The fierce, five-way battle among Republicans in the 5th Congressional district has several of the candidates dipping into their own pockets to fund their campaigns.
Lisa Wilson-Foley, who made her fortune in the health care industry, has chipped in more than a half-million dollars so far, roughly matching what she’s brought in in donations. And telecomm and real estate entrepreneur Mark Greenberg has loaned his campaign more than $600,000, as reported to the Federal Election Commission.
Mike Clark, a former FBI agent who is now manager of International Investigations and Security for Otis Elevator, has a $100,000 stake in his bid for the open 5th District seat, according to his most recent FEC filing.
None of the candidates are strictly self-funders; they are using their own wealth to supplement contributions received from others.
Wilson-Foley has roughly matched what she’s raised, said her spokesman, former state Republican party chairman Chris Healy. “Lisa has demonstrated she can raise money from people who share her concerns about what’s going on in Washington,” he said. “She’s willing to match that commitment.”
Putting your own money in sends a signal to donors that “you’re in it to win,” Healy added. “It’s a free country, people are free to do with their own money what they want.”
Greenberg spokesman Chris Cooper said his candidate is an outsider who doesn’t have the power of incumbency or a long list of political chits to call in. “Mark has a record as a job creator and an outsider,” Cooper said. “He has invested in our economy for 35 years developing property in Connecticut and New York. He’s not a career politician.”
Funding the campaign is a way of giving back, Cooper suggested. “Mark has been very successful in his life, he’s gotten to live the American dream. He has the ability to supplement fundraising…his personal investment in the campaign is his time and his energy and also his money.”
Clark had always intended to help underwrite his bid, said spokeswoman Meredith Trimble. The first quarter of 2012 was the right time to do it, she added.
“It represents his real dedication and commitment to the campaign,” Trimble said. However, she noted that Clark’s contribution is far more modest than those made by Greenberg and Wilson-Foley.
“Historically, significant self-funders lose,” she said. “It makes their cash-on-hand look fabulous. but in the end, in Connecticut at least, it doesn’t play out well with the voters.”
Clark, Trimble added, “is trying to stay true to a grassroots campaign as much as possible.”
The two other Republicans in the 5th District race, Justin Bernier of Plainville and state Sen. Andrew Roraback of Goshen, did not lend their campaigns money.
On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Cheshire made a $25,000 loan to her campaign in December. The other two Democrats, Dan Roberti of Kent and Chris Donovan of Meriden, the speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives, did make loans to their campaigns. The seat is currently held by Rep. Chris Murphy, a Democrat, who is running for U.S. Senate.
But Donovan’s powerful position and strong support from organized labor were cited by two of the Republican candidates are reasons why they decided to write checks to their own campaigns.
“On the Democratic side, the Democrats enjoy tremendous advantages with the unions,” Helay said. Much of that support comes in the form of “boots on the ground” — volunteers to make calls and knock on doors and provide the kind of edge that won’t show up on campaign finance reports. Republicans need money to overcome that, he said.
Added Cooper, “it’s not enough to be competitive. [Greenberg] is going to make sure his campaign has the resources to win the primary and beat Chris Donovan.”