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Lawmakers Decry Outside $$

by | Oct 26, 2012 5:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Election 2012, Town News, Hartford, Manchester, Local Politics, State Capitol

Christine Stuart photo Two state Senators expressed anger that a billionaire from Greenwich would spend more than $37,969 on a television ad to oppose a candidate running in a district that covers Manchester, Glastonbury, Bolton, and Andover.

“I’m being sued by one of the richest people in Connecticut,” Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester, said Thursday outside the state Capitol. 

Admittedly Cassano is not being sued but he said he’s being “attacked” through this process by Thomas Peterffy, the lone donor to the Voters for Good Government, the recently formed 527 corporation based in Delaware, that paid for the ad.

“What impact he has on Manchester and Glastonbury, I have no idea,” Cassano said.

Liz Kurantowicz, the former chief of staff for the Connecticut Republican Party and managing director of Voters for Good Government, said “our goal is to try and bring to light bad policies and politicians that make bad decisions.”

The television advertisement that will air on local cable stations was produced by Cashman + Katz. It’s still undetermined if the ad will be uploaded to YouTube. What is certain is that there will be more independent expenditures made over the next few days against or in favor of state lawmakers, Kurantowicz said.

She declined to say which campaigns would be targeted and how much money Peterffy donated to the organization.

Cassano called the expenditure, which amounts to about a third of the money he received as a publicly financed candidate, “immoral.”

“This is trying to buy an election,” he added.

His outrage was shared by Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn.

Williams called the expenditure in the final days of the campaign — when a candidate has no money left to respond — “unprecedented.”

“In these closing days as this one multi-billionaire tries to put his thumb on the scale and tip it in favor of the billionaires and against middle class families, we’re going to roll up our sleeves to let people know what’s going on,” Williams said.

“This is not what the system is supposed to be,” Cassano said.

The former mayor of Manchester who has held elected office to varying degrees since 1977 said he has no problem with people trying to beat him in an election. But he said the infusion of money creates an unlevel playing field.

As a publicly financed candidate, Cassano has to raised $15,000 in small dollar donations from voters mostly in his district before he receives a public grant of $80,550.

“I’ve never had a situation like this where somebody from the outside …” comes in with money to try to influence an election, Cassano said. “That’s why we have public financing.”

Williams and Cassano have faith that voters will see through the money and the message it brings.

Voters are “going to look back and say that there was more negativity, more attacks, in this election cycle in Connecticut than we’ve ever seen before,” Williams said.

However, it wasn’t unexpected.

Earlier this month, the Great New England Public School Alliance poured tens of thousands of dollars into a court ordered Democratic primary for a seat in the House of Representatives. The candidate who benefited from the outside group’s door-knocking and mailings won the primary.

Democratic legislative leaders sounded the alarm bells after that primary, saying the infusion of cash into the House race should outrage everyone. But Republican lawmakers had a different perspective. They believed the independent expenditures would help level the playing field for them.

“Democrats have been benefiting from independent expenditures from labor for years,” Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney has said. “Now that there are other independent expenditures in play that can match or maybe exceed union expenditures, now they’re expressing concern.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United for the first time allowed corporations and individuals to make expenditures on behalf or in opposition to candidates from their own treasuries. The state has no ability to change that decision. The only thing the state can do is call for tougher disclosure laws of individuals and businesses donating to these Super PACs or outside organizations.

The state already passed legislation in 2010 that requires organizations to make prompt disclosure of independent expenditures, along with the names of their top five donors.

But this year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed legislation that called for tougher disclosure laws. He said the bill was too broad and would have had unintended consequences for those communicating with elected officials 90 days before an election. He also cited instances where it could violate the constitution.

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(22) Archived Comments

posted by: skyrocket27 | October 26, 2012  8:42am

Enough with the self-righteous indignation.  Senator Cassano and Williams only support free speech when its speech they agree with.  Connecticut has been ill served by their agenda ($3 billion tax increase on the poor and middle class, endless increases in state spending and lackeys to the state employee unions).  It’s time for a change, Connecticut needs and deserves better.

posted by: JAM | October 26, 2012  8:56am

“This is not what the system is supposed to be,” Cassano said.”
Actually it is. It’s why Thomas Jeffereson pushed for, and got, the First Amendment added to the Constitution.
A private citizen exercising his right of Free Speech. Get over it Senators.

posted by: JamesBronsdon | October 26, 2012  12:33pm

“What impact he has on Manchester and Glastonbury, I have no idea,” Cassano said. Every Conn. voter has an interest in every race for the state legislature regardless of their residence.  No. 1 because it’s an entirely legitimate way to defuse another party’s power, and no. 2 because individual reps or senators may be leaders on certain issues anathema to the voter.

Williams called the expenditure in the final days of the campaign when a candidate has no money left to respond to “unprecedented.” I’m surprised Sen. Williams would admit to being out-foxed in strategy. Not too swift.

posted by: JamesBronsdon | October 26, 2012  12:41pm

Public financing of political campaigns is foolish.  (Constitutional scholars: Has it been upheld?)  So many naifs think they can solve the “ills” of politics by getting rid of the money. Accept it, democracy is a messy business. Our founders didn’t conduct political battle under Marquis of Queensbury rules and I doubt they had any illusion that we would either.  So, Sen. Williams and Rep. Cassano, quit your bellyaching, gird your loins, and engage for battle.

posted by: Noteworthy | October 26, 2012  1:43pm

First amendment is a beautiful thing. What this pair is worried about is that somebody is pulling the sheets up for all to see and has enough money to do it. God bless Mr. Peterffy.

posted by: Jackawa | October 27, 2012  7:41am

Here I am thinking the voters in my district are casting their votes for someone to represent them and then learning that someone from Greenwich wants to have a say in it. A little unsettling to say the least. 

