Washington – Candidates for the 5th District congressional seat have collectively raised about $10 million in campaign contributions — but most of that money is from their own pockets or people outside the district who can’t vote for them.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of July 25, Democrat Dan Roberti had raised 82 percent of his campaign cash from individuals outside the state. Donors in New York gave him $368,500; those in Washington, D.C., gave him $68,200, and he raised $57,750 in New Jersey.
Roberti’s Democratic opponent Elizabeth Esty raised 67 percent of her money outside the state. Top fundraising spots for her were Washington, D.C., ($165,090), Boston ($161,940) and New York ($158,050.)
“A lot of her contacts are in D.C. and Boston,” said campaign spokesman Jeb Fain. He cited Esty’s studies at Harvard and jobs as a law clerk in Boston and as a professor and attorney in Washington, D.C. Fain also said Esty’s local contributions have picked up recently. Some 46 percent of the campaign cash she collected in the second quarter of this year came from individuals living in the state, he said.
About half of the money Republican Mark Greenberg raised from individuals came from out-of-state, much of it from New York. All the other district candidates raised less than 20 percent of their campaign cash outside the state.
Because Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy, who currently holds the seat, is running for U.S. Senate, the 5th District is an open seat, which usually attracts national interest — and out-of-state money. For example, Joe Kennedy III, who is running for retiring Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank’s seat and whose family ties give him national name recognition, has raised 64 percent of his campaign funds out of state.
According to federal law, individuals can give up to $2,500 to a federal candidate for a primary and another $2,500 for a general election. Connecticut’s primary is Tuesday.
But few candidates for open seats in other states are holding out-of-state fundraisers and soliciting money in other ways as aggressively as Connecticut’s 5th District candidates appear to be.
“There’s no requirement that you only get your money from the district, so candidates go where they can get money,” said Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause Connecticut.
Quickmire said there’s a downside to that.
“It does seem that the average citizen in the (5th) district is not really engaged,” she said. The district, which includes much of Connecticut’s northwest corner, has about 650,000 people.
Even those who haven’t raised a lot of out-of-state money have raised substantial amounts outside the 5th District.
A favorite source has been wealthy Fairfield County. Republican Justin Bernier raised $301,559 there. That accounts for about 55 percent of his itemized contributions and 45 percent of all his contributions — including those small enough not to require identification by donor or address.
Bernier said he has “thousands of donors in the district, but they don’t have a lot of money.”
“All of the candidates are raising money statewide. It’s a small state,” Bernier said. “And Republicans statewide are eager to win a congressional seat, even if it’s not their own.”
Democrat Chris Donovan has raised $110,437 in Fairfield County, Republican Andrew Roraback $57,524, and Roberti $133,950.
All of the candidates have also tapped the political wealth in the state capital, raising substantial amounts of money in the greater Hartford area that lies outside the 5th District.
Another practice in the race is also shrinking the fundraising impact of district voters. Several candidates are putting lots of their own money into their campaigns.
Republicans Greenberg and Lisa Wilson-Foley have loaned their campaigns $1.4 million and $585,000 respectively. Esty has loaned her campaign $525,000 and Roberti more than $1 million.
The involvement of PACs and Super PACs also reduces the importance of local fundraising. Donovan, a former speaker of the Connecticut assembly, has received more than $275,000 from PACs, many belonging to national labor groups that collect money across the country.
Super PACs involved in the race are also diluting the strength of local fundraising.
New Directions for America, a Super PAC backing Roberti, has spent $413,779; and the Patriot Majority PAC that opposes Roraback has spent about $208,000. In addition, Women Vote, the Super PAC of Emily’s List — a Washington, D.C.-based organization that supports pro-choice women candidates — has spent about $300,000 supporting Esty and another $57,000 bashing Donovan.