Ste­fanowski has movie- mak­ing backer

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - News - By Mark Pazniokas CTMIRROR. ORG

“He re­sponded to a di­rect mailer, and I went to thank him. That was the con­nec­tion. He sent in thirty- five hun­dred bucks on a di­rect mail. Never met him be­fore.” Bob Ste­fanowski

A fi­nan­cially for­tu­itous mo­ment in Repub­li­can Bob Ste­fanowski’s cam­paign for gover­nor was the day in May when he thanked film­maker Rev­erge C. Anselmo, of Green­wich, for a $ 3,500 con­tri­bu­tion, the max­i­mum al­lowed by state law.

As they say in the movies, it was the be­gin­ning of a beau­ti­ful friend­ship.

Six months later, Anselmo has emerged as Ste­fanowski’s most im­por­tant bene­fac­tor, con­tribut­ing nearly $ 2 mil­lion to in­de­pen­den­t­ex­pen­di­ture groups that pro­vide an easy path around Con­necti­cut’s lim­its on di­rect con­tri­bu­tions to can­di­dates. Only Ste­fanowski has con­trib­uted more to the cause of elect­ing Ste­fanowski gover­nor.

It started with a di­rect- mail so­lic­i­ta­tion.

“He re­sponded to a di­rect mailer, and I went to thank him,” Ste­fanowski said. “That was the con­nec­tion. He sent in thirty- five hun­dred bucks on a di­rect mail. Never met him be­fore.”

The sin­gu­lar role of Anselmo in Con­necti­cut’s gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion is ev­i­dence of how even a po­lit­i­cal new­comer like Ste­fanowski, who launched his cam­paign last year with­out a po­lit­i­cal base of sup­port­ers and donors, can com­pete fi­nan­cially with the help of a small cir­cle of back­ers will­ing to write six- fig­ure checks.

Anselmo, 56, is the son of the late Rene Anselmo, an ec­cen­tric en­tre­pre­neur be­hind the first pri­vately owned net­work of global satel­lites. The elder Anselmo was known in Green­wich for his Ver­sailles- in­spired home, his phi­lan­thropy and his habit of oc­ca­sion­ally pulling over his Bent­ley to per­son­ally plant some of the 100,000 tulip and daf­fodil bulbs he do­nated to Green­wich for road­side beau­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Rev­erge Anselmo has owned a vine­yard in Cal­i­for­nia, where he lived for a time, and served as a Marine, writ­ten a novel, writ­ten and di­rected three movies and was the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of a fourth, “The Squid and the Whale.” He is a long­time Repub­li­can donor to fed­eral races, but cam­paign fi­nance records in­di­cate he has largely shunned elec­tions for state of­fices in Con­necti­cut un­til now.

Ef­forts in re­cent days to reach him through the state Repub­li­can Party and Green­wich Repub­li­cans were un­suc­cess­ful.

A month after his $ 3,500 con­tri­bu­tion to Ste­fanowski, Anselmo be­came the big­gest donor to Pro­tect Free­dom Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Com­mit­tee, a su­per PAC that spent $ 1.2 mil­lion to sup­port Ste­fanowski’s cam­paign to win the GOP pri­mary on Aug. 14.

The com­mit­tee went in­ac­tive after Ste­fanowski won, and the Repub­li­can Gover­nors As­so­ci­a­tion took over the role of sup­ple­ment­ing the nom­i­nee’s cam­paign with its own in­de­pen­dent- ex­pen­di­ture group, Change PAC. The RGA can ac­cept un­lim­ited con­tri­bu­tions, al­low­ing Con­necti­cut Repub­li­cans to send money to the na­tional group know­ing it will come back to Con­necti­cut.

Anselmo gave the RGA $ 150,000 on Sept. 17 — then sent $ 1 mil­lion three days later.

“I think it’s great that I’ve got a sup­porter like that out there. I think it’s great the RGA views us as its num­ber one flip state,” Ste­fanowski said, a ref­er­ence to Con­necti­cut be­ing one of the few states where con­trol of the gover­nor’s of­fice could flip from Demo­cratic to Repub­li­can. “And I think we’re happy where the polls are, and they are as well.”

Su­per PACs must re­main in­de­pen­dent of the can­di­dates they sup­port, though snip­pets of footage shot by Ste­fanowski’s cam­paign have been used by the Su­per PACs. Ste­fanowski’s cam­paign says it did not di­rectly give the PACs the footage; In­stead, it posted so- called B- roll footage on its YouTube page, where any sup­porter could make copies.

Pri­vate eq­uity man­ager Thomas McIn­er­ney, of West­port, a donor to a su­per PAC that sup­ported Steve Ob­sit­nik over Ste­fanowski in the GOP pri­mary, gave $ 175,000 to the RGA in Septem­ber, bring­ing his to­tal for the year to $ 300,000. Ten days after the pri­mary, Dorothy Walker Sta­ple­ton of Green­wich, a cousin of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, gave $ 250,000.

The RGA, which al­ready had given $ 5.78 mil­lion to Change PAC, con­trib­uted an­other $ 1.65 mil­lion this week, most for a late tele­vi­sion blitz. Com­bined with Ste­fanowski’s more mod­est tele­vi­sion spend­ing, it helps keep Repub­li­cans roughly matched with the Democrats’ in­de­pen­dently wealthy nom­i­nee, Ned La­mont.

La­mont is out­spend­ing Ste­fanowski by more than a 2 to 1 mar­gin, $ 12.9 mil­lion to $ 6.1 mil­lion. All but $ 800,000 of La­mont’s cam­paign money came from the can­di­date. Ste­fanowski has loaned or con­trib­uted about half of his to­tal. The Demo­crat ac­tu­ally has a big­ger ad­van­tage in general- elec­tion spend­ing: Ste­fanowski spent half of his money to win a five­way pri­mary, while 80 per­cent of La­mont’s spend­ing has come since his easy win in a two- way pri­mary. With La­mont’s fi­nan­cial ad­van­tage, the Demo­cratic Gover­nors As­so­ci­a­tion has largely opted out of the race.

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