How rich are Bob Stefanowski and Ned Lamont?
There’s rich and then there’s really rich. But in the governor’s race it’s hard to tell.
Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski have, so far, declined to release their income tax returns, though both have promised to make summaries of their tax filings public. In Connecticut, however, where the tax collector keeps tabs on personal property, a picture of wealth can emerge from the things a candidate owns.
For Stefanowski, there’s the $3-million mansion hidden behind the big trees along the busy Boston Post Road in Madison. Then there are the Stefanowskis’ two beachside houses nearby, worth a combined $2.3 million.
Around the corner from the beach, on a small tidal inlet off Neck Road, is a private dock purchased for $85,000 three years ago. That was around the time the family sold its $2-million mansion in Florida.
For Lamont, home is a $7-million, 8,300 square-foot colonial behind bushy evergreens and a high deer-proof fence on a secluded, private cul de sac in Mid-Country Greenwich. Lamont’s eight bathrooms became a point of contention during the primary. The adjoining two-acre, $1.6-million parcel, was added for privacy. A few miles away, along Long Island Sound, a slick 22-foot Mako power boat is docked.
Stefanowski’s could be called “upper-management wealth.” Industry analyses suggest he earned an estimated $2 million-plus a year and millions in stock options that he made as a division-level corporate executive during much of his career, before he rose to a CEO position at a payday loan company, Dollar Financial Group, in London.
His wife, Amy Stefanowski, is a Realtor who has rented at least one of the shoreline houses, on the private Soundview Avenue, for up to $5,000 a week in the summer.
Lamont’s inherited wealth and investment income -- going back over 100 years to his great-grandfather Thomas W. Lamont, a top New York banker -- is an entirely different level of money. When he ran for U.S. Senate in 2006, he estimated his wealth to be between $90 million to $300 million. His wife, Annie Lamont, is an executive with a multi-billion-dollar venture-capital and private-equity firm who as recently as 2014 was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the nation’s top tech investors.
Pockets, deep and otherwise
What the two families have in common, besides three children and the goal of becoming governor of Connecticut, are Mini Cooper autos in their garages. Stefanowski also owns a 2013 Audi A8 and a 2009 Ford Ranger pickup. Lamont also owns a 2006 Lexus RX 400 and 2017 Tesla X.
It’s clear that Lamont, who spent $20 million on his winning 2006 U.S. Senate primary and losing general election race against U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, has fewer financial concerns than Stefanowski.
The Republican gave a $2.2-million loan to his campaign for governor. Amy Stefanowski recently emailed pleas to potential GOP contributors, warning that if they couldn’t raise $10,000 quickly, one of her husband’s TV ads would have to be pulled.
Between 2007 and 2015, the Stefanowskis owned a secluded seaside home on the north side of Key Largo, Florida that sold for about $2 million, around the time the Stefanowskis bought the 5,142-square-foot place on the Boston Post Road, according to local land records.
The Democrat, a cable TV pioneer who started out wiring college campuses, is now primarily a tech investor through his Lamont Digital Systems, Inc. He’s invested about $3 million in his third statewide campaign, with no claim in recouping the investment. Last year, he helped wrangle the India-based Infosys information technology company, into committing to a Hartford operation.
Ronald Schurin, a political scientist at University of Connecticut, said wealthy political candidates are part of the state’s new political landscape.
Griebel showed income, taxes
“The fact that Stefanowski is rich and Lamont is super rich is the norm,” said Schurin, noting that Lamont is the first Democratic candidate since public financing kicked in during the 2010 governor cycle, to eschew the voluntary program, which limits candidates to about $8 million during an election cycle.
“There’s nothing new or startling about this,” Schurin said. “What this says is that these are people who have the free time, free from the pressures of making a daily living, to get into politics at that level.”
Unaffiliated candidate for governor Oz Griebel, a former banker and regional business leader who has an apartment in Hartford released the top sheets of his income-tax forms this week.
He paid the IRS more than $93,000 a year in taxes over the last three years on income of about $400,000. He has been giving the state about $25,000 a year in taxes.
“People are entitled to this,” Griebel said. “People are entitled to understand transparency. The voters in this state are entitled to it.”
Previous candidates for governor have released their tax information. When Republican businessman Tom Foley of Greenwich ran for governor against DannelP. Malloy in 2014, he allowed reporters to view three years of his federal tax summaries. Malloy released four years of his partial federal and state tax returns.
This year’s millionaire-versus-millionaire contest could signal the end for middle-income people, such as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his immediate predecessors including M. Jodi Rell and John G. Rowland, from getting a shot at the state’s top job.
“Of course it would have been better for Rowland if he had some wealth,” Schurin noted. In 2004, Rowland resigned in the middle of his third four-year term, and pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.