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Millions In Outside Money Pouring Into Race for Governor [The Hartford Courant]
[October 30, 2014]

Millions In Outside Money Pouring Into Race for Governor [The Hartford Courant]

(Hartford Courant (CT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 31--HARTFORD -- Millions of dollars in outside political money from the right and left is flooding into Connecticut, with the latest installment a $1.17 million contribution of "dark money" from a nonprofit conservative group in Ohio called A Public Voice.

That money has gone into the coffers of Grow Connecticut, a political action committee associated with national Republicans that is financing ads aimed at defeating Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy.

By sending money to Grow Connecticut, the leaders of A Public Voice avoided a recently approved state law that would require them to reveal who their contributors are. The ability to conceal who is actually providing the funding is what has led to the description of these contributions as dark money.

Outside spending on the contest between Malloy and Republican Tom Foley has reached $15 million -- more than the combined amount that Malloy and Foley are getting from Connecticut's taxpayer-paid-for public campaign finance system. As of last week, records show about $8.3 million had been spent by outside groups to help Malloy, and approximately $6.7 million in outside spending for Foley.

The money is coming from national Democratic and Republican groups or their surrogates, anti-gun control organizations and pro-gun control groups, liberal organizations and conservatives, corporate and union political action committees. Both sides have accused the other of circumventing or violating the spirit of Connecticut's public campaign finance program, which was intended to lessen the influence of special interest dollars on elections.

Political contributions and campaign spending in this election, including which donors can remain secret and which must be revealed, are governed by a confusing web of federal and state laws and court rulings.

The key action that unleashed huge amounts of political spending in recent years was the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which effectively allowed unlimited spending by corporations and nonprofit 501 [c] groups and social welfare organizations. The ruling permits unrestricted spending to influence voters on specific issues, as long as the spending isn't coordinated with a candidate.

Some of the outside financing is coming from dark money" groups, nonprofits such as A Public Voice that don't need to reveal their donors if they pass their funding through other committees, such as Grow Connecticut.

Other organizations, so-called super PACs that spend money to help or attack a candidate, are required by a recent Connecticut law to reveal their top five contributors, said Joshua Foley, an attorney with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

Last week, Independence USA PAC, a gun control super PAC led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pumped $1.7 million into Connecticut's race to help Malloy beat Foley.

Foley said there are circumstances in which some information about the people contributing money to "dark money" may be made public, such as in federal tax documents. But those are normally filed long after Election Day.

Democrats this week denounced the latest surge of conservative campaign money into Connecticut, saying it's coming from an organization opposed to gay marriage and demanded that Foley disavow the group's support.

Leaders of A Public Voice have in the past been involved in an Ohio campaign to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and efforts to ban adoptions by gay couples. Robert R. Langon, an Ohio lawyer identified in federal documents as a key player in A Public Voice, failed to respond to requests for comment.

One irate Democratic lawmaker, Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford, even urged Foley to "return those dollars," even though the GOP candidate has no legal way to do that.

"We don't have any control over the money these [independent] groups give," Foley spokesman Chris Cooper said.

Connecticut Republicans, meanwhile, filed a lawsuit claiming Connecticut's Democratic Party is circumventing a state law that bans state contractors from contributing to state campaigns.

The suit, which objected to Democrats using money from a federal account (which contractors can contribute to) on a pro-Malloy political flier, was dismissed in Superior Court Thursday. Judge Antonio Robaina said the Republican Party "failed to exhaust the administrative remedy available to it prior to bringing the present action" and so the Connecticut court "lacks subject matter jurisdiction." The administrative remedy available to the Republicans, a decision by the state elections commission, is not likely to come before the election on Tuesday.

One reason so much money is being focused on Connecticut's governor's race is that recent polls indicate the contest is virtually tied with less than a week to go before Election Day. Foley lost to Malloy four years ago by less than 1 percentage point -- the closest gubernatorial election in modern Connecticut history.

Malloy has been strongly supportive of gay marriage and gay rights legislation. Foley has said marriage should be between a man and a woman, but also insists he doesn't consider gay rights to be an issue in this race.

Connecticut Democratic Party Chairman Nancy DiNardo said Monday that Foley's silence on the contributions from "these extremist groups says it all." She said the GOP candidate is getting huge backing "from folks who want to turn back the clock" in Connecticut on questions like gay marriage.

Liz Kurantowicz is treasurer of Grow Connecticut and a former state Republican official. She has denied any knowledge of who has donated money to A Public Voice but said her organization welcomes the support. Grow Connecticut is allied with the Republican Governors Association.

Kurantowicz is also listed as Connecticut agent for a political public relations firm called CAP Public Affairs, which has addresses in Colorado and Washington, D.C.

One of CAP's partners is Alan Philp, a conservative Republican activist and head of Citizens for a Sound Government, another outside group that has contributed $660,000 to Grow Connecticut this election.

Kurantowicz did not respond to requests for comment.

Malloy and Foley are both getting public money to run their campaigns this year. By agreeing to spending limits and refusing major direct outside contributions, each major party candidate has received $6.5 million in taxpayer dollars for their campaigns.

Much of that money, and most of the outside political money, is being used for attack ads.

___ (c)2014 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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