Stefanowski bases ad on Lamont’s ‘offhand comment’ about Nashville

Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday he was frustrated last fall when he incorrectly suggested that successful venture capitalist Annie Lamont preferred investing in Tennessee over Connecticut because potential political and ethical complications inherent in conducting business in a state ruled by her. husband.

“Unfortunately, that’s it for Connecticut businesses,” Lamont said Nov. 30, responding to criticism that his wife’s company, Oak HC/FT, originally invested in two companies that later did business with the state. “Annie is in Nashville building businesses there, because Connecticut is pretty complicated.”

In a brief interview Monday, Lamont dismissed that quote as a “glib comment.”

Whether flippant or not, the remark went uncorrected for seven months and now serves as the basis for a video by Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski that paints the Democratic incumbent as a hypocrite for recently urging businesses that support the right to abortion to consider Connecticut as a new home.

“Ned Lamont wants businesses to move to Connecticut because of our abortion laws. But where did Lamont’s family set up their new business?” asks a narrator in Stefanowski’s video. “In Nashville , Tennessee, where a new law will prosecute doctors who perform abortions and jail women who obtain them.”

Between the question and the answer is the clip of Lamont talking about Nashville being a less complicated place for his wife to do business.

Lamont said Monday he was frustrated in November with Stefanowski’s suggestion that the governor had a conflict stemming from Oak HC/FT’s investment in Sema4, a company that performed COVID-19 testing for the state, and in Digital Currency Group, a fintech company that moved to Stamford with state help.

“We just had six weeks where he attacked my wife and my wife’s business. So I made this flippant comment in that context, Lamont said.

Pressed repeatedly, Lamont said his wife was not building a new business when he spoke last November.

Oak HC/FT invested years ago in Aspire Health of Nashville, a company acquired by Anthem. A Democratic source said Annie Lamont may have had a meeting with a client regarding the investment last fall, putting Nashville at the top of the governor‘s concerns.

There is no evidence, as the ad claims, that “Lamont’s family started their new business” in Nashville. Asked about a source supporting the claim, Liz Kurantowicz of the Stefanowski campaign simply pointed to Lamont: “The governor’s quote. The Governor in his own words.

In other words, if the spot is wrong, it’s the product of direct error by the governor.

Stefanowski’s campaign claims can be problematic. But so does Lamont’s reluctance to talk about Oak HC/FT and his imprecise description of what his wife does: Oak HC/FT invests in companies, often at crucial times that can bring them to life – but it does not create them, because it implicit in November.

The video is posted on YouTube and is not shown on television, Kurantowicz said. The spot weaves disparate threads — abortion, Connecticut’s business climate, and Ned and Annie Lamont’s investments — into a 39-second jab.

No one from Oak HC/FT responded to requests for comment on Monday on whether Annie Lamont had business in Nashville when the governor made his remark, or how cautious the company was taking on the issues. investments in Connecticut.

The Lamont campaign released a written statement that sheds no further light.

“Annie Lamont is a successful venture capitalist who has invested in transformative companies nationwide. Governor Lamont has made creating jobs and bringing businesses to Connecticut one of his top priorities. said Jake Lewis, spokesman for Lamont’s campaign. “While the Governor has worked tirelessly to attract businesses to create jobs, Bob Stefanowski has proudly laid off workers and laid them off. Connecticut deserves a champion who will welcome businesses to grow and develop here.

Not then a declared candidate, Stefanowski was running hard last fall on the state’s two COVID-19 testing contracts with Sema4, a company in which Oak HC/FT was a minority investor. Sema4 was one of four companies with federally approved tests that responded to Connecticut’s request for proposals early in the pandemic.

The Lamonts relied on a 16-page advisory opinion from the state Office of Ethics that offers advice for navigating the difficulties inherent in marrying a governor determined to grow the tech sector in Connecticut and a venture capitalist doing a good chunk of it. live there.

In a Nov. 23 interview, a week before making the Nashville comment, Lamont noted that his wife’s investments were less complicated in other states.

“Annie has helped create dozens of great companies representing thousands of well-paying jobs,” Lamont said. “And it’s much easier to locate those jobs out of state, so there’s no optics, no perception, no problem. And that’s what we’re doing.

Going beyond the requirements of the code of ethics, the Lamonts gave ethics officers a list of companies in which Oak has invested and the Lamonts should have no role in dealings with the state. According to the advisory opinion, the list is intended to be “a case-by-case checklist to help identify when recusal of the governor or Ms. Lamont would be necessary.”

Stefanowski criticized Annie Lamont for filing a separate tax return from her husband, shielding his earnings from public view. The governor released his statements.

Stefanowski, meanwhile, has his own transparency issue. He has yet to release his tax returns and he has already indicated that clients of his lucrative consulting business will remain anonymous.

Stefanowski and Lamont are each largely self-funding their campaigns, a rematch of the 2018 race win that the Democrat won by three percentage points. Campaign finance reports for the quarter that ended June 30 were due Monday at midnight.

In a press release Monday evening, the Stefanowski campaign announced that it had raised $650,000 from outside donors, without disclosing the full report. Stefanowski, who spent $3 million of his money four years ago, deposited $10 million of his funds into his campaign account.

Lamont spent $15 million four years ago.

Democrats have pressed Stefanowski to disclose the source of his funds. In an interview last month, Stefanowski said he has a business consulting firm with clients around the world. He promised to release his tax returns, but suggested his clients’ identities were protected by non-disclosure agreements.