Up until the end of May, the Connecticut Republican Party had three times as much cash on hand as the Democrats, but the fundraising tables quickly turned following the passage of new campaign finance regulations in June.

Since then, the Democrats have been on a tear, raising about three times as much money as the Republicans. From Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, the Connecticut Democratic Party raised about $1.51 million.

In the first five months of the year, the Democratic Party raised about $395,000. As of May 31, the Democrats reported $38,239 cash on hand to the Federal Elections Commission, and also raised about $314 at the state level, bringing its total cash up to $38,553.

On June 18, the governor signed the new rules into law and the party quickly gained momentum, raising about $1.115 million through Sept. 30 with the help of 43 heavy hitters, each of whom wrote a $10,000 check, as well as numerous smaller donations from others. The most recent report, filed 12 days before the municipal election, does not include information on the results of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s fundraising trip to California.

What changed?

CTNJ file photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (CTNJ file photo)

With Malloy’s support, the General Assembly passed a bill that increased the amount of money individuals can donate to state central committees and it also removed the limits on how much a party can then donate to candidates participating in the state’s public financing system.

Up until the new law was passed, individuals were only able to give up to $5,000 to the state party, but now they can give up to $10,000. Also, state contractors are allowed to give $10,000 to the federal committee even though the same contribution is banned at the state level.

Democrats said they were changing the law in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizen’s United case, which allows Political Action Committees formed by corporations, businesses, or unions to spend unlimited amounts of money for or against political candidates. But, despite some new transparency rules requiring more disclosure of donors, clean election advocates say the Democrats now have gone too far in the other direction and have opened the flood gates even further to allow more money into politics.

Top Democratic Donors

Of the 43 donors who gave the maximum of $10,000, nine individuals were listed as having donated to the state Democratic organization in the party’s latest filing. Only two of those nine live in Connecticut, and the rest live in other states.

Jonathan Sackler and his wife, Mary Corson, each gave $10,000. Sackler is a founding chairman of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, which supports charter schools. Mary Corson listed her profession as “homemaker.”

Edward Snider is CEO of Comcast-Spectacor in Pennsylvania, which operates Global Spectrum, the company that won the bid to manage the XL Center in Hartford and Rentschler Field in East Hartford. Snider gave $10,000.

Richard A. Baker is CEO of Hudson’s Bay, a shopping mall development company out of New York. Baker donated $10,000.

Lewis Katz of Boca Raton, Florida, who listed his profession as “philanthropist,” John Fish, CEO of Suffolk Construction in Massachusetts, and J.B. O’Neill, a real estate investor who owns O’Neill Property Group and lives in Pennsylvania, each gave $10,000.

Brian McAllister, CEO of McAllister Towing in New York, gave $10,000 to both the state and the federal Democratic Party committees.

Top Republican Donors

The Republican Party raised about $567,000 from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30. The party’s top donors in the latest round of fundraising were Vince McMahon, chairman and CEO of the WWE, who gave $10,000. His wife, Linda, who ran two unsuccessful campaigns for U.S. Senate, gave $5,000.

CTNJ file photo
Jerry Labriola Jr., chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party (CTNJ file photo)

State Sen. L. Scott Frantz also gave his party $5,000. But the bulk of the fundraising done by the party over the past few months has arrived in smaller donations.

“We are making every effort to enhance our fundraising abilities,” Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. said Monday. “We will ramp up as we move into the gubernatorial election year. Certainly that will require the collective effort of myself, party leaders and our governor candidates to adjust to the revisions in the campaign finance law, which magnifies the importance of the state parties.”

A Bigger Role

The Democrat-controlled General Assembly with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s support insisted that the party had to play a more important role in the electoral process and decided to allow it to donate unlimited amounts of money to clean election candidates. Malloy was the first governor elected under the public finance system, but the system he ran under in 2010 would not have allowed candidates in 2014 to receive additional funding. Under the previous system a gubernatorial candidate could not receive more than $1.25 million for the primary and $6 million for the general election through the Citizens’ Election Program.

Now the party can spend an unlimited amount of money on any candidate participating in the Citizens’ Election Program to augment the campaign’s funding. And while Malloy hasn’t yet said he’s running for re-election, he recently traveled to California to raise money on behalf of the Democratic Party.

“It’s clear the governor is willing to scour the entire country for liberal special interest money,” Labriola said.

Malloy, who declined to provide details of the fundraising expedition last week during a 12-minute press conference, said Monday that he doesn’t believe the new campaign finance laws give the Democratic Party an advantage over the Republican Party since the same rules apply to both parties.

“I think the Republicans have proven themselves to be substantial fundraisers and I think that Republicans have largely benefitted from that disastrous decision by the Supreme Court which equates corporate registration with citizenship,” Malloy said after an unrelated event in Milford.

Malloy was referring to Citizens’ United. But Zak Sanders, a spokesman for the Republican Party, said the Citizens’ United decision did not solely benefit Republicans. He said Democratic PACs were just as active in the last campaign cycle.

And while Sanders said he was not alleging that there is a quid pro quo, he said it doesn’t hurt the party’s fundraising efforts that the Democrat currently occupying the governor’s office is the one soliciting the donations for the party. Sanders said it’s possible that those giving money to the party are looking to ensure that they have access to the current administration.

With the statewide election cycle still more than a year away, the Democratic Party also has spent large sums of money in Bridgeport. According to the recent filing, the state party transferred $20,000 to the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee on Sept. 13, two days after the primary. It also made coordinated expenditures with the three Democratic Board of Education candidates in Bridgeport who were defeated on Sept. 10 by a slate of challenger candidates.

Asked about some of the expenditures, mainly the transfer of $20,000 to the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee, Elizabeth Larkin, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee, said “we don’t comment on the strategy of how we raise money or how we spend money.”