Connecticut Campaign Weirdness: Garfield and New SuperPAC To Help An Anti-SuperPAC Candidate Named Murphy

U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy

You know we’ve reached a new stage of uber-weirdness when Connecticut’s former election law watchdog becomes a front-man for a new SuperPAC formed to raise millions of dollars for a candidate who allegedly hates SuperPACs.

The former state campaign finance official is Jeffrey B. Garfield. He retired in 2009 after more than 30 years as top dude at Connecticut’s Elections Enforcement Commission. He also happened to be one of the strongest advocates for public campaign financing to remove “special interest money” from campaigns – “special interest money” like the loot being generated by SuperPACs.

The new SuperPAC is called “Connecticut’s Future.” It was created by a couple of lobbyists worried by all the cash mega-millionaire Republican U.S. Senate candidate (and former World Wrestling Entertainment mogul) Linda McMahon is pumping into her campaign.

The theoretically anti-SuperPAC Democratic candidate (which the Connecticut’s Future SuperPAC aims to help) is Chris Murphy. He’s been trashing the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision ever since it was issued in 2010.

It was that ruling that unleashed these free-wheeling, non-candidate political action committees, allowing them to be massively financed by corporations, billionaires, unions and any other well-heeled entity this side of the Gamma 5 quadrant. These PAC-monsters can then spend unlimited amounts to influence the election process, all the while effectively keeping the identities of their financial sugar daddies secret.

In an WNPR radio interview earlier this year, Murphy proclaimed Citizens United “the worst Supreme Court decision of my lifetime.”

Except now Murphy, the front-runner for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination, is falling behind McMahon in the money race. That’s not really an unexpected development.

In 2010, McMahon deluged her first U.S. Senate campaign with almost $50 million of her own cash. She lost that race by double digits to Democrat Richard Blumenthal, but the costly experience clearly hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm for pocketbook politics.

The latest federal campaign finance reports show McMahon has already given her new campaign more than $8.8 million. (She’s expected to easily win her GOP primary against former Congressman Chris Shays. Seems he doesn’t have exactly the same kind of dollars to play with as McMahon, raising only $1.4 million as of the latest report.)

Murphy’s campaign has sucked in just $5.45 million so far, out-pacing his top Democratic rival, Susan Bysiewicz, who reported collecting $2.25 million.

There’s little doubt that Garfield was added to the “Connecticut’s Future” SuperPAC roster to provide some balm for Murphy’s somewhat uneasy, anti-SuperPAC conscience. Murphy’s legally correct when he says that candidates don’t control these “independent” political money machines, even if they are dedicated to the election of those very same candidates.

The Connecticut’s Future SuperPAC’s organizers (lobbyists Chris VanDeHoef and Kevin Graff along with former state Rep. Joseph Taborsak) say Garfield will help make sure that all federal campaign finance laws are complied with and that contributions will be “completely transparent.”

Garfield is quoted as saying he won’t be involved in actually raising money.

Right. That should make everything lovely.

Of course, it’s not all that surprising that Garfield would accept this somewhat peculiar assignment.

He demonstrated a fondness during his long run as Connecticut’s election law “watchdog” for treating top state Democratic and Republican leaders gently and with great consideration for their lofty status.

Thousands of dollars in apparently illegal lobbying contributions to political action committees run by high-ranking legislative leaders were often dismissed by Garfield as “clerical errors.”

Suspicious money transactions or missing funds could be explained away as innocent mistakes by underlings. (It really wouldn’t do, you see, to piss off those state pols who controlled your commission’s budget.)

It was interesting that Garfield usually had a much nastier enforcement attitude when it came to problems in the campaigns of challenge candidates or outside contributors. Those folks usually got slapped down hard and fast.

Yup, having a downright upright fella like Garfield on board is sure to make everything just as right as rain.

If nothing else, this whole weird deal may be worth it just to hear McMahon’s flacks trashing Murphy for taking advantage of SuperPAC money “from special interests and fat cat lobbyists.”
After all, Linda doesn’t need those kinds of dirty dollars. She’s got all those millions she made from running that morally superior WWE empire of wrestling sleaze and pseudo-sex and violence.