Can Malloy’s $2.7M Beat Lamont’s $6M?
by Paul Bass | Jul 13, 2010 4:25 pm
Posted to: Politics, Campaign 2010
Dan Malloy expects his opponent, Ned Lamont, to spend twice as much money on their upcoming Democratic gubernatorial primary. Malloy called that good news—evidence that he can win.
Call it the New Math of Connecticut Politics.
Malloy (pictured) broke down that math in an interview during a New Haven stop, in which he discussed what has become a central issue in the upcoming Aug. 10 primaries: the ability of the state’s new “clean elections” systems to level the playing field between millionaire candidates and everyone else.
This is the first test of that proposition, the first year that Connecticut’s new law affects statewide races.
Two businessmen with no significant political experience are financing their own campaigns for governor: Democrat Lamont and Republican Tom Foley. They’ve each already spent millions of dollars and blanketed the airwaves with commercials.
Two opponents with years in elected office—Democrat Malloy, Stamford’s former mayor; and Republican Michael Fedele, the current lieutenant governor and a former state representative—are making use of the new clean elections law to obtain millions of public dollars.
The law won’t give Malloy and Fedele the same amount of money. By raising $250,000 in contributions of $100 or less, and agreeing not to accept money from lobbyists or state contractors, they qualify for up to $2.5 million each for the Aug. 10 primary under the Citizens Election Program created under the law. By contrast, Lamont has already spent around $3 million and is expected to burn through $6 million by Aug. 10.
(A federal court ruling on Tuesday put the future of some parts of the campaign finance system in question. But the ruling doesn’t appear to affect the primary campaign.)
You don’t need to match a big spender one to one, Malloy argued in the interview, at Bru Cafe on Orange Street. You need enough to advertise on TV, field a statewide vote-pulling organization—and have time to discuss issues like campaign finance reform rather than “spending all my time locked in a room” dialing for big-donor dollars, Malloy said.
“It’s enough [money] to get a message out,” Malloy said of the $2.7 million he can spend (counting the public match at the $250,000 he raised in small donations). “You can spend a lot of money selling vinegar. It’s not going to be wine.”
Malloy’s campaign is clearly counting on his use of the public money—and Lamont’s choice to opt out of the system—to score points with voters. It has emphasized the issue in campaign ads. The slogan: “Values and Experience Money Can’t Buy.”
How much do voters care about the issue? Especially in a Democratic primary—dominated by the kind of activist-oriented voters who supported passage of Connecticut’s clean elections law—they care a lot, Malloy claimed. He said he hears about it regularly on the trail.
Indeed, Ned Lamont has lost some key support because of it. Most notable is Tom Swan.
Swan was the man who made Ned Lamont a name in Connecticut (and, briefly, national) politics. He convinced Lamont to run for U.S. Senate against four-term incumbent Joe Lieberman in 2006. Then Swan ran the campaign and pulled a stunning upset victory in the Democratic primary. (Lieberman came back and held onto the seat by running as an independent in the general election.)
This year Swan’s sitting out the gubernatorial primary. He said he’s not taking sides because the organization he runs, the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (which for years pushed for the clean elections law), decided not to endorse either Lamont or Malloy. In 2006, CCAG endorsed Lamont. It almost did this year, too.
“We were very close to Ned. His choosing not to participate in the [public financing program] had some people not wanting to reward that,” Swan said. “It was definitely a contributing factor.”
Aldon Hynes, an early key staffer in Lamont’s 2006 run, is also sitting out the governor’s primary race. “The concern about Ned not using public financing is a very big concern of mine. That’s the lead reason I did not go with him,” said Hynes, who served as Lamont’s 2006 technology coordinator. “I hear [the same sentiment] from a lot of different people.”
Lamont’s Solution: Make It A Match
Lamont said he, too, has heard support for the clean elections law and frustration about big-money influence from voters on the campaign trail—but not in a way that has hurt his campaign.
“They said they wish everyone opted into public financing, so we have a level playing field,” he said.
Lamont has made the case that until everyone participates in the clean elections system, agreeing to the same limit on spending, it makes no sense for Democrats to hand a race over to a big-spending self-financer like the leading Republican in the governor’s race, Tom Foley.
From the start of the campaign, Lamont has made the case to Democrats that he should be the nominee because he has the dough to go dollar-for-dollar against a wealthy Republican in a general election.
He said he does support the campaign finance law. Because of Supreme Court decisions like Buckley v. Valeo, Connecticut can’t require all candidates in a race to participate in the system. However, Connecticut should increase the dollars it gives participating candidates to match every dollar a self-financer spends, Lamont argued. Right now the amount is capped at $2.5 million in a gubernatorial primary and $6 million in a general election.
Lamont dismissed concerns that that would cost taxpayers too much money. Instead, it would lower the cost of the campaign financing system, he argued, because fewer candidates would self-finance if they no longer saw an advantage in it.
Malloy called Lamont’s position on the issue “hypocritical.” If he support the system, he should run on it rather than use his wealth as an advantage in the primary, Malloy argued.
Lamont responded that he’s running “clean” by refusing to accept tainted donations.
“Everybody knows I’m not taking any special interest money. No PAC money. No lobbyist money. That’s the way I was four years ago. That’s the way I am today,” he said. “Nobody’s doing business with my state or city. It’s a clean campaign.
“I salute the people who use public financing. It gives them an opportunity to compete. That’s great ... [But] it gives the Democrats the best chance to win if I can match them. It’s a clean campaign. ... I’m going up with no strings attached.”
