Another year, another election cycle. The first state election committee reports for 2018 were due to be filed on January 16th, reflecting receipts and expenses through January 12th. Here is a quick look at what’s relevant statewide and locally:
- Governor Andrew Cuomo’s committee reports a total of $30.5 million in the bank, having raised $6 million and spent $1.2 million during the past six months.
- Potential Democratic primary opponent, former State Senator Terry Gipson, has a total of $3,954 in his account.
- Republican candidate Brian Kolb has a campaign balance of $15,350.
- Republican candidate Joel Giambra has $227,850 available at the moment. Rumors are circulating that businesses interested in the legalization of the non-medical use of marijuana in New York State might make substantial contributions to Giambra.
- Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has $2.2 million. There is no known Republican opponent at this time.
- Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s campaign treasury totals $8.5 million. There is no known candidate against him either as yet.
- Here is a quick summary of the funds available in the campaign accounts of local members of the State Assembly:
- David DiPietro (R, 147th District): $66,605
- Stephan Hawley (R, 139th District): $115,142
- Angelo Morinello (R, 145th District): $40,698
- Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D, 141st District): $264,318
- Sean Ryan (D, 149th District): $182,760
- Robin Schimminger (D, 140th District): $391,228
- Monica Wallace (D, 143rd District): $12,562
- Ray Walter (R, 146th District): $30,737
- Here are the local members of the State Senate:
- Patrick Gallivan (R, 59th District): $63,010
- Chris Jacobs (R, 60th District): $309,041
- Timothy Kennedy (D, 63rd District): $471,875
- Michael Ranzenhofer (R, 61st District): $785,382
- Catherine Young (R, 57th District): $557,899
One final note as it concerns the Western New York legislative delegation. All thirteen of the local members raised campaign funds during the past six months, but none more so than Senator Michael Ranzenhofer. Since July Ranzenhofer has pulled in $184,250. Second place in the fundraising sweepstakes goes to Senator Kennedy, who collected $138,841.
Ranzenhofer is Chairman of the Senate’s Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee. That’s seems to be a pretty popular draw for donors. Among other things, the Senator has been successful in bottling up legislation to reform the manner in which limited liability corporations (LLCs) are used and abused for political and other purposes.
Kennedy is in the Minority in the Senate at this time, with the limited impact that status confers. Some speculation suggests that his fundraising might be linked to a possible future race for Mayor of Buffalo.
Committees without a candidate
In the world of state government in Albany there is always talk about “reform.” Reform this, reform that – mostly though, it is all just talk.
The state’s record on enforcement of provisions of the Election Law has been hit or miss. Attorney General Schneiderman’s office has recently picked up the pace, but there is still a lot that goes on that is ignored.
Campaign donations are supposed to be for election campaigns. Frequently, however, political committees resemble zombies, wandering around for years after a candidate or officeholder is no longer an active candidate.
Some former candidates use those funds for donations to charities, while others spread campaign cash among active candidates or political parties. Some former officeholders make use of former campaign funds to assist with their lobbying firm efforts. Local examples of such activities have included former Buffalo Mayor Tony Masiello; former County Executive Joel Giambra; and former Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz.
And then there is the O’Donnell for New York committee, which was created in 2005 to support the 2006 attorney general candidacy of Buffalo attorney Denise O’Donnell. O’Donnell made an effort to secure the Democratic nomination, but failed and never became an official candidate. But O’Donnell for New York lived on, having never even funded one primary or general election effort for the candidate for whom people wrote checks.
Over the past 13 years the committee raised $1,122,670 (for the past many years the receipts simply being bank interest) and still, as of July 2017, had $280,776 in their account. Previous posts have detailed the generous use of the committee’s funds to support Mrs. O’Donnell’s husband John’s re-election to the State Supreme Court and to pay for the consulting services of her son Jack.
It can now be reported that O’Donnell for New York is out of business. The January 2018 financial report shows that the committee donated $25,000 to St. Joseph Collegiate Institute plus $255,720 to The Osborne Association in New York City. The Association is described on its website as an organization that “works in partnership with individuals, families, and communities to create opportunities for people affected by the criminal justice system to further develop their strengths and lead lives of responsibility and contribution.” They “design, implement and advocate for solutions that prevent and reduce the damage caused by crime and incarceration.” That sounds like a very good use of the money.
None of the activities I have just described are illegal.
Judicial candidates in New York State are required to refund unused campaign funds during the year following their election. Why not something similar for other offices?
Elected legislators and executives tend to stay in office for a while, their terms are much shorter than those of judges, and they sometimes run for other offices. Money donated to Giambra’s 2003 campaign for County Executive will now likely be transferred to his 2018 campaign for governor. Immediate refunds of campaign donations after an election would not be practical. But how about a simple law requiring that after a specific period of time passes without a candidacy for public office, say five years, all remaining funds be either returned to the original donors on a pro-rata basis, or that the funds be donated to charity?
Whoever donated money to Joel Giambra in 2003 did not expect that their money would be used fifteen years later for a totally different campaign, one whose object is to challenge a candidate (Cuomo) that Giambra’s 2003 donors might likely be supporting in 2018.
A simple reform, an easy reform, would be nice.
Turn NY27 Blue
This past Tuesday evening was a cold and snowy mid-January night. That’s just part of the reason an event that evening in Lancaster was so amazing.
Democrats from throughout the eight counties in the 27th Congressional District, led by Erie County Chairman Jeremy Zellner, convened a forum to permit potential candidates to present themselves to party officials and voters. All five candidates attended, including Sean Bunny; Tom Casey; Nate McMurray; Joan Seamans; and Nick Stankevich. Here are some takeaways from the session:
- The room at the Lancaster Opera House, which is used regularly for musicals and other productions, was filled to capacity, with some folks standing in the rear of the room.
- The 27th District is the most Republican in New York State, and incumbent Congressman Chris Collins won his last two elections by comfortable margins. The fact that five Democrats are pursuing the party nomination is very interesting.
- Bunny reported that he has already raised $100,000. None of the others indicated the status of their treasuries. Federal Election Commission Reports are due on January 31st.
- Zellner, as moderator of the event, and the candidates themselves kept to the issues at hand including the impact of the recent federal tax legislation, education issues, infrastructure and the like. Donald Trump was hardly mentioned, although the electricity in the room certainly was produced by Democratic interest in turning 2018 into a wave election.
Party congressional nominating petitions will be circulated beginning on March 6. If there were to be a Democratic primary, which appears unlikely based on the comments of most of the candidates, that would occur on June 26. A couple Republicans had previously indicated that they might challenge Collins in a Republican primary, but the likelihood of that occurring is slim.
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