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Stefanowski Continues To Get Millions From Political PACs

Amar Batra
Connecticut Public Radio
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski addresses Republican voters at a GOP Unity Rally at Pomperaugh High School in Southbury, CT on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

Change PAC has spent a lot in Connecticut.

In a financial report released Tuesday, the group, backed by the Republican Governors Association, reported spending $7.4 million.

And the money continues to come in. Today, the group reported a $1.6 million infusion from the association.

With less than a week to go before election day, massive amounts of outside money continue to flow into state politics. And in the race for governor, spending by political action committees -- or PACs -- is vastly benefitting one candidate: Republican Bob Stefanowski.

“As far as Bob Stefanowski’s recent poll numbers show, I would say that it’s the super PAC that is actually supporting him that is probably responsible for what is now a toss-up contest,” said Gary Rose, chair of the Department of Government at Sacred Heart University.

Both candidates are self funding their campaigns.  But Democrat Ned Lamont has pumped a lot more of his own money into the race -- more than $12 million.

That’s a big sum that Stefanowski couldn’t match. But Rose says Change PAC intervened -- funnelling cash into effective attack ads against Lamont, which helped Stefanowski close any prior polling gaps.

“It does seem that these enormous amounts of money are having an impact,” said Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut. Her group issued a recent report chronicling the influence of PAC spending in the state.

Quickmire said while the impact of PAC money in the governor’s race is clear, its motivation isn’t.

“It concerns me that most people don’t know where that money is coming from - and what those donors are going to be expecting from their candidate - or their governor, depending on the outcome of the election,” Quickmire said.

Sacred Heart’s Rose says PAC spending isn’t always a one-sided partisan affair. And that outside money has benefitted candidates from both sides.

But the 2010 Citizens United decision has fundamentally changed national, and local, politics.

“What we are now seeing is the ramifications of a much broader definition of the first amendment, which has resulted in, really, almost unrestrained money entering the political process in the name of free expression and free speech,” Rose said.

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