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You Know the Candidates: Here’s Who They’re Working With

Political campaigns spend a lot of money and certainly November’s gubernatorial face-off between Gov. Ned Lamont and Republican rival Bob Stefanowski is no exception. Both candidates have poured millions of their own personal wealth into their bids.

Much of that money goes toward advertising, getting their respective messages out through television, radio spots, and digital advertising. Based on the latest campaign filings for each candidate, Gov. Lamont’s campaign has spent $4.2 million on television and digital advertising, while Stefanowski has spent $3.2 million trying to reach voters through digital, radio, and television ads. 

But then there’s the campaign costs and spending voters don’t see. There’s overhead – rent for campaign offices, computers purchased from Best Buy, office furniture from Walmart, pizza for staffers who spend days going door-knocking, computer software, campaign buttons and stickers. 

All of that is part of the necessary expense of running a statewide campaign, but there are other expenses voters don’t see as directly but are intimately tied to the messages they see in those very visible advertisements: consultants, legal firms, pollsters, advertisers who specialize in messaging for candidates of either major political party, even computer software dedicated to electing a certain political party and many of them are based across the country. 

From Seattle to Washington, D.C. to New York City, those consultants and firms make a small state’s gubernatorial election into a national effort, employing companies who have track records in other states and on the national stage. The campaigns work closely with these consultants and pay well for them. 

At CII, our mission is to educate and inform. So, we’re listing the companies and consultants each candidate is employing in their bid for votes, according to the campaign filings for April and July.  

Not included in this report are the basic overhead necessities: small payments made once or twice to particular individuals or companies and vendors that are not, by nature, political but instead make t-shirts or buttons or hats, or the restaurants that host fundraisers or deliver pizza to campaign staff.

None of those vendors are tasked with changing the hearts and minds of voters, but these are the companies and consultants who are paid big bucks to do just that. 

SKD Knickerbocker: By far Gov. Lamont’s biggest spend for television advertising, SKD Knickerbocker is a powerhouse strategic communications firm that works for Democrats and fortune 500 companies and is responsible for the television ads you see for Gov. Ned Lamont. The company counts Lamont’s 2018 win as one of their victory profiles, along with President Joe Biden. They were also hired by an LGBTQ coalition in 2013 to manage a communications campaign for marriage equality, eventually culminating in the Obergefell decision that legalized gay marriage and represented Christine Blasey Ford during confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, according to the Los Angeles Times. Interestingly, Greta Feldman, senior vice-president for SKD, worked as an organizer for Lamont’s gubernatorial campaign in the summer of 2010. Lamont’s total spend thus far: $2.84 million

Gambit Strategies: The Lamont campaign tapped Gambit Strategies for their digital advertising. A new company born out of President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign headed by Megan Clasen, who ran Biden’s digital campaign, and Patrick McHugh, former executive director of Priorities USA, a Democratic Super PAC. According to reports, Gambit specializes in turning out voters through digital marketing, advertising and strategy and Lamont seems to be leaning on them heavily. Lamont’s total spend thus far: $1.88 million

Blue State Digital: Blue State Digital is another company that rose to prominence during Barack Obama’s 2007 campaign utilizing digital advertising to push a previously unknown candidate into the highest office. A progressive group started by former staffers of Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, they were acquired by a massive British media company in 2010. They are currently running Gov. Ned Lamont’s Facebook page, serving as digital consultants for the Lamont team and have also done digital advertising for the campaign. Lamont’s total spend thus far: $157,500

Global Strategy Group: A Democratic polling and research company, this influential group “led polling for dozens of winning campaigns and political organizations in 2018 and 2020 to secure today’s Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives and US Senate,” according to their website. They also worked polling for the Super PACs that helped elect President Biden and secure Senate wins for Democrats in Arizona, Colorado and Georgia. GSG, which began in New York, was reportedly part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s inner-circle during his harassment investigation. The group did face recent criticism from Democrats over its anti-union work on behalf of Amazon in 2022, leading to some major unions like the American Federation of Teachers and SEIU disavowing them. They were also involved in a New York pension scandal in Cuomo’s administration for which they paid $2 million in fines, according to Politico. Notably, they have an office in Hartford. Lamont has paid GSG $152,000 thus far for polling services. 

Elias Law Group: This law group was founded by attorney Marc E. Elias, a long-time Democratic elections lawyer who worked as general counsel for Hilary Clinton and John Kerry’s presidential campaigns as well as a number of other Senate and House candidates and major Democratic committees. Elias was a partner at Perkins Coie before leaving to start his own practice. He’s a heavy-hitter in national politics, but has also found himself involved in special investigations related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and reportedly hired Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on Donald Trump, resulting in the infamous Steele Dossier. Elias also led the legal fight in states against Trump’s lawsuits seeking to challenge the 2020 election results. Lamont’s campaign has paid the Elias Law Group $80,350.60 so far for legal services. 

