Linda McMahon got flak from Republicans last year during her U.S. Senate bid for donating more than $35,000 to Democrats while she was the chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment. Now, it’s Lisa Wilson-Foley’s turn.
The Republican 5th District candidate and health-care entrepreneur donated more than $7,000 to Democratic congressional candidates in Connecticut over 13 years, primarily to the Democrat she is trying to succeed, U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy.
According to Federal Election Commission filings, she donated $2,800 to Murphy in 2006 when he unseated Republican Nancy Johnson, then the senior member of the state’s House delegation. She gave Johnson $200 for that race in 2005.
She gave another $2,300 to Murphy in 2007 for the 2008 5th District race against Republican David Cappiello. She also gave U.S. Rep. John Larson $1,000 in the 2004 1st District race against Republican John Halstead. Wilson-Foley gave Larson another $1,000 in 1998.
Wilson-Foley said she supported Murphy during the 5th District races in 2006 and 2008 because she liked his ideas. At the time, Wilson-Foley managed her health care company, Apple Rehab, with her husband.
“I felt like he was fresh and he was excited,” she said. “He listened to us about our business. I just felt that he was open to hearing suggestions.”
She said that until the economy took a downward turn in 2008, she didn’t pay the closest attention to how Connecticut’s elected officials voted on every bill.
“I did not understand or know the intricacies of the policies back then, like many people,” she said. “I was not a politician. Until ’08, I was busy growing my company and my family. My business was good and we were doing well as a nation. But then everything in ’08 fell apart and I was tightening my belt. I looked over and government was still growing. That’s really when things opened up for me.”
She said she stopped supporting Murphy after watching him vote with former U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi too often. For example, Wilson-Foley said she doesn’t support cap and trade, which Murphy endorsed. She said she also supported Larson until he endorsed President Barack Obama’s health care reform legislation.
“Times have changed and the government hasn’t coped with those changes,” Wilson-Foley said.
Republican 5th District candidate Michael Clark, who stressed taht his financial contributions only went to Republicans and said he wanted to know why Wilson-Foley donated to Murphy, the Democrat vacating the congressional seat she hopes to win.
“My only donations have been to Republicans,” Clark said. “It’s certainly surprising that she donated to Murphy. That would require a detailed explanation as to why and what benefit she derived from that.”
Scott Will, campaign manager for Republican candidate Justin Bernier, said Bernier’s financial contributions only went to Republicans and declined to comment any further.
Wilson-Foley called herself an independent thinker and an independent woman who plans to keep an open mind on issues as the years pass and circumstances change. She also said putting people ahead of party often proves important. In the current economic climate, however, she said she aligns herself with Connecticut Republicans and their values regarding business.
“I will always continually assess, what am I?” she said. “Do the Republican values identify with me? Are my thoughts still aligned enough to check that box? From a business standpoint, Democratic values do not align with me.”
Wilson-Foley’s campaign said that she has made $42,170 in contributions to Republicans, both federal and state candidates, including federal contributions she made this quarter not yet reflected in filings. Wilson-Foley also said she supported former Gov. M. Jodi Rell and former Gov. John G. Rowland in their Republican gubernatorial campaigns. She also worked as a treasurer for former Republican state Sen. Thomas Herlihy during his campaigns for election between 2003 and 2007.
Despite her past financial support for Murphy and Larson, Wilson-Foley can’t expect any financial support from Murphy in return as she pursues the 5th Congressional District seat.
Kenny Curran, a spokesman for Murphy’s U.S. Senate campaign, said Murphy doesn’t plan to return the financial support to Wilson-Foley in her candidacy and that Murphy will endorse the Democrat who wins the party nomination.
“There’s obviously a very deep and talented field of Democrats in the race for the fifth, and we can say that we’ll be supporting the Democrat in the race,” Curran said.
Christopher Licata, a spokesman for Larson, said, “Lisa Wilson-Foley, like anyone else who has contributed to John Larson since 1998, probably did so because they think he’s the best man for the job.”