Susan Bysiewicz stood by her criticisms of Rep. Chris Murphy’s campaign contributions at a Monday debate between the two Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, while Murphy characterized her accusations as a “very tired attack.”
A Bysiewicz advertisement says Murphy has received over $700,000 in campaign contributions from Wall Street interests, “more hedge fund money than any other Democrat in Congress.” Bysiewicz has admitted that this claim is inaccurate, but says Murphy has still accepted significant Wall Street contributions and cannot claim to represent the middle class while doing so.
“I absolutely stand by that ad, the premise of which is that you’ve become Nancy Johnson,” said Bysiewicz, referencing Murphy's predecessor in the House of Representatives.
Murphy defeated Johnson in the 2006 election, and accused her of receiving major contributions from drug companies during his campaign. Bysiewicz repeatedly questioned Murphy's vote against a 2010 bill designed to close hedge fund tax loopholes. Murphy answered that the bill supported some worthwhile programs, but that he did not believe it would effectively solve the issue.
“I voted against it because it wasn’t strong enough in closing corporate tax loopholes and individual tax loopholes,” he said.
Murphy also said Bysiewicz’s list of Wall Street contributors contains a number of Connecticut businesses, including his father’s law firm and a Litchfield farm. He said he was surprised that Bysiewicz refused to pull the ad after admitting that it contained inaccuracies.
“I have never seen anything like this, a candidate who has been caught lying on the air standing in front of an audience who says she stands by the ad,” he said.
Murphy said she considers Murphy to be “cozy” with Wall Street interests, and that he has voted against tax cuts and other benefits for the middle class. She suggested that such actions may have been influenced by the funding, and that this was what differentiated the funds donated to Murphy from similar contributions to her own campaign.
“Yes, I’ve taken some money from folks who work on Wall Street,” she said. “But they took the money knowing that I’d like to go to Washington to close the hedge fund loophole.”
Bysiewicz and Murphy agreed on other issues, including the question of whether the Bush tax cuts should be extended. Both candidates said they would support extending the cuts for families making $250,000 or less a year, but would not support proposals to expand this level up to families making $1 million or less.
Each candidate pointed to President Bill Clinton’s administration as an example of a successful economic policy. Murphy said there should be a broader discussion on tax reform regarding issues such as small-business owners passing business taxes through to their personal finances. He said that despite higher taxes in the Clinton years, the economy was more successful. Bysiewicz said she would work to eliminate subsidies for industries such as petroleum and agribusiness.
Bysiewicz and Murphy also agreed that Congress can help college graduates manage student debt by extending the Federal Pell Grant Program and holding colleges receiving federal funds accountable for keeping tuition affordable.
Murphy launched some missives against Linda McMahon, a Republican candidate who recent polls show has a comfortable lead over fellow candidate Christopher Shays. Murphy said McMahon is beholden to corporate interests, predicting that she will work to privatize Medicare and Social Security to the benefit of the private market and detriment of seniors. He also accused her of standing to personally receive a $7 million tax cut under her tax proposals.
“We can’t raise taxes on middle class taxes, but if we’re going to get serious about controlling the deficit we can’t give another $7 million tax cut to people making her income,” he said
The candidates are seeking to succeed Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is retiring at the end of his current term after 24 years in Congress. The debate at the was sponsored by and WTNH, with the League of Women Voters of Southeastern Connecticut assisting with the proceedings.
Both the Democratic and Republican primaries will take place on Aug. 14.