Like their colleagues, the candidates for Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of the State, State Treasurer, Comptroller, and Attorney General have raised tens of thousands of dollars during this campaign cycle and some have managed to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars during their political careers.
When it comes to raising funds, all of these candidates recognize the adage “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” In fact, there is probably no quote that better summarizes modern American politics. This quintessential observation was uttered by Jesse Unruh, a prominent California politician who recognized in 1966 that our democracy had become addicted to campaign donations. While national and state campaign finance laws have changed in the subsequent 44 years, money remains the fuel that runs campaigns.
While most of the candidates running for the U.S. Senate and Governor in Connecticut have given generously to other candidates, the notion that it is vital to donate funds to others doesn’t seem to flow to most of the candidates running for Connecticut’s other Constitutional Offices. They them seem to have missed or forgotten the fundamental notion that it is “better to give than to receive.”
The primary exception seems to be Jack Orchulli, a perennial Republican candidate, who is running this year as the nominee for State Comptroller. Over the years Orchulli has donated more than $59,000, with the vast majority going to the Republican Party. He has also made significant contributions to George W. Bush, John McCain, Rob Simmons and M. Jodi Rell, as well as David Cappiello, a former Congressional candidate and now Linda McMahon’s campaign manager .
Of the other Republican candidates, Secretary of the State nominee Jerry Farrell comes in a distant second, having donated about $13,000 over the past fifteen years. Much of his money also went to the Republican Party with large contributions to Rell, John Rowland, and Paul Silvester. Interestingly, he also donated to Democratic Congressional candidate Tom Luby and Democratic State Rep. Mary Fritz.
Mark Boughton, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, has made donations totaling about $5,000 to a variety of Republican candidates including George W. Bush and Rowland. Martha Dean, one of the two Republican candidates for attorney general, donated about $10,000 over the years, while Ross Garber, who is challenging Dean for the Republican nomination, gave about $14,000, including $1,000 to U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s brief presidential campaign.
Holding the title of “least generous” Republican candidate when it comes to political donations is Jeff Wright of Newington. Wright is the Republican choice for state treasurer and has donated about $1,400, most of it going to Rowland and Rell with a $250 contribution to Rudy Giuliani.
Thanks mostly to Orchulli, the Republican candidates donated about $100,000 over the last 15 years while the Democratic candidates donated a total of only $24,000 to others or about a quarter of what their Republican challengers have given.
Democratic State Treasurer Denise Nappier contributed about $6,500, most of it going to the Democratic Party, but she did make donations to Dodd and President Barack Obama, apparently making her the only candidate this year who actually gave money to the latter historic campaign.
George Jepson, a longtime Democratic operative, former state Senate Majority Leader, and the Democrats’ nominee for attorney general, has donated about $5,000. All of that went to Democratic candidates including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, Joe Lieberman, and Dan Malloy.
State Comptroller Nancy Wyman, who is the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, has donated about $3,000 while her Democratic challenger, Mary Glassman, has given about $4,600. Kevin Lembo, who is the Democrats’ choice for Wyman’s comptroller position, has donated about $3,000. Denise Merrill gave political donations of about $2,000, while her challenger, Gerald Garcia, gave less than $1,000.
One of the most interesting donation patterns comes from Glassman, Ned Lamont’s running mate. After making her single largest contribution to Barbara Kennelly, a $1,000 donation in 1998, four years later she gave incumbent Rowland a contribution of $500 in his 2002 gubernatorial re-election campaign.
The recipient of a candidate’s political donations may or may not reflect upon their ideals or principles. But what does it say about candidates who receive a lot more than they give when it comes to the “mother’s milk of politics.”
Authors note: The data for this commentary comes from a variety of websites, including the Federal Election Commission, the State Elections Enforcement Commission, followthemoney.org, and opensecrets.org.
Jonathan Pelto served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1984-1993. He was Deputy Majority Leader and member of the Appropriations Committees during the income tax debate of 1991. He presently works as a strategic communications consultant.