Campaign finance: Millionaire candidates take different tacks

When it comes to investing in their own campaigns, the two Greenwich millionaires running for governor have much different approaches.

Democrat Ned Lamont has given $8.6 million to his effort–money that’s irretrievably committed to the cause. Republican Tom Foley’s $3 million stake is in the form of loans that he could eventually recover through donations, especially if he wins.

The most recent campaign finance reports cover the 7-day period from July 29 to Aug. 4, when Lamont gave his campaign $1.75 million and Foley loaned himself $750,00 for a final push on television.

Their primaries are Tuesday. Each faces publicly financed opponents, Democrat Dan Malloy and Republican Michael C. Fedele, while a privately financed candidate, Oz Griebel, also is in the GOP race.

All the candidates except Griebel, who had only $68,492 in available funds on July 29 and raised only $6,476 during the following week, are heavily advertising on television with attacks on each other.

The total spending by the candidates through Aug. 4: Lamont, $8.9 million; Foley, $3.76 million; Malloy, $2.66 million; Fedele, $2.65 million; and Griebel, $467,335.

Lamont’s spending is a new record for a Connecticut gubernatorial campaign, surpassing by $2.4 million the $6.5 million spent by Republican John G. Rowland on his entire re-election campaign in 2002.

“This is a guy who is simply trying to buy the election,” Malloy said Saturday, estimating that Lamont will outspend him 4-1 by Tuesday.

Lamont offered no apologies for his resources or his ability to compete in the general election, if he is up against Foley. By making contributions, not loans, to his campaign, he can run as a candidate who will owe no one, he said.

“I’m going up there as my own guy,” he said. “I’m sending that message loud and clear.”

Foley, on the other hand, makes it clear he will recoup his money if possible.He said he is optimistic about raising enough money to himself back at least a portion of the loans.

“I expect to raise a significant amount of money,” he said.

Malloy and Fedele each have received $2.5 million in public financing: a basic grant of $1.25 million for the primary, plus another $1.25 million triggered by the spending of Lamont and Foley.

If they win Tuesday, they will receive a general-election grant of $3 million. The courts have ruled that no supplemental grants triggered by an opponent’s spending will be allowed in the general election.

The Senate on Thursday overrode Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s veto of legislation that would double the general-election grant to $6 million. It is unclear if the House has the votes to override.

If Foley spends on a general-election campaign like he has in the primary, that may be less of a problem for Malloy than some Democrats had feared, if Malloy wins Tuesday and faces Foley in November. On the other hand, Foley may have limited his spending since has a 20-percentage point lead in the most recent poll.

Foley, who was a major fundraiser for George W. Bush, has been only moderately successful on his own behalf, raising $794,520. He predicted he will attract far more donations if he wins the primary Tuesday.

Lamont also has raised $507,559 in contributions from others, in addition to his $8.6 million in personal donations.

Griebel, the president and chief executive of a regional Hartford business association, the MetroHartford Alliance, has raised $467,335.

If the general-election matchup is Lamont and Fedele, the Republican likely would be at a financial disadvantage. In 2006, when he ran for U.S. Senate, Lamont contributed a total of $17 million to his primary and general-election campaigns.

But the GOP legislators, even those supporting Fedele, are opposed to increasing the grant.