India Walton’s shocking upset win over incumbent Mayor Byron Brown in the June Democratic primary stood out for several things. She and her team ran a well-planned and focused effort. She has a large cadre of supporters. She was fortunate to have an opponent who while experienced in politics and well-funded, was basically asleep at the switch. The results produced a decent sized win in a low turnout election.
Where Walton trailed Brown was in money. He had a whole lot more of it – about four times as much. She made good use of her limited resources and was able to get on TV, do mailings and print signs.
Geoff Kelly of Investigative Post and I last month prepared reports on the fundraising activities of Mayor Brown. Geoff followed up with another detailed article about Brown’s efforts. The stories documented Brown’s heavy reliance on local businesses and developers as well as City Hall employees to stock his campaign war chest.
On the basis of her Democratic Party primary win Walton starts the march to November 2nd as the frontrunner. Be prepared for all sorts of twists and turns along the way. Fundraising will be very important.
Three campaign financial reports have been filed by the candidates thus far this year with the state Board of Elections, the latest being June 11th. They also filed what are known as 24 Hour Notifications, which require political committees to report on all contributions of $1,000 or more that were received after the June 11th report but before the primary election.
With analysis of Brown’s fundraising already reported on it is time to take a look at the fundraising activities of Walton. After reviewed her financial filings line-by-line here is what I have found:
- There have been more than 550 publicly reported individual contributions through June 22nd to Walton, along with eight in-kind donations of facilities and services. Many contributors donated multiple times.
- Cash contributions have totaled $122,101. The value of the in-kind services and facilities provided was $7,925.
- There were 15 donations of $1,000 or more, seven of which were from locations other than Western New York.
- In the reports filed thus far, the Friends of India Walton stated that they had received a total of $36,008 in “unitemized” donations, which represents 29 percent of all cash contributions. I have examined many financial reports over the years but have never seen a local campaign report such a large amount of “unitemized” (basically undocumented) contributions. The Walton campaign should provide details on this large sum of mystery money.
- Generally campaigns will report a small total of unitemized donations as a reporting convenience for small dollar cash donations. That explanation would not fly in this instance because included in the Walton reports are dozens of donations as small as $7.16.
- In the largest volume of information reported by the campaign, the original May 21st document, the campaign omitted most addresses of donors, something required by law. When asked the campaign blamed the lack of transparency on problems with the publication of such data by the state Board of Elections. No other committee reports that I examined for that period had any problem reporting full addresses. The Walton committee subsequently filed an amended report which included the addresses of all donors.
- In analyzing where Walton’s money came from thus far we need to discount the unitemized donations and the in-kind contributions. That leaves a total of $86,093 in identified cash donations to examine.
- Slightly over 400 individual contributions came from City of Buffalo residents who gave a total of $54,029 or 62.8 percent of the donations identifiable by location.
- The top four Buffalo zip codes in terms of dollar donations were 14222 ($17,208); 14214 ($9,629); 14213 ($7,035); and 14216 ($6,070).
- Donations from Erie County suburbs and other parts of Western New York totaled $6,218 (7.2 percent of total identifiable cash).
- 44 contributions were received 13 states outside of New York, plus the District of Columbia, stretching Massachusetts to California. The amount raised was $15,036 or 17.5 percent of the identifiable cash contributions.
- 32 donations came from New York City adding totaling $9,746 – 11.3 percent of the total collected.
- Nearly three times as much money was collected from Brooklyn as from South Buffalo.
- Contributions from upstate New York outside of Western New York amounted to $1,065 (1.2 percent of the total).
- The combined contributions received from other states, DC, New York City and upstate New York totaled $25,847 or 30 percent of all identifiable cash contributions.
- There was one donation from Japan in the amount of $150. A donation received from a foreign country is illegal.
Since her primary election win Walton has publicly announced, but not detailed, additional fundraising success. She said the campaign collected $40,000 in just one day. Brown has undoubtedly continued raising money as well. We will not see the actual numbers until or shortly after the July 15th reporting deadline.
This mayoral cycle is likely to be one of the most expensive local elections in the history of local politics. But that is as it should be, since the 2021 campaign has already been historic.
Watch this space.
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