In the summer of 2007 State Senator Bill Finch, the Democratic-endorsed candidate for mayor facing a stiff challenge from State Rep. Chris Caruso, was thrown a fundraiser at Cafe Roma, a now-closed city restaurant on Fairfield Avenue downtown. Dozens of political operatives and usual-suspect campaign contributors attended the event that raised a boatload of cash for Finch.
One of the hosts of the event was Manny Moutinho, a city contractor who’s come under review by federal authorities for business dealings in Bridgeport and work he received many years ago on behalf of the town of Trumbull’s sewer system. Moutinho also had a rock-crushing operation in Bridgeport’s East End that covered the neighborhood in dust until protests finally prevailed.
Finch operatives are telling anyone willing to listen to them that Gus Curcio is behind the Anyone But Finch billboard on the Route 25-8 Connector that has bulged the orbs of thousands of highway drivers and raised the curiosity of political camps about the financial backer. Finch friends, through a Political Action Committee, A Better Connecticut, are also trying to shame the campaign donations former mayoral candidate Charlie Coviello received from Curcio to the candidacy of Finch’s opponent Mary-Jane Foster. Coviello supported Finch for mayor in 2007, and now is a prospective candidate for Board of Education on the Foster mayoral slate.
In light of the effort to drag Curcio into the mayoral race I called him a few days ago to ask what gives. First, a little background on Gus:
Curcio’s name recognition in Bridgeport 30 years ago was somewhere just below Jesus Christ. When you’re accused of rubbing out Frank Piccolo, who then-US Attorney Richard Blumenthal declared the preeminent mobster in the state, it lends itself to notoriety. Although pinched by city police for the Piccolo hit at the corner of Main and Jewett in 1981, Curcio became the only person in the history of the state to be cleared by a grand jury whose prosecutorial direction was pretty much a stamp of approval back then. Curcio did do a number of years in federal prison on loan-sharking and extortion charges, prosecuted by authorities investigating organized crime. Completing his time in the mid-1990s Curcio ventured into the adult entertainment business that has become a city zoning issue in several neighborhoods. Where and what is an appropriate location for strip clubs?
Adult entertainment interests such as Curcio can become convenient targets of pols looking to score points with voters. Curcio took my phone call and I first asked him about any connection to financing the Anyone But Finch billboard. He flatly denied any connection. But then he offered something unexpected when I asked him about his relationship with Finch, whether he had any issues with the mayor. Curcio explained that, in fact, he and Moutinho co-hosted the event at Cafe Roma four years ago, raising tens of thousands of dollars, and several political operatives have confirmed the same. Curcio received congratulations and backslaps for his effort on behalf of the Finch campaign.
What’s the point of all of this? Be careful about whom you drag into a mayoral campaign or accuse of being mobbed up. Coviello has known Curcio for years, but that did not seem to bother Finch in 2007 when he accepted Coviello’s endorsement and campaign fundraising from Curcio.
Airport Manager John Ricci, a financial supporter of Finch’s campaign, for years had business dealings with Curcio and Moutinho. Does that make Ricci a bad guy? A whole bunch of folks appointed by Finch or left in government service by Finch have dubious backgrounds and criminal records.
Bridgeport politics is not a breeding ground for boy scouts. It’s also not a place for self-righteousness.