Stefanowski, Stemerman lead GOP in spending, debt

ctmirror.org

Bob Stefanowski

Updated at 6:50 a.m. Wednesday

The gubernatorial campaigns of Republicans David Stemerman and Bob Stefanowski topped the crowded field in spending through June 30, with Stefanowski reporting he finished the quarter with $646,155 cash on hand and a debt of $1.75 million, most of it owed to the  candidate.

Stefanowski and his top adviser, Patrick Trueman, who could not be reached after the filing late Tuesday night, said Wednesday morning his campaign is fiscally sound, and the unpaid bills the campaign is carrying are a reflection of its interpretation of campaign finance rules.

Stemerman outspent Stefanowski, $3 million to $1.55 million.

Stemerman’s report lists $10 million in outstanding loans, all from himself, and $9.9 million in available cash. Both candidates are relying on personal loans, but Stefanowski’s approach to campaign accounting has produced a report that shows him with unpaid expenses swamping available cash.

“We currently filled out the form correctly based on an interpretation of how our attorney told us to do it,” Stefanowski said.

[Stefanowski filed an amended report Wednesday.]

Stefanowski’s report is confusing in that it lists $1.25 million in loans from the candidate in the three months ending on June 30, and an equal amount paid off during the same period. Yet, it also lists five loans totaling $1.25 million from the candidate as “expenses incurred…but not paid during this period.”

The bottom line in the report is it incurred $1.59 million in unpaid expenses in April, May and June. Added to previous debts, the Stefanowski’s total unpaid expenses are $1.75 million.

Self-funders often list the money they spend on their campaigns as loans, allowing them to easily take back unexpended funds at the close of a campaign.

Stefanowski and Stemerman, two businessmen who bypassed the GOP convention and opted out of the state’s voluntary system of public financing, have raised their profiles by costly early television advertising.

Stemerman, a former hedge fund manager, has put $12.8 million of his own money into his campaign, raised $100,000 from others and spent $3 million through June 30. Stemerman’s report is straightforward, listing $10 million in outstanding loans, unpaid expenses of $41,466 and $9.9 million in available cash.

Stefanowski reported Tuesday that he has put $1.75 million of his own money into the campaign from its inception, raised $451,809 from others and spent $1.55 million through June 30, while incurring another $1.75 million in debt.

The spending has been far lower in the Democratic race. Ned Lamont managed to spend just $924,015 on his self-funded campaign, the result of winning his party’s convention endorsement and only facing one opponent in the Democratic primary: Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, who is living on a relatively tight budget. Ganim spent $360,138.

The campaign finance filings, which covered the second quarter of 2018 and were due at the State Elections Enforcement Commission by midnight Tuesday, provide a limited window into the ability of the five Republicans and two Democrats to compete in the remaining five weeks of the campaign for their party’s gubernatorial nominations.

Lamont’s campaign reported having only $80,607 in cash on hand to start July, one-fourth of the $316,343 held by Ganim. But Lamont, the scion of a wealthy family and the founder of a cable television company, need only reach for his checkbook to provide funds as needed. In his 2010 primary for governor, he spent $9 million of his own money.

Unlike Lamont, who has been the presumptive nominee for six weeks, Stemerman has had to convince Republican delegates and voters he is financially committed to his campaign. He has done so by writing big checks, including a $1 million contribution on May 2 and a $10 million loan to his campaign June 26. He previously gave his campaign $1.8 million.

Three other Republicans — Mark Boughton, Timothy Herbst and Steve Obsitnik — are participating in the voluntary Citizens’ Election Program, which limits their spending on a primary to $1.6 million, including a $1.35 million public grant. Boughton and Herbst have received their grants; Obsitnik is awaiting approval.

The campaign report of Stefanowski was not available on the State Elections Enforcement Commission’s web site until after 11 p.m., about an hour before the midnight filing deadline.

Stefanowski, a former high-ranking executive at GE and UBS Investment Bank, has been relying largely on his own funds, with some contributions from donors.

Every Republican but Obsitnik is airing television commercials, while Lamont has yet to buy television time. His campaign reported a single expenditure for TV advertising: a $104,111 payment on June 21 to his ad maker, Putnam Partners.

Stemerman has been on the air for months, and his campaign spent about $800,000 to produce and buy television time in the second quarter of 2018, with more than half the money spent in June. 

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