Publicly financed candidates technically campaign with the same limited budget, but as of last week both Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Tom Foley had super PAC allies pouring outside money into the race.
On Thursday, a conservative super PAC paid a California firm $193,000 to produce a television ad. The group is called Grow Connecticut, and its filings with state election regulators indicate that former state Republican Party Executive Director Elizabeth Kurantowicz is its treasurer.
The super PAC paid for the ad on the same day the state Republican Party filed a complaint with regulators, which alleged illegal coordination between another group, called Connecticut Forward, and Malloy’s campaign.
Connecticut Forward spent more than $91,200 in July on pollsters and consultants to help augment Malloy’s publicly funded campaign. It spent $12,000 to produce its own ad against Foley, another $6,000 on a website, and $4,200 on consultants.The group was created and bankrolled by the Democratic Governors Association. Malloy is a member of the group and previously served as its finance chair.
Meanwhile, Grow Connecticut has been largely bankrolled by the Republican Governor’s Association. RGA Chairman and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigned with Foley in July. Grow Connecticut also received $25,000 from Craig R. Stapleton who, like Foley, served as a diplomat under President George W. Bush.
As participants in the state Citizens’ Election Program, the campaigns of Malloy and Foley are each operating with a limited $6.5 million grant paid for by taxpayers. The program was implemented to limit the influence of special interest dollars in state political campaigns. Outside groups are not bound by the same limitations.
Cherie Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut, said the current spending by super PACs points to a need for tighter disclosure requirements.
“They are permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections. We are pushing for disclosure so voters have that information. They need to know how much is coming from independent billionaires, how much is coming from Republican and Democratic Governors Associations, and who are these super PACs — who is supporting and putting money into them?” she said.
In 2010, Malloy became the first governor elected using the program. He narrowly won against Foley, who self-funded his 2010 campaign.
Last year, the Malloy administration and Democrats in the legislature made significant changes to the state’s campaign finance laws. To account for super PAC spending, Democrats lifted fundraising and spending limitations that had been imposed on state party committees.
In a statement released Monday, Democratic Party spokesman Devon Puglia accused Foley and his “super PAC allies” of distorting Malloy’s record.
The Democratic group, Connecticut Forward, was created after a federal judge ruled that the Democratic Governors Association lacked standing to bring a lawsuit against state regulators. The DGA sued the state back in April in an attempt to find out whether Malloy’s fundraising for the group would limit its ability to spend its money on his re-election campaign.