Cash pours into state cam­paigns

Greenwich Time - - FRONT PAGE - By Kait­lyn Kras­selt

An un­prece­dented amount of money is pour­ing into Con­necti­cut leg­isla­tive races as Repub­li­cans at­tempt to take the House and the Se­nate.

On Wed­nes­day, the Repub­li­can State Lead­er­ship Com­mit­tee poured $400,000 into Change Con­necti­cut, a po­lit­i­cal action com­mit­tee, or PAC, tar­get­ing se­nate Democrats. That dou­bles the amount the lead­er­ship com­mit­tee had al­ready spent this year in Con­necti­cut. By Thurs­day, the PAC spent more than $300,000 of that on dig­i­tal me­dia, mail­ers, polling and con­sult­ing ser­vices in four close races.

“The num­bers are ab­so­lutely in­creas­ing and I

In­side: Green­wich Repub­li­cans can­di­dates serve up cof­fee and con­ver­sa­tion. A3 would not say that we ac­tu­ally know what nor­mal is right now,” Cheri Quick­mire, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Com­mon Cause of Con­necti­cut, said. “It’s clear that there are out­side spenders who are try­ing to in­flu­ence state elec­tions and they are will­ing to spend a tremen­dous amount of money to do so.”

The amount the com­mit­tee spent dwarfs the $75,000 pub­lic grants awarded to Se­nate can­di­dates un­der the state’s Clean Elec­tions Pro­gram, which was es­tab­lished to

re­duce spe­cial in­ter­ests’ in­flu­ence on cam­paigns.

For­mer Gov. M. Jodi Rell — the Repub­li­can who over­saw the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the clean elec­tions laws af­ter her pre­de­ces­sor John Row­land re­signed in a pub­lic cor­rup­tion scan­dal — sits on the board of the lead­er­ship com­mit­tee. She could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment Thurs­day.

The com­mit­tee has fun­neled more out­side money into lo­cal races than has ever been seen in the state, Quick­mire said. She at­trib­uted the in­crease to the com­pet­i­tive­ness of this year’s leg­isla­tive races — the Repub­li­cans would only need to pick up five seats to flip the House and the state Se­nate is now tied 18-18.

The lead­er­ship com­mit­tee, based in Washington, D.C., has mil­lions on hand from donors like Koch In­dus­tries, sev­eral fam­ily mem­bers of Trump Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Betsy DeVos, the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany Ab­bVie and to­bacco com­pany Reynolds Amer­i­can, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments filed with the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice.

Fil­ings with the state elec­tions com­mis­sion show the PAC spent money in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber op­pos­ing Demo­cratic can­di­dates for the state Se­nate in­clud­ing Steve Cas­sano, a sit­ting state Sen­a­tor from Manch­ester, Mid­dle­town state Rep. Matt Lesser, Mil­ford res­i­dent James Moroney who is run­ning to re­place re­tir­ing state Sen. Gayle Sloss­berg, and Essex First Select­man Norm Needle­man.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the in­flux of out­side money com­pro­mises the state’s pub­lic cam­paign fi­nance pro­gram, and is a di­rect re­sult of the Cit­i­zens United rul­ing, which opened the door for un­lim­ited spend­ing by cor­po­ra­tions.

“Con­necti­cut has re­ally be­come a good in­vest­ment for dark money op­po­nents to tar­get our Cit­i­zens Election Pro­gram,” Looney said. “Out­side spenders know ex­actly what per­cent­age of the cam­paign bud­get they will be spend­ing. They know if they spend $100,000, they’re dou­bling the bud­get on a se­nate race.”

“The money is ab­so­lutely flow­ing in this election cy­cle,” Quick­mire said.

Quick­mire filed an of­fi­cial com­plaint against Change Con­necti­cut Thurs­day for not dis­clos­ing how it is spend­ing money and who it is tar­get­ing in all of its fil­ings with the State Elec­tions En­force­ment Com­mis­sion.

Change Con­necti­cut is a PAC or­ga­nized by char­ter school lob­by­ist Bill Phillips. Phillips, who sits on the Board of Di­rec­tors for the North­east Char­ter Schools Net­work, has pub­licly backed DeVos, who fa­vors pri­va­tized char­ter schools and a voucher sys­tem. Mem­bers of the DeVos fam­ily have contributed a to­tal of $200,000 to the RSLC.

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