The Democratic Governors Association has made its first major expenditure supporting the 2014 re-election of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, giving $1.25 million to its Connecticut affiliate for television ads attacking the Republican nominee, Tom Foley.

In a report filed late Friday night with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the national association’s state affiliate, Connecticut Forward, reported immediately spending $834,637 of the $1.25 million on television ads opposing Foley.

The group’s first ad is similar to a Malloy commercial that hits Foley over his scolding of a local Democratic official and soon-to-be-jobless workers outside a paperboard mill in Sprague, an episode that has allowed Democrats to resurrect an issue from 2010: Foley’s role in the failure of the Bibb Co., a textile manufacturer in Georgia.

Meanwhile, the Republican Governors Association reported doubling to $500,000 its initial $250,000 contribution to Grow Connecticut, an independent expenditure group that is not formally affiliated with the RGA, but appears to be the main instrument for financing its opposition to Malloy. It began airing an ad attacking Malloy early this week.

The Democratic Governors Association spent $1.78 million and its GOP counterpart spent $1.6 million on the open race for governor of Connecticut in 2010. With the 2014 race widely rated as a toss up, both groups are expected to exceed those amounts.

Grow Connecticut has upped its spending on television and web ads opposing Malloy to $559,000. In addition to the $500,000 from the RGA, it recently received $60,000 from Citizens for a Sound Government, an independent-expenditure group in Colorado that shares a management firm with Grow Connecticut. Each are managed by employees of CAP Public Affairs.

Connecticut Forward and Grow Connecticut each are “527s,” independent-expenditure groups created under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code. There is no legal limit on the size of the contributions they can accept or expenditures they can make, so long as they do not coordinate their activities with the candidates they support.

Connecticut Forward is formally affiliated with and was created by the DGA, while Grow Connecticut was created by the law firm that advised Foley’s 2010 campaign for governor and represented him last year in an elections enforcement case involving another 527 group, Voters for Good Government.

The Connecticut Forward ad opens with video of Foley arguing with First Selectwoman Cathy Osten, a Democrat, and several employees who confronted him at a press conference Foley held near Fusion Paperboard in Sprague to blame Malloy for the state’s weak economy and the closure of the mill.

Ambushed by Osten, Foley went off message, telling her, and eventually the employees, they shared in the blame for the plant’s failure. The episode was recorded by a Democratic video tracker and a campaign aide to John P. McKinney, the runner up to Foley in the GOP primary.

“That’s Tom Foley blaming Connecticut workers for the Sprague paper mill closing, despite it being shut down by an out of state private equity firm,” the narrator says. “This is the same Tom Foley that drove the Bibb Co. into bankruptcy, while he and his company walked away with $20 million dollars. Tom Foley just doesn’t care about us.”

The Grow Connecticut ad, which has been airing since Monday, reinforces the message that Foley tried to deliver in Sprague last month: Malloy promised to improve the state’s business climate, but Connecticut still ranks near the bottom in business surveys.

On screen, there is a reference to a Gallup poll that found 49 of the residents in Connecticut say they would move to another state if they could, with 16 percent saying a move was at likely in the next 12 months.

“No wonder people want to leave in record numbers,” the narrator says.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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