The negative campaign ads are taking a toll on Republican lawmakers and Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Before the General Assembly convened Friday to save the public campaign financing system, Republican lawmakers opened a press conference with YouTube videos of a Dan Malloy ad against Ned Lamont and a Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele ad against Tom Foley.
Both Malloy and Fedele are participating in the public campaign finance system and are running against Lamont and Foley in the Aug. 10 gubernatorial primaries.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said he doesn’t want public money being used on those types of negative campaign ads. The Malloy ad was about the number of jobs his opponent had created and the Fedele ad was about the Georgia textile mill, which closed after his opponent stepped down from its management team.
“People are sick and tired of this type of negative campaign ad,” McKinney said.
He said he is opposed to increasing the base grant from $3 million to $6 million for gubernatorial candidates.
“These food banks could use that $6 million, our homeless shelters could use that $6 million, kids in our inner city could use that $6 million, but no we’re gonna feed it to politicians to run that crap. That is wrong.”
In the wake of a federal appeals court decision, which found supplemental grants triggered by an opponents spending is unconstitutional, the Democrat-controlled legislature wants to increase the grant amounts gubernatorial candidates receive for the general election.
Rell said she would veto any legislation that increased the grant amounts, so Democrats are looking to find enough votes to override a veto.
Rell also joined her Republican colleagues in expressing her frustration that the money would be used on negative campaign ads.
“I cannot in good conscience endorse an additional $6 million in public funding that will be used by candidates to bombard each other – and the public – with a relentless series of negative messages from now until November,“ Rell said in a press release Friday.
But advocates for public funding and even Fedele argued lawmakers can’t limit the free speech of candidates or get rid of everything they think is wrong with campaigns by legislating it.
“Now the legislature doesn’t only want to control the money, but they also want to control the message,” Fedele said.
“If John has an issue with the ad I’d be more than happy to sit down with him and show him the data,” Fedele said defending this ad against Foley.
Karen Hobert Flynn, vice president of state operations for Common Cause, said she finds it ironic that Republicans are now making an issue out of how the public money should be spent. She said when the law was being passed the Republicans were concerned that the government was going to tell them what to do with their campaigns, now they‘re seeking government involvement.
Fedele also disagreed with his Republican colleagues that increasing the grant would increase spending. He said the Citizens’ Election Fund anticipated that it would expend up to $6 million for at least two gubernatorial candidates.
“That money is already anticipated,” Fedele said. “It’s not an increase to the amount.”
But he said he will live with whatever the legislature decides and is not advocating for increasing the grant amount. However, he thinks it’s “humorous,” that his Republican colleagues are using the public campaign system for their own re-election bids, while also saying it should be abolished.
“You can’t argue from a legislative perspective that this is a terrible thing and we should get rid of it and not do it. And then when it’s offered to you, take it. You can’t have it both ways,” Fedele said.
The Senate is expected to convene within the hour.