Deliver Strategies: Another communications firm that specializes in mailers for Democratic politicians, progressive causes and labor unions that counts among its clients, once again, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and more recently Raphael Wornock and Stacy Abrams. If you open your mailbox and there’s a flyer for Gov. Lamont, it was probably courtesy of Deliver Strategies. Total Lamont spend thus far: $65,044

Jones Mandel: Jones Mandel is a research consultant team that has worked on campaigns for President Joe Biden, President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as other big-name politicians like Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago. The firm specializes in candidate research, opposition research, background checks and messaging. Lamont’s total spend thus far: $45,000

MBA Consulting Group: Political campaigns have a lot of rules, regulations and deadlines for filing. The Lamont team has hired the MBA Consulting Group, which specializes in ensuring that everything is done by the book. They have been employed by numerous campaigns and super PACs across the country, most notably by the PACs Joel Ossof for Senate and Warnock for Georgia. Lamont’s total spend thus far: $21,765.14

Democratic Governors Association: The name pretty much says it all. The DGA is an independent association of Democratic governors across the country – they number 22 at the moment – and they work to help get other Democrats elected to lead their states. The organization is currently chaired by Roy Cooper, Democratic governor of North Carolina, and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy serves as vice chair. Their blog posts and statements certainly pull no punches when it comes to Lamont’s Republican rival. The Lamont team spent $20,093.25 with the DGA for research consulting and digital advertising. 

NGP Software: While we typically have excluded most software purchases (everyone needs Google) this company markets itself directly to Democrats and progressive groups: “Nearly every Democrat running for office is powered by NGP VAN.” The company says its software was used by Obama campaign in all fifty states, as well as Hillary Clinton’s campaign. NGP was started by Nathaniel Pearlman who went on to become Clinton’s chief technology officer. NGP is used for fundraising, emails, and digital engagement. Lamont’s total spend thus far: $13,988.25

Awet Tsegai: Tsegai is an employee of the Connecticut legislature, working with House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, and also serves on the East Hartford Town Council. Payments to Tsegai are listed as a “consulting retainer.” Lamont’s total spend thus far: $11,069.

GetThru: If you get a random text from the governor asking for your vote, it likely came through this texting service that began under Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign. Known as Relay back then, they rebranded as GetThru in 2019. They’re texting platform was used on Biden’s campaign, as well as Rashida Tlaib’s and they work with hundreds of different clients “who are helping create a more just and sustainable world,” according to their mission statement. They made a big impact in the 2016 election as fewer people answer their phones when they don’t recognize a number. Now, you just get a text. Lamont’s total spend thus far: $6,000.

National Media: The largest expenditure on Stefanowski’s leger is this Alexandria, VA-based firm. National Media specializes in campaign advertising from research through the actual purchase of ad-time. Open Secrets and The Trace have accused the group, among others, of potentially illegal advertising coordination between the Trump Campaign and the National Rifle Association in 2018, though the company has admitted no wrong-doing in the matter. Stefanowski has paid more than $3.3 million for ad buys, media and reimbursements.

Chris Mottola Consulting: A Hollywood California-based advertising and consulting firm, Chris Mottola Consulting’s website boasts major business clients like Hyundai as well as “seven presidential” campaigns. That includes work on former candidate John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2012. In previous years, the firm has reportedly worked with a number of conservative Political Action Committees, including the Florida First Project and the Freedom Partners Action Fund as well as the National Republican Congressional Committee. They are the largest source of spending in the consulting category for Stefanowski’s campaign, with a current price tag of $153,587, although the firm has also received additional payments from National Media for consulting, according to the campaign filings. 

WPAi: WPA Intelligence is a data analytics firm that provides polling services as well as data management to political candidates and businesses, though most of their work seems to be in the political sphere. They have largely worked as pollsters with Republican campaigns, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s campaigns for both Senate and President. During Cruz’s most recent Senate bid, the company was wrapped up in the campaign’s dealings with a separate Canadian firm under investigation for improper use of customer data. Stefanowski’s campaign has spent $120,500 with the company so far.

Checkmate Strategies: Stefanowski’s spending reports do not specify how they are using New Jersey-based political consulting firm Checkmate Strategies, but the company’s website lists a wide variety of services. These include everything from social media management to crisis public relations and grassroots coalition building. Owner Chris Russell cites his own track record for success in direct mail campaigns and Stefanowski’s spending reports include charges for printing through the company so it is likely that any campaign mail you’ve received has come from them. The company works primarily with conservative candidates and political action committees in both local and national races. Their primary client during the 2020 presidential campaign was the America First Action PAC, an organization that supported pro-Trump candidates but which has struggled in the years since. The Stefanowski campaign has spent $69,683.35 with them. 

Unisource Direct: This company specializes in “maximizing fundraising returns for political organizations, political candidates and nonprofits,” according to their bare-bones website. Although there is not a lot of information on the company, they are listed as a vendor receiving millions for senate and congressional campaigns in 2020, according to Open Secrets, and are being used by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this year, according to Ballotpedia. Total spend thus far: $69,828.89.

Drury Group, LLC: The principal of Drury Group is Liz Kurantowicz, a political insider, former chairwoman of the Grow Connecticut PAC. Kurantowicz is a former consultant for CAP Public Affairs. Stefanowski has spent $63,270 with them so far, although the group has also received consultant fees from National Media. 

