Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


The Campaign Fundraising Begins

While many voters find it hard to focus on the presidential campaign a year and a half before the general election in 2008, some candidates in New York City are already campaigning for contests even further in the future- the 2009 city election.

The New York City Campaign Finance Board and the New York State Board of Elections recently posted the latest campaign filing data for candidates running for office, and the donors are starting to line up behind their preferred candidates. Although only six candidates in New York City have officially declared their candidacies for citywide office (Tony Avella, James Brennan, Melinda Katz, Norman Siegel, Anthony Weiner and David Weprin), many other have begun collecting money. If the mayoral race is any indicator this is turning out to be a record setting fundraising year for candidates.

However, with new changes to the city's campaign finance laws passed in early July, many types of contributions that are now acceptable will soon be restricted or even prohibited. This creates a clear advantage for the most aggressive early fundraisers. Under the new rules, donations from limited liability corporations (LLCs) and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) will be entirely banned and donations from those "doing business" with the city will be severely restricted. But for now, candidates can accept these donations.

The Latest Filings

In total, all of the 2009 candidates who have filed with the campaign finance board as of July 21 have amassed $17,855,467 and spent $3,275,609. As would be expected, the presumed and declared candidates for mayor have amassed the most money so far. Together, they have over $8.9 million dollars in their campaign accounts and have spent more than $1.5 million, according to filings posted on the Campaign Finance Board website. During the same filing period for the 2005 mayoral election, only $1.9 million dollars in contributions had been reported and $435,567 spent.

The current money leader, Comptroller William Thompson, has already raised more than $3 million -- approximately twice as much as former City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, the leading 2005 mayoral candidate in contributions for the equivalent filing period. (Democratic candidates Fernando Ferrer and Anthony Weiner had not yet filed four years ago; Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Republican candidate, financed his own campaign and had not yet filed either.)

Following is the breakdown of how much potential citywide and boroughwide candidates have raised and spent for the presumed or declared office they are running for. All data is taken from the Campaign Finance Board website and is current as of the July 16, 2007 filing deadline, unless otherwise noted. In addition to these presumed candidates, more than half of the current City Council members will be term limited out of office at the end of the current term and so could still decide to make a bid for another office. This may also account for the eagerness of some candidates below to jump-start their fundraising for the 2009 elections.

(For candidates for other citywide offices, click here.)

Soon to be Barred

The campaign finance rules recently passed by the City Council widened the existing ban on corporate contributions to include limited liability companies (LLCs), limited liability partnerships (LLPs) and other forms of non-incorporated businesses. According to the filings, all the presumed and declared candidates for citywide and boroughwide office but one (Norman Siegel, who is running for public advocate) took money from these entities. Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión raised the most from them with $403,790 reported.

To the dismay of many observers, the new campaign finance law does not ban contributions from unions. So far, the unions have donated less than the limited liability companies and the limited liability partnerships, but labor has still given a sizable $117,600 to the presumed and declared candidates for citywide and boroughwide office. John Liu reported raising the most from unions, $19,650, and a few candidates -- Norman Siegel, Marty Markowitz, Jim Brennan and Simcha Felder - raised nothing from them.

Following is a breakdown of the money the presumed and declared candidates for citywide and boroughwide office have received from LLCs, LLPs and unions.

(For candidates for other citywide offices, click here.)


In what many believe to be the most far-reaching piece of the campaign finance legislation, the new law will dramatically limit donations from those who "do business" with New York City, including individuals and entities with city contracts, concessions and franchises; grants valued at or greater than $100,000; applicants seeking land use rulings; and parties to discretionary economic development agreements. These individuals would be able to give no more than $250 to a council candidate, $320 for a borough-wide contests and $400 to a person running for citywide office. This represents a 90 percent reduction in the current levels, and these contributions would no longer be eligible for any matching funds.

The city's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications is supposed to develop a database of these individuals and entities. Until then, candidates are permitted to continue soliciting contributions from those doing business with the city. As the database has yet to be created, it is all but impossible to accurately determine which current contributors to candidates might eventually be restricted from making donations.

The lack of the database for the time being offers just another reason that those who begin their fundraising for 2009 early have a marked advantage over those politicians who will be slower to make up their minds and get their fundraising machines in gear. The spate of new regulations, along with limited amount of time to avoid them, could bode well for establishment candidates who have been raising funds since they won their last election and poorly for the candidates who have yet to step forward.

Doug Israel is director of public policy and advocacy, and Jessica Lee is an election reform intern at Citizens Union Foundation, which publishes Gotham Gazette.



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