The public-financing issue is not as central to the campaign as Malloy claims, Lamont insisted. Above all the race is about jobs, he said. On Aug. 10 voters will test that proposition, along with the idea that $2.7 million can compete with $6 million.
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I give them credit - each candidate clearly knows that he cannot win based on past accomplishments and viable, workable, progressive plans for the state. Nothing excites me (and many of my liberal friends) about either candidate. I mean: Where’s the beef, dudes? And the leadership? A more fair tax structure? Nope. Full and vocal support for the SustiNet health care reform plan? Nada. So yah, for them it will come down to strategies and consultants and ads and gotcha’s and all the idiocy that has nothing at all to do with making Connecticut a more fair, just and livable state. And so—A sad ho-hum….
Ned keeps convincing me more and more to vote Malloy. I love this statement, like a child who says she won’t behave if the other kids don’t: “Lamont has made the case that until everyone participates in the clean elections system ... it makes no sense for Democrats to hand a race over to a big-spending self-financer like ... Tom Foley.”
And this little gem. In fact, this is one of the most honest Ned statements; he admits the only reason he should win is cuz is loaded: ” ... Lamont has made the case to Democrats that he should be the nominee because he has the dough ...”
Ned Lamont, the candidate with no experience or vision but who has a huge bank account.
Hey, CT Bill, you should check out Ned’s health care plan—there’s a full throated endorsement of SustiNet and pooling (in the conclusion). Before commenting, perhaps you should read the plan.
Ned’s got guts; he doesn’t have to do this, but he is. That tells me something very positive about the guy. He could sit home, work a 9-5 every day and spend time with his family, but instead he wants to go to Hartford and change things. Shows he has character and the resolve to turn this state around.
To CTBullMoose: One must consider Lamont has very selfish reasons for seeking the Governorship. I am sure he and his telecom cronies in Fairfield and Greenwich will benefit handsomely if he wins the election. The man clearly has no experience in major public office and has no business in government. His ideas are rhetorical and weak, his attempt to frame himself as an outsider is ridiculous. Maybe he is an outsider to the political community in Connecticut, but he is very much an insider in the business community and in Connecticut the two are irrevocably linked. He is a ne’er do well who inherited a fortune and has nothing better to do with his time or money. At best his political aspirations are indicative of typical bourgeois liberal paternalism, at worst they veil a malevolent attempt to gain power for the benefit of the wealthy citizens of this State at the expense of the working class and the poor. Either way if Lamont is elected I am sure this State would soon find themselves in a bigger mess than it is already in.
i agree with CTBullMoose! Our state has such a deficit now because of these career politicians, and it takes someone like Lamont with the courage and passion to want to change things. I think he’s the one candidate that CAN turn our state around!
Malloy has the deck stacked against him. What a shame, he would serve Hartford well as the next governor.
What difference does it make: They’re both Bradley Airport backers anyway.
CT Bull Moose,
Now I’m confused.
SustiNet, a comprehensive health care reform plan, was passed overwhelmingly by the legislature (with a Rell veto override to boot). It was several years in development. A number of the nation’s leading health economists spearheaded the work. Along the way, there was tons of input from business, labor, providers, advocates, and the general public. And thousands of members of the statewide healthcare4every1 Campaign made it all possible. Right now, SustiNet’s committees and task forces, which cover EVERY conceivable topic of health care reform, are completing reports for the general assembly.
So why on earth is there a need for *another* health care reform plan, from Lamont or Malloy or whomever?
If Lamont endorses SustiNet, then THAT should be his reform plan—loudly and clearly.
“He could sit home, work a 9-5 every day and spend time with his family, but instead he wants to go to Hartford and change things.”
For the large number of us who HAVE to work hard (MORE than 9-5!) for a living that is far less comfortable than Lamont’s, this statement comes off as both arrogant and insulting. We should be grateful that the King deigns to mix with the hoi-polloi? Gross.
posted by: Aldon Hynes on July 15, 2010 3:28pm
Both Ned and Dan would make excellent governors, far better than the Republican candidates or any of the recent Republican governors, not that this is a particularly high bar to pass.
Each one of us needs to decide which candidate will best fight for the issues which are most important to us. For me, I remain undecided at this point.
To me, one of the most important issues is how our electoral system works. I believe that many people do not fully consider how important this is.
Today, I put up a blog post,
It’s Time to Stop the Redistribution of Wealth in America
It explores the relationship between money in politics and the real redistribution of wealth in America where the rich are getting richer and everyone else is getting poorer.
Will Ned, by opting out of the system perhaps be a stronger defender of this if he wins the nomination and defeats the Republican Candidate in the fall? Is it a gamble to vote for a person walking the clean election walk, and ending up potentially facing untold millions from a self financed Republican candidate?
That is something each one of us needs to decide. However, please think very carefully about what money is doing to our political system and how it is helping the wealthy make sure that as much money as possible is redirected their way.
CT Bill, I don’t disagree with you. Sustinet isn’t a plan, it’s a tool. It’ll likely be the vehicle to implement most of the Obama reforms. I think we’re on the same page here.
If you look at the plan though, and I think you should, there’s a lot in there about health IT, home health care, and other cost saving measures (all told, something like $30bn over the next decade). It’s not just “another plan”, as you infer.
Insulting? I don’t think we can blame Ned for being successful. Did he have help, sure (more than you and I, I’m sure). The point I’m trying to make is that Ned doesn’t have to do this, but he is. We can all speculate as to why, but I highly doubt it’s for selfish reasons. If that’s the case, then I think we all need to concede that Dan is doing it just because it’s the next best office (which I’d argue is equally if not more troubling) and be done with this somewhat foolish conversation.