Despite Republican protestations, there appears no evidence the Malloy administration snookered tourism advocates by running TV commercials promoting economic development in the state under the "Still Revolutionary" banner.
In his campaign for governor, Democrat Dannel P. Malloy pledged if elected to fight for $15 million annually to market the state's tourism industry. The proposal played well in southeastern Connecticut, a place where tourism is a large part of the economy.
Recall that Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican by the way, had stopped spending on tourism marketing due to the fiscal crisis confronting Connecticut. The Democratic legislature acquiesced. This was poor public policy. Driving tourism is marketing. All states do it. One sure way to damage tourism businesses, and reduce the tax revenues they generate, is to stop promoting the state.
The "Connecticut Still Revolutionary" marketing plan resulted from Malloy's election pledge, but it had changed in the legislative process. To gain broad support - not every legislative district has a tourist attraction - it was designed to target both tourism specifically and economic development generally.
The current budget contains $12 million for the Still Revolutionary campaign, $9.6 million for tourism, $2.4 million for business development, according to the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). To streamline government, the legislature followed the Malloy administration's lead and merged tourism (previously a separate agency) into DECD.
The business development TV commercial targeted by Republicans ran most recently from September to mid-November 2013, a $1 million campaign.
The 30-second spot - you can view it at www.youtube.com/user/BusinessinCT - features Pratt & Whitney, Alexion Pharmaceuticals and ESPN, while referencing their "revolutionary spirit to drive innovation." It invites other businesses to check out Connecticut.
Among the critics was Greenwich businessman Tom Foley, who made it official last week that he will seek the Republican nomination in hopes of gaining a rematch with Malloy in November. Foley pointed to the "Still Revolutionary" moniker and called the commercial a way to boost Malloy politically, at the expense of the tourism industry.
Zak Sanders, a spokesman for the state Republicans, joined in, questioning whether Malloy had "deceived a group of (tourism) businesses he pledged to support."
Yet, around the same time as the economic development promotion, a $1.3 million fall tourism TV advertising campaign took place.
Foley also questioned if state voters were the real target since some of the economic development commercials aired in state. However, DECD records show only 8 percent of the media budget targeted in-state viewers, 92 percent out-of-state. Among the goals of the advertising was to "retain existing businesses," according to DECD documents.
Malloy does not appear in the commercials.
When it comes to economic development, there is plenty about which to criticize the governor. This, however, seemed a reach for Foley.
Paul Choiniere is editorial page editor.