HARTFORD, CT — There are three independent expenditure groups backing three of the five Republican candidates for governor. But will their spending, which is much less than the candidates themselves are spending, have an impact?
CT Rising has raised $99,800 over the past two months and has spent almost all of his on television advertising in an effort to boost Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, the endorsed Republican.
Donations came from a New York-based trash hauling businesses with contracts in Danbury, another $5,000 came from James Galante, who was forced to forfeit his role in Danbury’s trash business by a federal judge when he pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and fraud charges involving trash hauling, and a $10,000 donation from Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon.
The television ad the group made seeks to give voters a “puppy break.”
It starts by saying “There’s been over 6,000 political ads in the race for Connecticut governor. We thought you could use a puppy break.”
The narrator goes onto say that Boughton was endorsed by Republican voters because he gets things done, wasn’t a registered Democrat, or an Obama donor.
It’s unclear how much impact the ad, which was released with just three days to go, will have on the campaign.
There’s also the Protect Freedom Political Action Committee, a Virginia based PAC that’s spent more than $1 million on four television advertisements it hopes will benefit Bob Stefanowski, the former GE executive from Madison who is largely self-financing his own campaign and refuses to take questions from the media. And then there’s Fix CT, Inc. the group that’s backing Westport businessman Steve Obsitnik who was the last to receive $1.35 million in public financing.
The State Elections Enforcement Commission is investigating Fix CT, Inc. and Obsitnik’s campaign for potential coordination.
The investigation will seek to determine whether the campaign coordinated with FixCT, Inc., an independent expenditure group that has raised $145,000 and spent more than $123,000 mostly on digital media creation and ad buys on behalf of Obsitnik.
Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, a group which tracks all political ads aired in the United States, said Monday that between June 5 and July 29 they counted 3,835 television ads from Democratic candidate Ned Lamont and the five Republicans. The ads cost a total of $2.4 million.
Ridout said they weren’t counting ads from outside, independent expenditure groups.
The media being purchased by these outside groups can’t be coordinated with the campaigns and sometimes, like what happened in 2016 in the race between Rep. William Petit Jr. and former Rep. Betty Boukus — the messaging by the outside group ended up backfiring and hurting Boukus’ chance of winning the election. Petit won the race and Boukus died the following month after a long battle with cancer.
There’s no clear example of an outside group’s advertisement influencing anything yet in this year’s campaigns.
Meanwhile, the money being spent by these outside groups still pales in comparison to what is being spent by the candidates themselves.
Almost $16 million has been spent in the race for governor, mostly with the help of four largely self-financing candidates.
David Stemerman, who sold his hedge fund to run for governor, has spent more than $6.2 million of the $10 million he pledged to spend on the campaign.
Bob Stefanowski of Madison has spent nearly $2.9 million on his campaign.
Lamont has raised $2.57 million, most of it from his personal loan to his own campaign, and has spent about $1.6 million. About $1 million of that has purchased television advertisements. In 2010, when he lost the Democratic nomination for governor, he spent about $9 million and most of it was his own money.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, an ex-convict who seven years in federal prison on public corruption charges, was barred from participating in the public financing system and has been forced to raise money on his own. He petitioned his way onto the ballot and has loaned his campaign $60,000 while raising nearly $740,000. He had spent about $606,000.
The rest of the candidates — Boughton, Tim Herbst, and Steve Obsitnik — received $1.35 million after raising $250,000 in donations under $100 from qualified donors.