RumbleUp: Have you received a text message from the Stefanowski campaign? It may have utilized RumbleUp, a Peer-2-Peer text messaging service that claims to have the “highest delivery success rate in the business” according to its website. It also integrates with Anedot, the payment processing and donation software company Stefanowski is using for his website. While they don’t specifically state it on their website, the company does advertise via Google Ads as a text messaging solution for the GOP and integrates with the RNC Data Hub among other clients. Stefanowski has spent nearly $54,373 on the service. 

William J. Evans, Jr.: Another long-time operative in Connecticut politics, Evans recently worked on David Stemerman’s 2018 bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination and previously managed Mark Greenberg’s 2014 congressional campaign. Evans has received $51,042 for consulting services.

Spark Op Solutions, LLC: The Fairfield, CT-based public relations and consulting firm has received about $48,721.67 from the Stefanowski campaign in this filing through reimbursements. The Principal of Spark Op Solutions is David Becker, who is also listed as the Treasurer for the Stefanowski campaign. 

G2 Analytics: As the name suggests, G2 Analytics is a data analytics and audience research firm based in Alexandria, VA. They specialize in analysis of video messaging, from advertising to interviews. The firm has been used by Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, as well as Ted Cruz’s senate bid in 2018 and a number of other campaigns and PACs. Founding partner Alexander Gage claims to have had a role in the last nine GOP presidential bids. They’ve received $21,500 from the Stefanowski campaign in consulting fees and $19,750 for polling. 

Go Big Media: The first outright advertising and marketing firm on this part of the list, Go Big Media is a major firm based in Alexandria, VA, just outside the nation’s capital. They offer work in advertising and branding as well as basic research on political marketing. The firm has worked with dozens of political campaigns, all on the Republican side of the aisle, with millions in revenue from candidates, parties, and political groups across the country. Stefanowski has so far spent just south of $39,678.83 with them. 

Venable, LLP: A Maryland law and lobbying firm, Venable, LLP has reportedly worked with dozens of companies, campaigns, and political action committees. Their biggest lobbying clients so far this year include the Association of Food & Dairy Retail/Whole/Mfg, American Airlines, and Lockheed Martin. Stefanowski’s total spending on the company: $37,500

Delve: A Washington, D.C.-based “competitive intelligence” firm, Delve provides strategic research for dealing with public affairs challenges. They’ve published blog posts on topics ranging from the fallout of the Dobbs decision abolishing Roe v. Wade to progressive attacks on corporations. While the company doesn’t advertise itself as a conservative entity, it does focus on pro-business and conservative interests. Delve was founded by Jeff Berkowitz, former Research Director for the RNC and part of the communications team in the George W. Bush White House. They’re on the lower end of Stefanowski’s spending at just $32,420.

Harris Media: A communications and marketing agency that has worked on campaigns for Senators Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell and even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to their website. The Stefanowski campaign has spent $31,631.40 with Harris Media thus far.

McLaughlin & Associates: McLaughlin & Associates are a major polling provider for dozens of political campaigns, working for GOP candidates across the country. Their client list includes former President Donald Trump, as well as the RNC; the Republican Committees of more than a dozen states; Senators Rick Scott, Josh Hawley, Mike Braun, and others; and state and local leaders in Georgia, Florida, New York, Alabama, New Jersey, and North Carolina. FiveThirtyEight has rated their polls on the more accurate side of their ratings system with most polls falling withing 10% of the final results margin and a 69% accuracy in calling races. Stefanowski has spent $31,000 with the firm so far. 

PFW Industries Corp.: Located in Massachusetts, PFW Industries‘ president Bradford P. Wyatt helped organize against a slate of candidates in Massachusetts who had pledged support to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, replacing them with backers of Sen. Ron Paul, according to The Telegram & Gazette. Wyatt ran for a Massachusetts state representative seat in 2014, but lost to his opponent. The Stefanowski campaign has paid $22,500 to PFW Industry Corp. for consulting services.

Lauren Casper: A veteran politico in Connecticut, Casper was the finance director for Lisa Wilson-Foley’s congressional campaign that became embroiled in a scandal involving former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland. Casper was not accused of any wrong-doing and went on to become finance director for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley. She was also leader of the Connecticut Young Republicans. Casper, who now resides in Pennsylvania, has received $21,000 for consulting services.

i360: A technology company that pitches to “free market candidates and causes,” i360 specializes in predictive modeling, voter contact, voter data and software. The company has worked on campaigns for Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and helped secure wins in the Virginia House of Representatives in 2015, which included increasing absentee ballot voting. The Stefanowski campaign has spent $16,892.53 thus far on i360 software.

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Marc E. Fitch, Senior Investigative Reporter

Marc E. Fitch

Marc worked as an investigative reporter for Yankee Institute and was a 2014 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. He previously worked in the field of mental health is the author of several books and novels, along with numerous freelance reporting jobs and publications. Marc has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Western Connecticut State University.

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