job in Washington. Not bad for a few years work.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

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