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Political Newcomers Have Deep Pockets

by | Oct 11, 2017 5:30am
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Election 2018

Artem Avetisyan via shutterstock

Two Republican newcomers with backgrounds in business are making large contributions to their own campaigns.

David Stemerman, who told investors he’s shutting down his hedge fund by the end of the year to run for governor, donated $1.8 million to his campaign.

He also raised a $1,000 donation from Henry Schaffer of Trumbull, his campaign treasurer, who works for Vegy Vida LLC, an Ohio company that manufactures dip to get kids to eat their vegetables.

Stemerman’s campaign website is not set up and the email account listed on his filings with the SEEC does not exist. Attempts to reach his campaign went unanswered.

According to his filing with the SEEC, Sternerman hasn’t spent any money, but he’s incurred some expenses. His filing shows he will spend about $10,972 on consulting services with Precision Campaign Group and Clark Hill, a Washington law firm that specializes in campaign finance.

Bob Stefanowski, a Madison businessman and former UBS executive who was able to raise $65,000 from individuals during his first fundraising quarter, also loaned his campaign $250,000.

With the money, he’s already paid $16,700 for polling and $4,500 in rent for his campaign headquarters. He spent more than $2,900 at the Hilton in Stamford for a briefing on the polling information. He has incurred about $18,000 in expenses that have yet to be paid by the committee.

Self-funded candidates from both parties have done poorly in Connecticut in recent years.

Republican Tom Foley, who spent more than $12 million of his own money in 2010 for what was an open seat at the time, came close. But he was unable to pull off a victory. That same year, Ned Lamont of Greenwich spent $8.6 million of it his own money in a primary against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was the first gubernatorial candidate to qualify for public financing.

Foley tried to unseat Malloy again in 2014 as a publicly financed candidate, but failed.

Linda McMahon, who spent about $100 million of her own money in two races for a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut, was also unsuccessful.

Most of the other candidates exploring a run for governor are using the Citizens Election Program, which requires them to raise $250,000 in small donations in exchange for a $1.4 million primary grant and a $6.5 million general election grant.

On the Republican side, Mike Handler, the director of administration for the City of Stamford, has raised $114,000. He announced his campaign in July.

“Our message is resonating with Connecticut families who want to hear about real solutions to our mounting financial crisis,” Handler said.

Steve Obsitnik of Westport raised $63,690 from individuals this quarter, bringing his total up to around $265,000. However, he’s spent more this quarter — $65,000 — than he raised. But he still had about $109,000 in cash on hand at the end of the quarter.

Peter Lumaj, who is rumored to be considering a race for attorney general rather than governor, raised $92,439 this quarter to bring his total fundraising up to $373,569. Not all of that money will count toward the $250,000 if he decides to announce a run for governor.

Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-Glastonbury, the first Republican to hit the fundraising goal for participation in the Citizens Election Program, has raised $255,000 and has only spent about $33,000 of it. That leaves him with about $222,316 to win over delegates to the Republican Party’s convention in May.

Candidates who are able to receive their party’s nomination and have reached the $250,000 threshold will qualify for a $1.4 million primary grant.

David Walker, the former Comptroller General for the United States and 2014 lieutenant governor candidate, was able to transfer about $45,000 over from his exploratory committee to his official gubernatorial committee. He raised $118,445 this quarter, which, accordinding to Walker, brings his fundraising total up to about $194,600 since the start of his campaign even though the filing doesn’t include all those numbers.

Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti was able to raise $84,580 from individuals this quarter to bring his total up to $229,670. He still had about $156,918 in cash at the end of the reporting period.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton had a brain tumor removed during the recent fundraising quarter. He was still able to raise about $33,790 in contributions. That brings his total up to around $195,000 since announcing almost a year ago.

Trumbull Mayor Tim Herbst raised $48,197 this past quarter. He was able to carry over about $52,000 from his exploratory campaign, and raised about $195,000 total for his campaign. .

Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, who is the only female on the Republican side seeking the nomination, raised about $43,336 from individuals to bring her total fundraising up to $58,890.

Joe Visconti of West Hartford raised $270 from individuals this quarter, but has already spent more money than his campaign has raised. His campaign raised $2,420 and has spent $2,400, according to an amended report filed Wednesday morning. That would leave him $21.69 in the black except his campaign has $114.87 in outstanding expenses so it essentially means he’s running a $93.18 deficit.

Micah Welintukonis of Coventry who is an unaffiliated candidate raised $1,740 this quarter bringing his total up to $5,560.

On the Democratic side, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew stumbled last month when it was revealed that he solicited city employees for donations. He raised $53,780 this quarter and has already spent about $33,500 of it. He’s also incurred some unpaid expenses leaving him essentially with about $8,687 at the end of the reporting period. His burn rate, which is the rate at which he’s spending the money he has raised, is the highest among all the candidates.

Drew, who has raised about $$231,690 since announcing his campaign last January, is the only candidate who has announced a running mate — Rep. Liz Linehan of Cheshire. Candidates for lieutenant governor run separate from gubernatorial candidates until after the primary, so it’s possible one or the other won’t even make it to that phase of a campaign.

Linehan has raised $1,120, but she’s already incurred more expenses than that. According to her filing she incurred more than $3,650 on some of the same consultants Drew is using in his race.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who is challenging the decision that prohibits him from using the Citizens Election Program, raised $109,720 from individuals and has spent about $57,700 of that since announcing his exploratory committee in April .

Dita Bhargava the former Wall Street trader and fund manager with a degree in electrical engineering, announced that she raised more than $53,000 in just 18 days.

Jonathan Harris, the former West Hartford mayor and Commissioner of Consumer Protection, said his campaign has raised over $82,000 between July and September. That brings his total up to $170,000 for two quarters of fundraising.

Chris Mattei, the former federal prosecutor, was able to raise $104,540 between the end of July and the end of September for a total of $222,884 raised in just 164 days.

Jacey Wyatt of Branford raised $377 this quarter, bringing her total up to $1,117.

Sean Connolly announced his exploratory committee after the fundraising period ended so his first report won’t be available until January.

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