For a couple of years now Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz has been driving around Connecticut conducting ceremonies to honor the state’s World War II veterans.
The practice, as I wrote about in today’s Advocate, is coming under fire now that Bysiewicz is exploring a bid for Governor. Critics argue her office has nothing to do with veterans issues and she created this program to boost her own political future.
Bysiewicz counters it’s her job as the person who oversees elections to encourage civic involvement and World War II veterans are the best role models.
She also argues taxpayers are not footing the bill because the money comes from a non-profit linked to her office. This Connecticut Citizenship Fund, Inc. accepts corporate donations. Chester-based Whelen Engineering is paying to honor the fine men and women who served in World War II.
Today Bysiewicz’s staff were kind enough to fax me further background on the fund, including a certificate of incorporation. As she stated in my story, the organization was founded in 1992 – on Feb. 6, to be exact – by former Secretary of the State Pauline Keezer.
Accompanying the certificate were the policies/guidelines established for acceptance and approval of projects by the fund’s board, and it specifies very clearly the money may be used to:
1. Support and promote civics education in Connecticut schools
2. Promote programs that increase and improve citizen participation in elections
3. Promote programs that increase citizen interest and participation in government, in particular state and local government
4. To provide non-partisan information on voter registration and elections
5. To increase awareness of the importance of voting, expecially among the 18 to 35 year old age group
Nothing about veterans. In fact, there is nothing in there about handing out awards to anyone, including the volunteer firefighters, the uniformed firefighters and volunteer coaches Bysiewicz told me she honored in past years.
No one wants to make a case against honoring veterans or anyone who gives of themselves, but, based on the above, it seems to me that using the Connecticut Citizenship Fund, Inc. for these ceremonies could be construed as a broad interpretation of the rules. It certainly will seem that way to Bysiewicz’s critics.