Ned Lamont now has the support of a super PAC, although it is unclear to what extent

As a super PAC attacks Governor Ned Lamont on TV, the Democratic Governors Association registered its own PAC in Connecticut this week, a necessary first step if the DGA is to defend the Democratic incumbent.

The DGA declined Thursday to discuss its plans or budget for Stronger CT, a super PAC registered Wednesday with no mention of its affiliation. But it is chaired by Andrew Whalen, who oversees the DGA’s independent spending.

Treasurer Bernadette Hennessy is the chief financial officer of Mission Control Inc., a Democratic direct mail consulting firm. Past clients include Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016.

Four years ago, the DGA played only a modest role in Connecticut, where there was no incumbent to defend and the Democratic candidate was Lamont, a wealthy self-financer with a $15 million budget and little need for external support.

Now Republican Bob Stefanowski has deposited $10 million into his own campaign account, and two independent spending groups are helping the GOP with digital and TV ads opposing Lamont.

One such group, CT Truth PAC, ran an ad blaming Lamont on high gas prices and ending with a quirky slogan: “Tired of being beeped at the pump? Fire Ned Lamont.

The announcement suggests passing legislation legalizing recreational cannabis in 2021, which was supported by the public, was more of a priority than gasoline prices in 2022.

CT Truth has spent nearly $1.3 million since April 1, including nearly $400,000 paid last week for television time in the last week of June. Another PAC opposed to Lamont, Parents Against Stupid Stuff, has pledged to spend at least $1 million, though its output so far has been modest.

Stefanowski and Lamont’s campaigns have been running their own ads for months. Lamont posted a new one on Monday outlining her support for women’s abortion rights.

State law prohibits direct contributions of more than $3,500 to a gubernatorial campaign and $10,000 to a state party in Connecticut, but there is no limit on contributions to independent groups called great CAP.

The Democratic Governors Association, the Republican Governors Association, their affiliated PACs, and other super PACS provide conduits around contribution limits to donors who can afford to give more.

In 2018, Reverge Anselmo, a donor then living in Greenwich, was able to contribute $2 million to support Stefanowski’s first campaign by writing checks to super PACs.

This year, CT Truth is primarily funded by three businessmen. David Kelsey of Old Lyme and Thomas E. McInerney of Westport each donated $750,000; Raymond Debbane of Greenwich, investor and chairman of Weight Watchers, donated $100,000.

The DGA and RGA played a major role in 2014, when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his Republican opponent, Thomas Foley, each participated in the voluntary public funding program. In exchange for public funds, they pledged to abide by spending restrictions.

A committee created by the DGA in Connecticut spent $6 million on Malloy’s behalf—$4 million collected by the DGA and $2 million by the unions.

The RGA spent $5.5 million to help Foley.

Neither Lamont nor Stefanowski participate in the public funding program, which allows them to spend as much of their personal funds as they wish.

CT Truth PAC was formed to support Stefanowski. He is advised by Chris LaCivita, who served as a consultant for Stefanowski’s 2018 campaign.

Super PACs cannot coordinate advertising with the campaigns they support, and shared vendors or consultants constitute an unlawful presumption of coordination under state law. But LaCivita’s work for CT Truth PAC is well outside of an 18-month cooling-off period.

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