Ganim taps local, family money for gubernatorial war chest
By Brian Lockhart
Updated 7:37 pm, Thursday, April 12, 2018
BRIDGEPORT — Mayor Joe Ganim raised an impressive cash haul in his first three months running for governor — with a lot of local help from Bridgeport and from Easton, his family’s hometown.
The campaign’s finance report, filed this week with the state Elections Enforcement Commission, showed Bridgeport’s comeback mayor raised $411,125 in his quest to be elected Connecticut’s chief executive between January through March 31.
Upon closer scrutiny, the financial report shows that, at this point in the crowded race, Ganim, who ran Bridgeport in the 1990s and was re-elected in 2015, is adept at raising money on his home turf.
Hearst Connecticut Media found that approximately $139,000 of that $411,125 — a third — was contributed by family, friends, residents, the public and private employees living in or operating out of Bridgeport and Easton.
Broken down further, City Hall department heads and other municipal and public schools staff gave roughly $71,000; individuals living in and/or doing business in Bridgeport — developers, contractors, physicians, lawyers, even a couple strip club owners — contributed nearly $42,000; and money hailing from Easton addresses totaled $17,200.
Ganim’s $411,125 also includes $96,347 rolled over from last year’s exploratory campaign, which raised a separate $200,000; a $35,000 loan Ganim made to himself on March 30; $5,000 from a Political Action Committee run by Ganim’s father, George Ganim; and $3,500 from Bridgeport’s Democratic Town Committee, chaired by Mario Testa, who recently likened Ganim to the son he never had.
So when the numbers are added up, some three months worth of contributions totaling upwards of $141,000 do not have a connection to Bridgeport or Easton, nor were a personal loan or previously-raised money from Ganim’s exploratory period.
A pair of political observers — Matt Hennessy, a Democratic consultant and founder of the Tremont public affairs firm in Hartford and Washington D.C., and Lennie Grimaldi, who advised Ganim in the 1990s and runs the Only in Bridgeport blog — were impressed with Ganim’s numbers, regardless of the cash sources.
“He has one major goal right now — fundraising viability,” Grimaldi said. “So the campaign is fishing where the fish are. You always do that. Work your local fundraising base and work out from there.”
Because of his criminal background — Ganim was convicted in 2003 of running a pay-to-play operation out of City Hall — the mayor cannot participate in the state’s public campaign financing program. Other candidates who raise $250,000 in contributions of $5 to $100 are eligible for a $1.25 million grant to wage a primary following May 18’s Democratic nominating convention.
“When they get their public money, they’re done,” Grimaldi said. “Joe has to continue.”
Grimaldi said that Ganim, at his current fundraising pace — which includes last year’s exploratory phase — could “get close to $1 million” heading into the primary: “And very few people a couple of months ago would even spend a penny on that happening.”
“Will the ceiling come? Will the support peak out?,” Hennessy asked. Hennessy, who is currently not working for any of the candidates, said that as a big city mayor, Ganim can tap into “a whole ecosystem” of potential contributors.
“I think it’s impressive in the sense folks are donating to somebody who, by all indications, will never be able to take advantage of the Citizen’s Election Program (public financing),” Hennessy said.
A federal judge last year rejected Ganim’s appeal to be allowed to receive the state grants. The primary victor is eligible for as much as $6 million for the general election if opposed.
“Folks who made this investment in him are taking a bet he will continue to be successful in his fundraising,” Hennessy said.
Many of Ganim’s supporters are city employees who cut checks of $1,000 or more, including: Acting Police Chief Armando Perez; Ganim’s driver, detective Ramon Garcia; Public Facilities Director John Ricci; City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer; Edward Adams, the retired FBI agent who investigated Ganim, then got hired as an aide; Economic Development Director Thomas Gill; and Russell Liskov, a municipal attorney criticized by some on the City Council for his work collecting late sewer fees.
In contrast, another gubernatorial contender — Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin — has, according to the Hartford Courant, decided not to accept campaign money from city officials or employees and last month returned a handful of contributions. His campaign had previously apologized for including municipal workers in a campaign announcement and fundraising solicitation.
As always, Ganim is able to rely on his family. Father George Ganim, mother Josephine and brothers Paul and Thomas all pitched in $3,500 a piece. Plus a Political Action Committee listed in the mayor’s paperwork — Committee to Elect Democrats — that gave $5,000 is, according to state records, run by Ganim’s dad.
Ganim’s candidacy also appeals to various people who work or do business in the city. Checks of at least $1,000 were cut by Chris Trefz of Trefz Corp, owners of the Holiday Inn downtown and several McDonald’s restaurants; developer Sal DiNardo; Scott Candee of H.R. Candee Construction; Joseph Carbone, head of The Workplace nonprofit, which, among other things, helps ex-offenders like Ganim re-enter the workforce; and Lisa Fedick, manager of the Wonderland of Ice skating rink.
A pair of smaller contributions also stand out. Kim Cappozziello, owner of Scruples Gentlemen’s Club, and Richard Celler, in the same business running Ruby’s II, both gave Ganim $500 — presumably not in singles.