Themis Klarides raised the most, but ended up third in cash on hand due to loans Leora Levy and Peter Lumaj made to their own campaigns. CTMIRROR.ORG
David R. Langdon,
David R. Langdon ADF

A new player entered Connecticut’s race for governor over the weekend as a “dark money” group from Ohio contributed $1.17 million to Grow Connecticut, the super PAC behind a $6.7 million advertising campaign to defeat Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

The money came from A Public Voice, Inc., which is based at the West Chester, Ohio office of David R. Langdon, a lawyer who has represented a network of conservative non-profit groups in a legal fight with the IRS over their tax-exempt status and is active opposing gay marriage, among other causes.

Grow Connecticut, which is allied with the Republican Governors Association, immediately used the contribution to purchase nearly $1 million of television advertising attacking Malloy, the first-term Democrat locked in a close race with Republican Tom Foley.

The dark-money contribution, so named for the inability to readily trace its sources, is the biggest in Connecticut’s race for governor. There is plenty of big money flowing into the race, but it has come from groups whose donors are publicly disclosed either to the IRS or Federal Election Commission.

A spokeswoman for Grow Connecticut said Sunday she did not know where A Public Voice gets its money.

“I can’t speak to their contributors or how they raise their money or anything else. We’re just glad to have their support,” said Liz Kurantowicz, the former state GOP official who runs Grow Connecticut.

A Public Voice, a non-profit whose donors are not public, has no obvious ties to Connecticut. Its agenda is unclear, since since it is bankrolling Grow Connecticut’s ads, not its own.

In a story published Oct. 17, the Cleveland Plain Dealer described the group part of a network of Ohio non-profits that have begun to invest money in out-of-state races.

Joshua B. Bolinger, a lawyer in Langdon’s office, is the agent for Public Voice, which was originally formed in 2012 as Protect Your Vote Ohio, a Republican group opposed to redistricting reforms sought by Democrats and labor unions. Langdon was identified in press reports as the treasurer.

It raised and spent $8.2 million in 2012, according to its only publicly available tax return.

It changed its named to A Public Voice last year.

Langdon and Bolinger have been involved in high-profile conservative causes. Langdon is profiled by a conservative Christian group, the Alliance Defending Freedom, as being instrumental in passage of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Ohio.

“Perhaps no one understands better than David Langdon how much heroic effort is being poured into defending marriage against the nationwide onslaughts of the homosexual legal agenda,” the Alliance says in its profile of Langdon.

In a legal brief, Langdon argued in 2002 against an effort by a mother of six to have her same-sex partner given parental rights: “This would create a slippery slope that could render Ohio a haven for morally repugnant relationships.”

Online corporate records show Langdon is the agent for a dozen Ohio non-profits with a political bent, including the Cincinnati Tea Party Association, the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Ohio, Inc., and Ohioans for Workplace Freedom.

The latter group is behind a “right-to-work” amendment in Ohio that would prohibit employers from enforcing contracts in which employees are required to join a union or, if they can opt out, pay a union for negotiating benefits.

It is unclear what overlap, if any, there is with the contribution to Grow Connecticut and the groups represented by Langdon and Bolinger.

Malloy is a strong supporter of gay rights. Foley says he considers marriage to be between a man and a woman, but he says gay marriage is a non-issue in his campaign. He was endorsed this year by the state’s biggest social-issues group, the Family Institute of Connecticut, which cited his opposition to assisted suicide as the primary basis, not gay marriage.

Neither Foley nor Grow Connecticut have made an issue of gay marriage.

The contribution by A Public Voice to Grow Connecticut came a day after a super PAC financed by billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg reported spending $1.7 million for advertising praising Malloy for helping pass a gun control law in response to the Newtown school massacre and criticizing Foley for his opposition.

Another gun-control group, Common Sense for Connecticut, has spent $751,000 on television and direct mail praising Malloy and criticizing Foley over guns. It is affiliated with Americans for Responsible Solutions, a super PAC founded by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Outside spending now on the race now has reached $15 million, with $8.3 million expended by allies of Malloy and $6.7 million by allies of Foley. The two campaigns together will directly spend $13 million on their publicly financed general-election campaigns.

Under the state’s voluntary public-financing program, the campaigns of Foley and Malloy cannot exceed their general-election grants of $6.5 million, plus the $250,000 in small-dollar qualifying funds they raised privately.

Grow Connecticut and Connecticut Forward can accept and spend unlimited contributions as long as they do not coordinate with the campaigns of the candidates they are trying to elect.

Grow Connecticut, a super PAC formed by the Washington D.C. law firm that advised Foley’s 2010 race for governor, reported the contribution from A Public Voice at 8:12 p.m. on Saturday, one of a series of independent-expenditure reports filed nearly daily with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

The outside spending this year is nearly four times the independent expenditures made in Connecticut’s open race for governor in 2010, when the Democratic Governors Association spent $1.78 million and the Republican Governors Association spent $1.6 million.

This year, the DGA is directing its spending here through Connecticut Forward, which is a formal affiliate of the Democratic group. The RGA is using Grow Connecticut and has supplied $4.9 million of group’s $6.7 million budget.

Grow Connecticut’s other major donor is Citizens for a Sound Government, a Colorado group that has given $660,000. It shares a management firm with Grow Connecticut. Each are managed by employees of CAP Public Affairs.

Outside Spending on Connecticut Governor’s Race Tops $15 million
Almost all of it is buying negative advertising
PAC Total receipts Supporting Affiliiates/Backers
Grow Connecticut $6,738,722 Foley Republican Governors Assoc.
Connecticut Forward $5,120,000 Malloy Democratic Governors Assoc.
Independence USA $1,716,698 Malloy  Michael Bloomberg
Common Sense Connecticut $751,100 Malloy Americans for Responsible Solutions
Working Families Party $693,000 Malloy  Unions

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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