A recent surge in ad expenditures by an Independent Expenditure Group supporting Governor Dannel Malloy has shed light on the role of campaign advertising in the gubernatorial race.
Connecticut-based IEGs — organizations that financially endorse a candidate but remain unaffiliated with the campaign — have spent over $8 million on ad campaigns for the two gubernatorial candidates. Connecticut Forward recently spent $401,181 in new ad expenditures in support of Malloy, according to an Oct. 2 article in the New Haven Register. Meanwhile, a rival Public Action Committee (PAC), Grow Connecticut, incurred $5.8 million in ads last month in support of Republican Tom Foley.
“The fact that money is pouring into the state from all different directions shows how important [the election] is from the national perspective,” said Lily Sawyer-Kaplan ’17, communications director of the Yale College Democrats.
Despite the importance of the ad expenditures, spokesmen from both parties stressed that advertisements made by independent groups were not influenced by or endorsed by the campaigns.
Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Foley’s campaign, said that IEGs are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns, a sentiment echoed by Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Malloy’s campaign.
“We can only control our message and what the governor is saying,” said Bergman. “You can’t really control what outside groups are saying.”
However, campaigns are not solely dependent on outside groups to fill the television and radio airwaves. Several ads have been released by each campaign — some of which promote a candidate and some of which attack the opponent.
Cooper said that whereas Malloy’s campaign has primarily issued ads that attack Foley, advertisements from Foley’s campaign have focused on his own agenda.
“I think you’ve seen that the majority of the Malloy ads have kind of been attack ads, negative ads, attacking Foley’s past business experiences,” said Cooper. “Tom has tried to take a little different approach with his advertising. He’s been talking about his plan for Connecticut and the need for new direction and new leadership.”
Bergman did not comment on ads released by Malloy’s campaign, instead emphasizing his campaign’s inability to influence the ads put out by IEGs.
Large sums of money spent on negative campaigning are nothing new, according to Sawyer-Kaplan.
“The usual trajectory of campaign ads is that they start out positive and they turn negative about two months before the election,” she said.
But the question remains as to where the line is drawn for negative advertising.
According to Cooper, Malloy’s advertisements have made claims about Foley’s background that are untrue and have misrepresented Foley’s record. Cooper explained that the Malloy campaign has falsely called into question Foley’s stewardship of some of his companies.
When it comes to Election Day, however, the importance of campaign advertising lies in how effective they are in influencing voters, Sawyer-Kaplan said, noting that the attack ads will not determine who ultimately wins the election.
“[Campaign ads] swing back to the positive side immediately before the election … people are more likely to vote for a candidate if the last idea they have in their mind is positive,” she said.
As of Oct. 6, Public Policy Polling reports that Malloy has an eight point lead over Foley in the polls.