The Day – GOP Ads Attack Lamont’s Integrity; Democrats respond in kind

The first television ad for a super PAC complements presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Stefanowski’s attacks on the integrity and transparency of the first Democratic governor, Ned Lamont.

The 30-second CT Truth PAC ad sheds light on the FBI’s investigation into school construction contracts once overseen by Konstantinos Diamantis, the state budget official fired in October by the Lamont administration.

It is the first negative television ad of Connecticut’s gubernatorial race and comes as Stefanowski’s campaign airs a new line of Facebook ad suggesting the Lamont administration is corrupt and opaque.

The Democratic rebuttals focused on Lamont’s response to the contract scandal and Stefanowski’s own integrity, citing his track record as UBS’s chief financial officer and chief executive of a payday loan company, DFC Global.

The early Republican attacks and the immediate counter-Democrat are likely the harbingers of a nasty rematch between Lamont and Stefanowski, both businessmen named in the open gubernatorial race in 2018.

CT Truth PAC is an independent spending group with a Stefanowski connection: It is advised by Chris LaCivita, a strategic consultant to Stefanowski’s previous run four years ago.

Stefanowski’s current campaign adviser Liz Kurantowicz said there was nothing new in Stefanowski’s focus on integrity issues.

“The issue of accountability and transparency are cornerstones of Bob’s campaign,” she said. “And these are issues he has been talking about since the day he announced, and frankly before he announced, his campaign for governor. It’s one of the reasons he runs.

Going negative early is a sign of GOP desperation, said Dan Morrocco, the governor’s campaign manager. “But what else should we expect from a candidate who has made millions of dollars helping outsource jobs, building tax shelters for the wealthy and charging working families sky-high interest rates on payday loans that are illegal in our state?”

Facebook corruption ads began running two weeks ago.

“We don’t know the full extent of corruption in the Lamont administration, but as the people who pay their salaries, the people of Connecticut have a right to know,” the Stefanowski campaign says in the latest, published. A week ago.

On TV, real estate investor and GOP donor-funded super PAC David Kelsey of Old Lyme closes its announcement in a similar vein. A slogan reads: “Governor Lamont: Come clean up your administration LOOKS DIRTY.”

The super PAC does not have a website and did not post the ad on the web.

CT Truth PAC

Kelsey and PAC chairman Sergio Mangione, an East Haven construction contractor, declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding the creation of the independent spending group or the hiring of Stefanowski’s former consultant.

His first detailed campaign finance report won’t be filed until next month, but LaCivita confirmed in a text message what sources told CT Mirror: The super PAC is his client.

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 four years after the 2018 election is well outside an 18-month cooling-off period in state law.

CT Truth PAC was created on February 9, exactly one week after the Lamont administration revealed that the FBI had subpoenaed cases focused on school building grants overseen by Diamantis.

Three days later, he announced an initial contribution of $500,000 from Kelsey, co-founder and managing director of Hamilton Point Investments, a national investor in multifamily housing and hotels.

Kelsey was not a donor to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaigns in 2016 or 2020. But he has given $1 million to the Republican National Committee since 2018, including $109,500 in aid for legal costs related to the challenge. by Trump of his loss to Joe Biden and more than $200,000 to underwrite Trump’s 2020 nominating convention.

The PAC ad revolves around allegations by officials in several cities that Diamantis pressured them to hire certain contractors and a CT Mirror article about a contractor’s complaint to officials at state in 2020.

“Municipalities (were) pressured to hire contractors, and Governor Lamont’s people knew about it a year before the feds announced their investigation. Ned Lamont needs to be clear,” says a narrator.

It is true that since the disclosure of the FBI investigation, officials from several municipalities – including Groton – have accused Diamantis of urging them to use certain contractors on state-funded school projects, including the one who employed his daughter, Anastasia Diamantis.

The circumstances of what the Lamont administration knew before the FBI investigation are more nuanced.

A demolition contractor, Stamford Wrecking Company, complained to state officials on April 29, 2020, that the Office of Policy and Management, where Diamantis served as second-in-command, had urged municipalities to circumvent appeals local tenders and hire from a state-approved agency. contractor emergency bid list.

The complaint was directed to Secretary Melissa McCaw, who was Diamantis’ boss in the Office of Policy and Management, and Josh Geballe, the commissioner of administrative services, where the school building program was based until until he moved with Diamantis to the OPM in late 2019. There is no evidence that either brought the letter to Lamont’s attention.

The OPM finally clarified in March 2021 that municipalities were not required to hire on the state list. Lamont said he was not made aware of the Stamford Wrecking complaint and was unaware of the issues with Diamantis until a controversy over nepotism allegations in October.

Diamantis was fired Oct. 28 over allegations about how the same girl, Anastasia Diamantis, landed a $99,000-a-year job as executive assistant to chief prosecutor Richard Colangelo Jr. Lamont hired an attorney to see if ethics laws have been violated.

Emails obtained by CT Mirror under the Freedom of Information Act after his dismissal showed Colangelo hired the girl as he pressured her father to help him get raises for prosecutors . The emails also revealed that Anastasia Diamantis was moonlighting for a school construction management company.

Democrats’ response

While decrying the negative ads, Nancy DiNardo, the Democratic state chairwoman, and Lamont’s campaign quickly responded by attacking Stefanowski and calling super PAC supporters Stefanowski’s “Trump-supporting allies.”

“This attack by Bob Stefanowski and his Trump-supporting allies is everything Connecticut voters hate in politics,” DiNardo said. “Governor. Lamont has zero tolerance for unethical behavior — he fired the person involved, commissioned an independent investigation, and immediately put in place strict policies to further protect taxpayers’ money.

Democrats have made clear they are prepared to challenge Stefanowski’s tenure at UBS, a bank cited by an international watchdog group as funding companies with human rights concerns.

“Bob Stefanowski profited from assets linked to human rights abuses and served as the chief financial officer of a bank whose propensity for tax evasion has its own Wikipedia page,” DiNardo said. “While Governor Lamont has fixed the state’s broken budget, cut taxes for working families, and led the nation’s best COVID response, Bob wants to defund half of the state budget, devastating funding for public schools and state health care programs. Connecticut voters will see through his flattery.

The demand to “defund half of the state budget” refers to Stefanowski’s 2018 proposal to phase out state income tax, a position he does not advocate in 2022.

Stefanowski could not be reached for comment on the Democrats’ counterattacks or issues they raise about UBS. Kurantowicz said they are meant to be a distraction.

“Democrats are desperate to change the conversation because they can’t find a way to defend this governor because he’s consistently failed to provide any shred of transparency or accountability,” Kurantowicz said. “And as a result, the Ned Lamont administration faces a widespread FBI investigation and accusations of gender and racial discrimination at the highest levels of his administration.”

The night he was fired, Diamantis said McCaw, a black woman, was disrespected by Lamont’s top aides. McCaw never contradicted Diamantis but said her relationship with the governor had been excellent. She resigned last month for a municipal position.

Mark Pazniokas is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (www.ctmirror.org). Copyright 2022 © The Connecticut Mirror.

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