Should I buy into “it’s a dirty game - get used to it” argument?  I think not!

posted by: sightover | October 27, 2012  5:30pm

Jackawa says that it is “unsettling” that “someone from Greenwich” wants to have a say in CT politics. What’s unsettling is that some continue to espouse shutting a private citizen out of the public debate.

Sorry, but the class warfare bigotry is wearing thin. I have a feeling that this type of divisiveness is finally going out of style.

This is a free country. Bravo Mr. Peterffy.

posted by: JamesBronsdon | October 28, 2012  5:29pm

Jackawa, the citizens in your district ARE casting their vote for someone to represent them.  I wonder if they may be insulted by your implicit opinion that they are so credulous that they can’t figure out the motives of those who seek to influence their opinion.  Conservatives respect the ability of voters to do so, hence you don’t see conservatives looking to block the voice of unions, Hollywood, Bruce Springsteen.

posted by: Jackawa | October 29, 2012  9:07am

Interesting that you’re bringing up class warfare. What’s that have to do with not wanting someone outside my district to try to influence an election?. 

What’s wearing thin is some people cloaking themselves in freedom and liberty to have other people believe their intentions are other than promoting their own self-interests.

posted by: Jackawa | October 29, 2012  9:10am


Sorry; most people seeing the ad will not know who placed it and what their motives are.

posted by: sightover | October 29, 2012  10:42am

“...you’re bringing up class warfare. What’s that have to do with not wanting someone outside my district to try to influence an election?.”

1) Nothing, although “Greenwich” is often used for more than describing geography. I’m curious if you’d be as upset if an out-of-town low-income citizen donated time or money to your local race. Either way, anti-wealth sentiment has reached a crescendo over the last 4 years and we’re all tired of it.

2) Your Senator makes decisions that touch every CT resident. His vote matters to us all. If the district is loyal in spite of outside voices, he’ll be reelected. If not, perhaps he wasn’t representing your district as well as you thought. Expanding political debate is not threatening in a democracy, but it is to a failed status quo.

“...people cloaking themselves in freedom and liberty to have other people believe their intentions are other than promoting their own self-interests.”

3) Freedom to pursue self-interest is not a ruse and it is nothing to be ashamed of. One person’s self-betterment doesn’t inversely cause detriment to another; indeed it typically helps society. In a planned economy the Wright brothers would have never had the time, money, or flexibility to leave their bicycle shop and experiment on the beach.

posted by: JamesBronsdon | October 29, 2012  12:49pm

Well said, sightover

posted by: gutbomb86 | October 29, 2012  1:06pm


@sightover - thanks for the bologna! There’s no hiding the fact that big money from outside a district totally skews the wishes of the people who actually live in the district. You know it, I know it, the Wright brothers knew it, and the American people certainly know it as well. Call it class warfare or whatever you like - it’s still wrong. Take your money and stay the h*ll out of my district.

posted by: Jackawa | October 29, 2012  1:25pm

Well said, gutbomb86

posted by: JamesBronsdon | October 29, 2012  2:10pm

gutbomb86, I see a terrific opportunity for new governmental agencies to address your concerns. Anyone interested in freely expressing their opinion or endorsement with respect to any political race should register their residency and submit their dollars to the appropriate agency which would then be responsible for directing those dollars to the candidates for advertising purposes.  No other advertising would be permitted.  No other outside dollars may come in. Now, should we extend this to the press?  Should the New York Times be permitted to endorse candidates in Connecticut?  What is the permissible extension of a media entity’s reach?  Should an incumbent president, with all his/her aura of power and prestige, be permitted to influence our state elections?  How far should we extend this concept to make sure that only people resident within the confines of each political geographic boundary be allowed to participate?

posted by: christopherschaefer | October 29, 2012  4:11pm

I AM A SUPERPAC! http://RosaDeLauroExposed.wordpress.com/

posted by: gutbomb86 | October 29, 2012  4:57pm


@Fred - no I would not extend this to the press. Thanks for pointing that out. I would only restrict actual campaign expenditures from outside the district - actual money that doesn’t belong in the district. Because money is not speech. You seem to think it is, and that makes you part of the problem.

posted by: JamesBronsdon | October 29, 2012  5:11pm

gutbomb86, so you live in Bill Gates’s district, and he wants to bury your side with his money, now what do you do?  Do you equalize things with spending limits?  What about the person who hasn’t a discretionary dime to his name?  How is his voice heard? Do we provide him with sufficient tax credits so that he can write a check?
Let’s try and live in the real world, exercise our critical powers of analysis, and trust our instincts.

posted by: gutbomb86 | October 29, 2012  7:47pm


Fred - Per person spending limits are a GREAT idea. More than happy to live with Bill Gates in the district if he can only contribute the same amount that I can. You’re coming up with excellent ideas on how to flatten out the playing field!

posted by: JamesBronsdon | October 29, 2012  9:38pm

gutbomb86, You are egalite. I am liberte.  To each his own.  Good night.

posted by: Jackawa | October 30, 2012  9:24am


Let’s include “fraternité”

posted by: JamesBronsdon | October 30, 2012  11:19am

Yes, fraternite.  But no French revolutions please.  We’ve got enough to deal with with the weather.  Paix.

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