(Updated) Susan Bysiewicz’s third TV spot for her U.S. Senate campaign, released Thursday, was intended to be a shot at her Democratic primary opponent Chris Murphy, but according to the Murphy campaign she misfired by aiming at the wrong Murphy.
Bysiewicz’s 30-second ad focuses on campaign contributions Murphy has taken from Wall Street donors, a tactic she’s been using during televised debates.
In the ad, the former secretary of the state wheels a television onto the screen and shows a clip of a 2006 Murphy campaign ad for the 5th Congressional District. In the 2006 commercial Murphy criticized his then opponent Nancy Johnson for taking money from pharmaceutical companies.
“Those are all Nancy Johnson’s drug company contributions,” Murphy says as a list of contributions scrolls by. “And it won’t stop unless we change Congress.”
The camera then refocuses on Bysiewicz, who says “The problem is Chris has done exactly the same thing.” A list of contributions and donors to the Murphy campaign then begins scrolling in the same manner as the 2006 commercial. Bysiewicz said Murphy has taken more than $700,000 from Wall Street contributors.
“He’s taken more hedge fund money than any other Democrat in Congress. I approve this message because you can’t stand up to Wall Street when they’re giving you this much money,” Bysiewicz says.
The Murphy campaign responded with two press releases, one calling Bysiewicz a hypocrite, and another accusing her of mistaking Chris Murphy for former U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy, D-NY. According to OpenSecrets.org, Scott Murphy took more hedge fund contributions than any other Democrat in Congress in 2010.
Bysiewicz’s list of Murphy donors also incorrectly classifies donors like Comcast, and law firm Shipman and Goodwin as Wall Street firms, the press release said.
“This is as embarrassing as it gets for a political candidate,” Murphy spokeswoman Taylor Lavender said. “This ad, on so many levels, is so clearly wrong, and Susan Bysiewicz should take the ad down herself. It’s bad enough that she mixed up Chris with a different Murphy, but didn’t she at least watch the ad before it went on the air to see that she was naming cable companies and law firms as ‘Wall Street’ donors?”
The Bysiewicz ad clearly says Murphy took the most money from “hedge funds”, but the fact check the campaign sent out links back to a list of “Securities and Investment Money.” The Murphy campaign claims when you do a search for hedge fund contributions to Congress in 2012, 2010, or 2008 Chris Murphy doesn’t appear as the top Democrat in any of those years. In 2010, it’s U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy of New York , and in 2012 it’s U.S. Rep. Timothy Bishop of New York , and in 2008 it’s U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York .
Open Secrets is run by the Center for Responsive Politics, which is a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit organization that tracks money in politics.
“The fact remains that Chris Murphy has taken over $700,000 from Wall Street more than any other House Democat,” Bysiewicz’s campaign manager Jonathan Ducote said in a statement. “We did not confuse the Murphys. In 2008 Chris Murphy was the 4th largest recipient of hedge fund contributions.”
“If Chris Murphy thinks being the 4th largest recipient of hedge fund donations in Congress is alright then it clearly shows he has gone Washington,” he added after being confronted with the third-party information.
In 2008, according to Open Secrets, Murphy only received $17,000 in hedge fund contributions landing him 20th on the list of Republicans and Democrats.
The Murphy campaign called on Bysiewicz to pull the ad. However, Ducote said there are no plans to do so. Asked if the ad contained inaccuracies, Ducote said only Murphy had received so much money from hedge funds that he will never be able to hold Wall Street accountable.
Ducote later admitted the “research error” but again declined to take down the ad.
“Wall Street is a place where they are focused on the bottom line. The bottom line in this race is that Chris Murphy has received more contributions from Wall Street than any other House Democrat this cycle according to Open Secrets,” Ducote said. “No matter how Chris Murphy’s PR team might try to spin it he is the top Democratic recipient of campaign cash from Wall Street in the House.”
An earlier Murphy press release said the spot was “dripping with hypocrisy.” Financial sector donations make up a greater percentage of Bysiewicz’s total fundraising than Murphy’s, the campaign statement said and linked to this spreadsheet.
“Bysiewicz has been running misleading campaigns since the 1990s, so her hypocrisy comes as no surprise,” Lavender said. “The truth is that nobody in Connecticut is buying the attack because it’s made up out of thin air.”
Lavender went on to accuse Bysiewicz of continually focusing on the issue for the last 18 months because she thinks it polls well.
“And it’s no secret that Susan is down on Wall Street begging for contributions to her campaign while she runs TV ads and sends out press releases attacking those same people,” she said.
Murphy, on the other hand, has actually been trying to reform Wall Street while in Congress, Lavender said.
The TV spot and the Murphy camp’s response have both sides sticking to familiar narratives. Throughout the primary race Bysiewicz has tried to paint Murphy as someone who is in Wall Street’s pocket, while Murphy has insisted she lacks his congressional experience.
When the two debated in May, moderator Ned Lamont, who once ran for the same Senate seat, said neither tactic was particularly effective.
“You’re trying to turn this guy into the next Gordon Gekko and I just don’t think it’s sticking right now,” he said. “He’s an attorney from Cheshire who’s devoted his life to public service.”
Meanwhile, Lamont criticized Murphy’s attempts to characterize Bysiewicz as inexperienced.
“And Chris, you’re saying she can’t find her way to the ladies room in Capitol Hill or something, she doesn’t have the experience you do,” he said, implying it was just as ridiculous when U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman tried to do that to him in 2006.
The two candidates will debate again Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport. It will be broadcast on Cablevision and Hearst newspaper websites.