Susan Bysiewicz’s new television ad falsely accuses Chris Murphy of accepting “more hedge fund money than any other Democrat in Congress,” an assertion her campaign acknowledges is unsupported by the data it cites.
The 30-second commercial released Thursday is the first negative ad in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, an effort to chip away Murphy’s significant lead over Bysiewicz in every public poll.
The release of the ad was accompanied by a new web site, murphywallstreet.com, that purports to list Wall Street contributions during his three congressional campaigns and the Senate race.
But the web site is dotted with obvious errors, such as the inclusion of $7,500 from employees of Arethusa Farm, a dairy operation in Litchfield that promises “milk like it used to taste.”
Other supposed Wall Street money came from labor unions, anesthesiologists, beer wholesalers, real-estate developers, major Connecticut insurers and well-known law firms, including the Hartford firm managed by Murphy’s father, Shipman and Goodwin.
The ad opens with a snippet of a Murphy commercial from 2006, when he attacked U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, the Republican he unseated in the 5th District, for her reliance on drug company donations.
“The problem is, Chris has done exactly the same thing,” Bysiewicz says on camera.
Only his source of funds is Wall Street and hedge funds, with no Democrat accepting more cash from hedge fund managers and employees, according to the ad.
“The claim that Susan Bysiewicz herself makes that he’s taken more hedge-fund money than any Democrat in Congress is demonstrably false, and Bysiewicz should take the ad down herself,” said Ben Marter, Murphy’s spokesman.
Jonathan Ducote, the manager of the Bysiewicz campaign, stood by the ad, if not all its details — specifically the claim that Murphy is the biggest Democratic beneficiary of hedge-fund money.
A footnote accompanying a script of the ad justifies that claim with a reference to campaign finance data for only 2008, the year Murphy was re-elected to his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“He’s got a track record. There are articles where he is number three. In a lot of cases, he is in the top 20,” Ducote said. “Even being in the top three, when is that an acceptable answer?”
The Bysiewicz ad is correct on one fundamental point: Murphy has been a major beneficiary of securities and financial services companies.
According to the non-partisan web site, OpenSecrets.org, the industry’s employees and political action committees have given him $754,885 since 2006, an average of $188,500 in his four federal races.
But the category is a broad one, covering Wall Street investment houses as well as small Connecticut investment firms and insurers with a major Hartford presence, such as Travelers, The Hartford and Massachusetts Mutual.
In fact, by OpenSecrets’ count, only one of Murphy’s top 20 donors is on Wall Street. Goldman Sachs ranks 17th with $36,900 in donations from employees and its PAC.
Not counting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which gave Murphy $259,854, his top beneficiary is the employees and PACs of Travelers, which contributed $80,000.
“Here’s the larger point,” Ducote said. “There is a whole series of data points we were trying to demonstrate. He has benefitted from Wall Street cash to the detriment of the middle class.”
Bysiewicz has tried throughout to tag Murphy as a tool of Wall Street, citing campaign donations and a vote in 2010 against a so-called hedge fund loophole, a vote Murphy attributed to other elements of the bill.
But her efforts have been undercut by Murphy’s endorsements by organized labor and two liberal grass-roots groups, the Working Families Party and Connecticut Citizen Action Group.
Were labor, the Working Families and CCAG duped into endorsing a candidate owned by Wall Street?
Ducote said the leadership of those groups endorsed Murphy, not the rank and file.
“They had their endorsement process. This is something we’ve been talking about for a while. This kind of insider vs. outsider mentality,” Ducote said. “If you look at Susan’s record, she’s never had the support of the establishment, the support of insiders.”
“I think at the end of the day, a voter needs to look at votes and who he is taking money from,” he said.
In Murphy’s case, seven of the top 16 donors are labor unions.