GOP’s Tom Foley commits to public financing

Tom Foley accepts the GOP endorsement. His wife, Leslie, stands with one of their twins.

CT Mirror

Tom Foley accepts the GOP endorsement. His wife, Leslie, stands with one of their twins.

Tom Foley, the Republican businessman who largely self-funded his $12.8 million campaign for governor in 2010, will accept the public financing and spending limits of the voluntary Citizens’ Elections Program this year.

Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Foley, said Tuesday that the campaign’s application for the public grant was filed Monday and should become public later Tuesday. Foley had been coy about whether he would opt out of the program, which will limit his spending on the GOP primary to about $1.6 million, less than half the $3.76 million spent in 2010.

His key competitors for Republican nomination, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, have committed to public financing, but neither has yet raised the qualifying contributions. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, their Democratic opponent, also is running on public financing.

To obtain a grant under the voluntary program, a candidate for governor must raise $250,000 in contributions of no more than $100 each and qualify for a place on the ballot. A participating candidate must agree to spend no more than the qualifying funds and the public grants.

The grant for a gubernatorial campaign is $1,354,250 for the primary and $6,500,400 for the general election. With the grants and the qualifying contributions, Foley’s campaign would be limited to $8.1 million in direct spending through November, should he win the primary.

Foley’s decision is a calculated gamble. His wealth was a great advantage in 2010, allowing him to air advertising while his main opponent for the nomination, Lt. Gov. Michael C. Fedele, struggled to qualify for public financing.

Fedele did not obtain the public funds until July 8, a month before the primary. By then, Foley already had spent $1.6 million.

But the use of his wealth also left Foley, then a first-time candidate for public office, vulnerable to claims he was attempting to buy the election. He eventually spent nearly $11 million of his own funds on what turned out to be Connecticut’s closest gubernatorial election in 56 years.

Foley, 62, a major GOP fundraiser who was George W. Bush’s ambassador to Ireland, now has a much higher name-recognition than Boughton and McKinney by virtue of his run in 2010, when he lost by just 6,404 votes to Malloy. As was the case four years ago, Foley also is the endorsed candidate of the GOP state convention.

Malloy, the first-term Democrat, was the first publicly financed candidate to be elected governor. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman recently announced they had raised the $250,000 in qualifying contributions.

With no opposition for the Democratic nomination, they will be eligible only for the general-election grant.

With the candidates limited to public financing, independent-expenditure groups are expected to play a major role in the general-election campaign.

Malloy has been aggressively raising money for the Democratic Governors Association, which spent $1.7 million on the Connecticut governor’s race in 2010 and is expected to spend more in 2014. The Republican Governors Association spent $1.6 million.

Foley has a relationship with two independent-expenditure groups, Voters for Good Government and Citizens for Democracy.

The records custodian of both is James E. Tyrrell III of Clark Hill, a D.C. law firm whose other political clients include Foley. The president of Citizens for Democracy is Foley’s campaign treasurer, Larry J. Lawrence of Greenwich.

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