Out-of-state money plays big role in CT lawmakers’ campaigns
Washington – Singer Barbra Streisand, actor Ed Norton and White House Chief of Staff John Podesta are only a few of the many out-of-state donors who have supported members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation.
In fact, money from out-of-state individuals and political action committees is dwarfing contributions from Connecticut voters, a Connecticut Mirror analysis of Federal Election Commission data shows.
Washington, D.C., was a major source of campaign money for the state’s five representatives. More than 25 percent of the money delegation members and their challengers raised last year came from the nation’s capital.
But donations to Connecticut candidates came from across the nation.
Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, raised the most money of the five representatives, about $1.2 million. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, raised the least, about $645,000.
Fundraising is expected to accelerate this year, as all members of the House of Representatives face re-election in November. But to date, only Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, and Himes, face credible challenges.
Those who aren’t facing strong challengers — Courtney, Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District — raised considerably more money from PACS, most of these based in Washington and elsewhere outside the state, than in donations from individuals in Connecticut.
Jimmy Tickey, DeLauro’s campaign manager, said many Washington-based PACs, including those formed by labor unions, “represent hardworking people and families in Connecticut.”
“Do people support Rosa out of state? The answer would be yes, but that’s true of most members [of Congress],” Tickey said.
Esty raised about $1.1 million last year. When it came to individual donors, the first-term representative raised more money outside the state than she did in Connecticut.
Her contributions in 2013 list about $315,000 from individuals in Connecticut and $331,000 outside the state.
Much of Esty’s out-of state support came from New York, Washington and Boston. The lawmaker attended Harvard, but her campaign did not respond directly to questions about her out-of-town fundraising.
“Elizabeth is proud to receive over $1.1 million in contributions last year from thousands of people across central and northwest Connecticut and across the country,” said Anna Moffett, finance director of Esty’s campaign. “She is honored that people have stepped up to support her as she focuses on bipartisan solutions to grow the economy and create good middle-class jobs.”
Esty’s Republican opponent, businessman Mark Greenberg, raised about $231,000 last year; more than half of that, $134,000, was out of his own pocket. Like Esty, Greenberg raised slightly more money ($48,100) from outside the state than he did in Connecticut ($42,400). Sal Lilienthal, a Kent bicycle tour operator and another Republican who’d like to unseat Esty, raised $19,450, most of which was his own money.
Only about 28 percent of Himes’ individual donations came from out of state. But 40 percent of that in-state money came from contributors in Greenwich. Himes raised very little money in Bridgeport, the biggest, but much poorer, city in his district.
Maryli Secrest, Himes’ campaign manager, said the congressman’s fundraising “spans every town in the Fourth District and the entire state of Connecticut.”
“While his outreach and constituent services efforts are more evenly distributed throughout the District, Greenwich has a very active, affluent political community,” Secrest said. “If you examine many candidates’ filings, you will see donating to campaigns is how many Greenwich residents choose to participate in the political process.”
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Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, raised about $738,000 last year for his campaign. About 65 percent of that money came from PACs.
Ironically, Larson, the House Democrats’ point person on campaign finance reform, is a sponsor of the newly introduced “Government by the People Act,” a bill that aims to shore up the increasingly diminished political clout of small donors.
The bill would create a fund to match small contributions by a 6-to-1 margin or more, provide a $25 tax credit for small contributions and create “People PACs,” or small donor committees.
“We must empower everyday Americans in our elections,” Larson tweeted after the introduction of the bill last week.
Larson said, “while we continue to work under the current system until the Government by the People Act is passed, I have made a pledge to garner enough low donor contributions to put my campaign in compliance with the Act as I have with similar legislation in the past.”
“I am proud to say that this cycle, over 900 low donors have showed their support for these efforts,” Larson added.
An analysis of itemized contributions for 2013 showed that about 68 percent of Courtney’s money came from political action committees and that the top source of his campaign cash was Washington. But Courtney, who represents a largely rural district, receives many small contributions that aren’t itemized. When those are factored in, the percentage of his contributions from PACs drops to about 60 percent.
Common Cause spokeswoman Mary Boyle said raising money from out of state “is a common occurrence” since lawmakers have to cast a wider net to pay for increasingly expensive campaigns.
“Our elections are being financed by wealthy donors and special interests who want something from Congress,” she said.
The list of contributions to Connecticut’s House members includes some notable people.
Esty received donations from Bloomberg CEO Daniel Doctoroff; Richard L Kauffman, New York State’s chairman of energy and finance; and Jennifer Brown, dean of the Quinnipiac law school.
DeLauro counted Podesta, who has President Obama’s ear, among her contributors; and Himes’ campaign received donations from Major League Baseball executive John McHale and Amy Newmark, the publisher of “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”
In previous campaign cycles, Himes’ campaign has received campaign cash from Hollywood stars Streisand (who has also contributed to the campaigns of Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy) and Norton.
His challenger, Republican Dan Debicella, raised nearly $284,000 last year, far less than Himes did. All of Debicella’s money came from individuals; he received no PAC donations.
Debicella counted on support from former colleagues at Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, which was his top source of campaign money.
Scott Bornstein, the chief financial officer of General Electric, also donated to Debicella.
Another candidate trying to unseat Himes, Carl Higbie, raised no campaign money last year.
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