Candidates Spending Their Own Money Or Candidates Whose Contributors Want To Buy Them?

Tom Foley
Tom Foley

Greg Hladky of wonders if Linda McMahon’s second consecutive double-digit loss in a general election for U.S. Senate is giving 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley some pause about self funding as he contemplates another run for governor. It raises the question, What would you rather have, candidates spending their own money or candidates whose contributors want to buy them? The difference in Connecticut races for state office is the option for public financing that strips contributor influence. Hladky’s column follows:

One Connecticut Republican who may have come out of last week’s elections as a significant loser wasn’t even running for anything. He has his eye on 2014 and he can’t be too happy when he reads the entrails of this election’s GOP defeats.

His name is Tom Foley and he lost the 2010 governor’s race in Connecticut by less than a single percentage point.

Democrat Dannel Malloy won that campaign, but his poll ratings at the moment aren’t what you’d call glowing. Foley could reasonably expect to make another strong run in two years, and he’s certainly been making lots of candidate-like noises.

The trouble is Foley is a millionaire who made his dough in big business, just like Mitt Romney and Linda McMahon. And those two went down to spectacular defeats in this election, a fact that can’t be terribly encouraging for Foley.

Romney and his conservative Republican allies lost despite huge amounts of money pumped into the campaign and an economic situation that should have made Democrat Barack Obama an easy target. Most incumbent presidents in an economy this lackluster simply don’t win reelection.

McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, spent almost $50 million of her own money on her unsuccessful U.S. Senate effort this year, and almost the same amount in a failed U.S. Senate run in 2010. That’s $100 million over two years and she lost by double digit percentages in both campaigns.

Like McMahon, Foley is from Greenwich and, like McMahon, he used a chunk of his own fortune when he ran in 2010.

Foley isn’t in the same mega-millionaire class as McMahon. He only used about $10 million of his own cash in that 2010 race.

The difficulty is that Republican millionaires have a persistently sucky record running for public office in this state. The names of Brook Johnson, Jack Orchulli, and Peter Schiff might ring some bells. And now Foley and McMahon can be added to the list of wealthy losers.

There have been millionaires who’ve made successful runs for office in Connecticut (Lowell P. Weicker Jr.’s family had big-time pharmaceutical money, and Democrat Dick Blumenthal’s wife’s family owns the Empire State Building.) One difference seems to be that those winning wealthy candidates didn’t use millions of their own money to campaign.

Connecticut voters don’t seem to like the idea of someone trying to buy their way into office.

Foley’s got to have some other worries coming out of the 2012 campaign.

He’s almost a Mitt Romney clone, counting on his role as a successful business executive–a “job creator” if you will–to win voters to his cause. Foley, by the way, was an early backer of both Romney and McMahon.

But that strategy comes with a risk. Romney got hammered by the Democrats and even some of his GOP rivals during primary season for his record with Bain Capital.

Foley has similar troubles in 2010 over his stewardship at NTC Group and the whole controversy over the closing of Bibb Company’s operations in Georgia. And many of the accusations were first made by his GOP competitors. If he runs in 2014, all that crap is virtually certain to be revived.

So Foley is a Greenwich millionaire businessman who spent lots of money trying to get elected to high office in the wake of the worst recession in 50 years and got beaten.

Connecticut Republicans got their butts whipped in this year’s election by relying on Romney and McMahon, and they may be real reluctant to go with another millionaire candidate in 2014.

Those doubts have already been indirectly expressed by state Republican Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr.

“Perhaps,” Labriola told the Hartford Courant, “the age of massive self-funders in Connecticut is over.”

Not exactly a rousing endorsement for a dude like Foley.



  1. Linda McMahon lost because she is Linda McMahon. She spent $100,000,000 in her quest to become a Senator. The voting public certainly sustained the adage … ‘you cannot make a purse out of a sow’s ear’ … no matter how much money you spend trying.


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