Outside groups that independently spent more than $1.4 million on Connecticut’s legislative races did well Tuesday.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association was able to pick up 11 of the 14 races it supported financially with more than $550,000.
CBIA endorsed more than 100 candidates, but they only supported 14 with independent expenditures.
Joe Brennan, president and CEO of CBIA, said they were encouraged by how many voters were paying attention to the candidates further down the ballot. He said voters don’t want partisan bickering.
Republicans in the House and the Senate were able to make big gains Tuesday to tighten the margins of the Democratic majority. Republicans in the House picked up at least eight seats to shrink the Democratic majority from 87-64 to 79-72. There are at least three recounts pending so those numbers could change.
In the Senate, Republicans were able to draw even with Democrats where the split is now 18-18.
“People really sent the message that they want a more bipartisan effort trying to make the state more livable for them and provide more job opportunities,” Brennan said.
Grow Connecticut, a Republican-funded organization, spent $350,000 on a digital ad campaign and cable television ads targeting three Senate races and 10 House races. The largest donor to the organization was the Republican State Leadership Committee, which is a national 527 group that receives donations from thousands of donors, including Wal-Mart, Koch Industries, and Pfizer. A “527” group is an organization that can raise unlimited funds from individuals, corporations, or labor unions, but which must register with the IRS and disclose their contributions and expenditures.
CBIA and Grow Connecticut were the two largest independent expenditures made this cycle in Connecticut. Grow Connecticut’s candidates also did well, with nine of the 13 candidates winning on Tuesday.
“My goal over the last six years has consistently been to hold all Democrats accountable for rubber stamping the governor’s policies when they go back to their districts and try to pretend they didn’t,” Liz Kurantowicz, who founded Grow Connecticut, said.
It wasn’t the narrative the unions and the Working Families Party thought would resonate following this year’s budget debate. More than $800 million in spending was cut from the budget and more than 1,600 state employees have lost their jobs.
Lori Pelletier, secretary treasurer of the AFL-CIO, said, “Voters are angry about the last budget adjustment, which was ironically supported by CBIA and opposed by labor.”
Pelletier said CBIA wants to double down on the austerity for workers and their families and “prolong taxpayer funded giveaways to corporate CEOs and hedge fund managers. Workers did not vote to have their pay cut, their benefits slashed, and their bargaining rights diminished.”
Lindsay Farrell, director of the Connecticut Working Families Party, said the results Tuesday show that “corporate money can win elections.”
Farrell’s party spent more than $70,000 on the races it supported. It cross-endorsed 87 Democrats and supported two of its own candidates. Fifty-three of the candidates it endorsed won and 36 lost.
“We can expect more cuts and less opportunities for regular, everyday people as Republicans, emboldened by victories tonight, will try to chip away at the progress we’ve made through investments in our workforce,” Farrell said Tuesday. “Bolstering our economy is not a one-size-fits-all solution, relying heavily on corporations to make a better future for everyone. That does not help the full-time, shift worker making $9.60 an hour, struggling to make ends meet. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
Action for Working Families Party, which is an independent expenditure group that can’t coordinate with the Connecticut Working Families Party, raised and spent about $45,000 in Connecticut this year on more than a handful of races.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pointed out Wednesday that with the election of Donald Trump “independent expenditures are not going to go away” because it’s doubtful he would nominate a Supreme Court justice to overturn Citizens United — the decision that allowed for this type of spending on elections.
“It’s quite clear we will permanently live in a post-Citizens United world,” Malloy said. “I think it’s an oversimplification of the issue.”
He said Democrats can blame outside spending on campaigns all they want, but candidates who lost Tuesday were outworked by their opponents, regardless of party.