HARTFORD, CT — The Virginia-based political action committee that supported Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski during the five-way Republican primary seems to have moved north to a U.S. Senate race in Maine.
The committee — Protect Freedom PAC, which spent about $1.1 million on Stefanowski during the primary — hasn’t participated in his general election campaign.
They stopped their Facebook advertising as soon as the primary was over Aug. 14 and moved on to Kelli Ward’s run for the U.S. Senate in Arizona. Ward was defeated by Martha McSally. Then the PAC moved to Eric Brakey, the Republican nominee in the U.S. Senate race in Maine where Brakey is challenging incumbent Sen. Angus King. The group also went up Sunday with television and digital ads for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is running for U.S. Senate.
CTNewsJunkie called and emailed Protect Freedom Political Action Committee to see if they plan to come back and spend more money in Connecticut, but did not receive an answer. The Connecticut treasurer listed on the committee’s filings said their attorney would be in touch before hanging up the phone abruptly Friday. No one from the organization has returned our calls or emails for comment.
Change PAC, which is the name of the Republican Governors Association’s independent expenditure group, has been spending big here on a number of television and digital ads.
The group gave another $500,000 to its effort to take back the governor’s office this weekend. That brings the total amount of spending it has allocated to the race to $2 million. It’s already spent about $1.5 million, mostly on television advertising, in support of Stefanowski and in opposition to Ned Lamont.
Stefanowski himself has been working hard to raise the money he needs to be competitive.
He has criss-crossed the state seeking money from individuals who are allowed to give up to $3,500 to his campaign under the law. He recently went to New York City for a fundraiser held at Noelle Nikpour’s $13,000-per-month condo overlooking Central Park. Nikpour, the Republican strategist, has been paid $30,000 by Stefanowski’s campaign since last December, according to campaign reports.
Fundraising numbers aren’t expected to be reported until Oct. 10, but according to information provided by his campaign, he raised $1.5 million in September and has $746,000 cash on hand.
If he had participated in the Citizens Election Program he would have received a grant of $6.5 million as soon as he won the Republican primary, but Stefanowski opposes the use of public financing for elections.
Asked recently if he has any regrets about the decision, Stefanowski said he didn’t.
“I don’t think it’s right for taxpayers to be paying for political campaigns,” Stefanowski said Monday. He said he enjoys talking to voters on the campaign trail and visiting businesses more than he likes fundraising, but he doesn’t have the resources.
“I’ve gotta spend half my day raising money,” Stefanowski said.
Lamont, his Democratic opponent, has given another $5 million to his campaign bringing his total up to $8 million.
The Republican Party of Connecticut can also spend unlimited amounts of money on the governor’s race as long as none of the money is from a state contractor.
Both parties are required to segregate their money into two separate accounts, one for state candidates and one for federal candidates.
The Democratic Party paid the largest fine in Connecticut’s history for not drawing a clear line between the two accounts in 2014 during Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election campaign.
At the moment it’s still unclear how much either party has spent on their gubernatorial candidates because the information isn’t required to be reported until midnight Oct. 10.
The Democratic Governors Association, which is spending under the heading of Our Connecticut PAC, has raised about $125,000 to spend on the race in Connecticut. Most of its spending has been on opposition research of Stefanowski.
The amount of money the PAC has spent in Connecticut this year pales in comparison to the millions it spent in 2010 and 2014.
In 2010, the DGA spent about $1.78 million in order to help get Malloy elected. And in 2014 it spent more than $2.4 million.