Senator Alex Kasser resigns in divorce dispute with Morgan Stanley
Connecticut state Senator Alex Kasser announced her resignation Tuesday, saying her ability to do her job had been hampered by a bitter divorce battle led by her husband, Seth Bergstein, a top Morgan Stanley executive.
In her resignation letter published on Medium, the Greenwich Democrat wrote: “Seth is using his powerful position at Morgan Stanley to facilitate his behavior, so I have to work even harder to fight for my freedom.”
The stunning move comes two years after Kasser made public her romantic relationship with a woman who previously ran her first Senate campaign and then briefly served in her legislative office. Kasser told her husband that she was a lesbian more than a decade ago, according to a comment she wrote in The Stamford Advocate newspaper last fall.
Kasser, 54, accused Tuesday that Bergstein “tried to destroy this same-sex partner, Nichola Samponaro,” “with lies about our relationship and harassment of court appeals that she mentioned 56 times for no relevant reason – she had nothing to do with her do end my marriage. “
“I will not be silent if a homophobic, legitimate man attacks my partner,” said Kasser.
Bergstein, 55, is Senior Managing Director and Head of Global Services at Morgan Stanley.
Kasser, who told CNBC that she is no longer in contact with her three children with Bergstein, also wrote: “Also, I can no longer live or work in Greenwich as it is full of memories of the 20 years that I have been here. raise my children. “
“It is too painful to be in Greenwich now that I have been struck from her life as her father promised if I ever left him,” wrote Kasser.
Kasser’s surprise resignation came a month after CNBC announced it had added New York attorney Robert Cohen, who is representing Melinda Gates on her mega-billion dollar breakup with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, to its litigation team. Cohen also previously represented Ivana Trump and Marla Maples, the first and second wives of ex-President Donald Trump.
The Senator’s announcement also comes as she prepares for her divorce trial, due to begin in August in the Stamford Supreme Court, where Cohen and her other attorneys attempted to depose three Morgan Stanley employees for allegedly improper efforts by the investment bank to provide personal financial information catch up with her.
“It is with deep sadness that I announce my resignation as Senator. Serving the residents of Connecticut’s 36th Senate has been a deep honor and a great joy. However, for personal reasons, I cannot continue,” Kasser wrote in the statement.
“I’ve been trying to get a divorce from Seth Bergstein for almost three years. As all domestic violence survivors know, emancipation is an epic struggle that lasts for years, requires unwavering courage and all of our resources – mental, physical and financial. ”She wrote.
“Due to the enormous expenditure of time and energy, I can no longer fully serve my constituents.”
CNBC asked Bergstein and Morgan Stanley to comment on Kasser’s testimony.
Kasser caused a sensation in 2018 when she became the first female Democrat in almost 90 years to win the seat in the Senate of the 36th District, which includes Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan.
Their narrow victory helped the Democrats share control of the state Senate with the Republicans for two years.
Last November, she doubled her winning margin to 2.6% to win re-election for another two-year term. Kasser said a special election would determine her successor.
The Democrats currently have a solid majority of 24 seats in the Senate, while the Republicans only have 12 seats.
In an interview with CNBC, Kasser said her divorce case had “become such a dominant trait in my life that I cannot do my job. It prohibits me from doing my job.”
When asked why she was so detailed in her statement on the reasons for her resignation, Kasser said: “First of all, it is my duty to explain to my constituents and the public what I am resigning.”
“And I’m not just fighting for myself, but for everyone in this situation and for using my voice and everything I can bring with me.”
“I’m really sad. I’m really disappointed” that she had to resign, she said.
But Kasser added, “It’s not just me. There are literally thousands of women in similar situations. This is not an isolated incident.”
Kasser declined to give specific examples of Bergstein’s behavior towards her, citing the advice of her lawyers.
That now includes Lanny Davis, the Washington attorney who was special adviser to then-President Bill Clinton.
In her comment last October, Kasser wrote: “Ten years ago I told my husband I was gay and filed for divorce.” She wrote that Bergstein did not accept the news but instead said “if I divorced him, he would take full custody of our children and use my sexuality against me in court.”
“His words paralyzed me, that is exactly the power of coercive control,” wrote Kasser. “We’re not ‘choosing’ to stay. We think we have no other choice. I stayed eight more years.”
In her resignation statement, Kasser said she was “particularly proud” of introducing and winning the passage of “Jennifer’s Law,” which adds coercive control by a partner to the legal definition of domestic violence in Connecticut.
Compulsive control is defined as a partner doing things that involve withholding money or engaging in threatening behavior to prevent the other partner from leaving the relationship.
