Gabrielle Giffords
Gabrielle Giffords
Gabrielle Giffords

A national gun-control group co-founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and funded by some of the wealthiest names in technology gave $501,000 Thursday to an affiliated political action committee to air television ads in Connecticut’s race for governor.

Connecticut is an obvious battleground for Giffords’ group, which has been targeting races in places hit by high-profile incidents of gun violence. In December 2012, a gunman shot and killed 26 children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Americans for Responsible Solutions, whose financial backers include billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and founding president of Facebook, made the contribution to Common Sense Connecticut, an affiliate formed to support the re-election of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Common Sense immediately used the money to buy television advertising in the race for governor, according to a filing Thursday night with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

Malloy, a Democrat, backed passage of sweeping gun controls after the Newtown school massacre, while his two opponents, Republican Tom Foley and petitioning candidate Joe Visconti, favor the law’s repeal. Giffords’s group previously gave Common Sense nearly $50,000 in support of Malloy’s re-election.

The contribution was made on the same day that Giffords, a Democratic congresswoman who was shot in the head during a mass shooting in her district at Tuscon, Ariz., in January 2011, visited Connecticut on a nine-state tour promoting initiatives to protect women and families from violence.

Americans for Responsible Solutions has raised $20 million over the past two years. Aside from Bloomberg and Parker, its backers include Marc Benioff, the chairman of, and Connie Ballmer, the wife of Microsoft’s former chief executive, Steve Ballmer.

Benioff gave $500,000 and the others gave $250,000. Its other donors include Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chief executive of the movie studio Dreamworks, and Brian Lee, a co-founder of Legal Zoom, as well as supporters who have made modest contributions in response to grass-roots appeals.

Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, created Americans for Responsible Solutions as she recovered from her gunshot wounds.

“Gabby’s work doesn’t start and end with any one politician’s run for office,” said Susan Voigt of Hamden, the former New Haven Democratic chair who is treasurer of Common Sense.

Their super PAC has been running tough ads in several congressional races, prompting a headline in Politico that said, “Gabby Giffords gets mean.”

Giffords’ group is dictating the content of the Connecticut advertising.

“Our approach has been direct,” Pia Carusone, executive director of Americans for Responsible Solutions, told the National Journal about their other efforts. “There’s no point in spending this money if we’re not going to be forthright and direct about these issues. These are often deadly serious issues.”

Update: Gifford’s group has since spent an additional $200,000 on direct mail in Connecticut.

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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