Jennifer’s Law is named after a Jennifer Dulos from Kasser’s constituencies, a mother of five who was believed to have been killed by her estranged husband, real estate developer Fotis Dulos.
Jennifer Dulos, whose body had never been found, was in the middle of a protracted divorce and custody battle when she disappeared in May 2019. Fotis Dulos died of suicide in January 2020, while on her death she was charged with murder and kidnapping.
Kasser’s testimony said Jennifer’s law will help people “caught in an abusive situation like me”.
In her interview, Kasser said that cases of coercive control can include “financial pressure, pressure to give up financial control to their partner, or they are cut off from their own money.”
“They are threatened with harm to them or their children or someone they love,” she said, “and to poison children against the other parent.”
Kasser said in her own case, she has been out of touch with her children for a while.
“No, they were erased from my life,” she said without giving any details of how that happened. Kasser has two sons aged 23 and 20 and a 17-year-old daughter with Bergstein.
Kasser also said that compulsory checks in divorce cases can include “litigation harassment” such as “filing motions with false allegations and innuendos to destroy a person’s reputation, tell lies about them and intimidate them and forcing them to spend money on lawyers.” output “.
“To get someone to surrender and break them,” said Kasser.
Her own divorce has dragged on for more than 2½ years and involved more than 270 legal filings.
“Abusers don’t just go after their victims,” said Kasser. “They persecute everyone who is important to their victim.”
She said Bergstein summoned her partner Samponaro and “he dumped her on the divorce” and forced her to hire a lawyer.
Kasser says that she and Samponaro – a real estate saleswoman who worked as an election campaign manager in 2018 and later briefly as an assistant in her Senate office – did not have a romantic relationship until after Bergstein filed for divorce in late 2018 and after Samponaro quit her job in Kasser’s office received.
“I want to be very clear, we didn’t have an affair, and to be very clear, Nichola had nothing to do with the failure of my marriage,” said Kasser.
In 2019, CNBC announced that the divorce petitions included an email in which Bergstein offered to provide $ 222,000 from “Morgan Stanley’s earnings for the next 2 years” to pay for her personal and professional budget. The offer came before Kasser parted ways with him.
Some of that money, Bergstein wrote, could be used to pay Samponaro’s salary and that of another legislative assistant.
Bergstein suggested running the money through a private company, at one point owned by Kasser’s mother, or through a limited liability company, saying there should be restrictions on how the money should be used.
Bergstein’s marriage attorney Janet Battey at the time told CNBC that Kasser’s attorney’s complaint cited quotes from the email and said his desire to avoid a conflict with Morgan Stanley’s compliance rules prompted him to impose restrictions on the use of his money his wife to support her as a senator.
Bergstein never paid the money, which became an issue in the couple’s divorce case.
Kasser said her divorce impacted her work as a senator in promoting the passage of Jennifer’s law.
“My motives have been questioned and my personal situation is brought up again and again,” said Kasser.
“When I passed Jennifer’s law, someone in the legislature accused me … [writing the law to make] It is effective immediately to help my own case, “she noted.
Kasser choked when asked what she would miss as a senator.
“I’ll miss everything about it,” she said. “I will miss my colleagues. I will miss the incredible camaraderie and conversations we had …[about] how we can bring our personal experience and expertise to an endless number of topics we wanted to address. “
“It really is a life-changing experience and I loved every minute of it,” said Kasser, adding that her work as a senator was “the greatest professional pleasure I have ever had.”
Kasser, a University of Chicago Law School graduate who previously worked as an attorney for whiteshoe firm Skadden Arps, said she had no idea what she would do after she left the Senate.
“I have to focus all of my time and attention on this divorce,” she said. “I can’t make personal or professional plans until I’m free.”
“My immediate plan is to resolve this divorce as soon as possible.”
But her resignation statement broadly relates to her future intentions.
“I will continue to fight against bullying and bigotry in all its forms in the future,” wrote Kasser. “Now that I’ve found my voice, I’ll never stop using it.”
Kasser’s compatriot in the state of Connecticut, Senator Julie Kushner, D-Bethel, told CNBC that she was sorry to see Kasser leave.
“I liked Alex a lot,” said Kushner, the pro tempore deputy senate president who called Kasser “a hard worker.”
“She really added a different perspective and endorsed a lot of progressive laws. She was a vocal advocate of the minimum wage increase and its impact on working women.”
“Connecticut is going to miss you, I think,” said Kushner. “But I am sure she had good reasons for this step.”