Six democratic candidates are competing to see who will run against Republican John Faso in the mid-term elections in New York’s 19th district, which encompasses the northern half of the Hudson Valley.
Candidates running for the House of Representatives must file reports on the money their campaigns raise every three months. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) reviews these reports, making sure everything is legit and releasing them to the public for transparency’s sake.
In the age of super-PACs and dark money, there are other ways to support an election bid, but combing through the FEC’s numbers gives a basic understanding of how campaigns raise cash, where excitement for the campaign lies, both geographically and socioeconomically…and who might be owed a favor if the candidate is elected.
The last three months of reports for 2017 — the fourth quarter reports — were fully compiled by the FEC Feb. 26. Here are some key take-aways from my analysis, both of the last three months and the campaign as a whole, with context provided by Executive Director of the Campaign Finance Institute Michael Malbin, a nationally recognized expert on campaign cash.
For the article analyzing reports up until October, click here..
Three democratic candidates raised more from individuals in the fourth quarter than John Faso
One of the primary ways to raise money for a campaign is from individuals, whether it’s knocking on doors, soliciting donations online, or gathering checks at the end of a rally. An individual can contribute a maximum of $2,700 to a candidate for their primary run, and another $2,700 for a general election.
Of the six democratic primary candidates, three — Anthony Delgado, Pat Ryan and Brian Flynn — raised more money from these contributions than Republican incumbent John Faso during the fourth quarter. Delgado raised more than two-and-a-half times more money than Faso from individual contributions during this time.
Looking at the candidates’ total fundraising from individuals so far, which includes contributions since the beginning of 2017, Delgado and Ryan still have raised more money than Faso. This is especially impressive for Ryan, who only started fundraising after March, when Faso had already raised $100,000 from individuals.
Democratic candidates have raised nearly $3.5 million from individuals in all, while Faso has raised about $680,000.
Delgado leads the pack in individual contributions, while Beals lags behind
Delgado has raised more than $1.47 million in these contributions since declaring his candidacy Feb. 24 of last year, with about $427,000 coming in during the last quarter. When considering all forms of fundraising for the more than 1,700 house candidates nationally in 2017, Delgado ranked 71st overall, according to FEC data, and most of the candidates above him on the list are incumbents, who have an easier time raising money because of established funding streams.
Jeff Beals and Dave Clegg are lagging behind the rest of the pack. Beals took in a total of $118,443 in individual contributions, with $59,685 coming in last quarter, while Clegg took in $156,753, with $62,174 coming last quarter. Their fourth-quarter individual contributions were about one-seventh of Delgado’s.
Beals Finance Director Daley Gruen, who joined the campaign Jan. 1, said he was doing telephone and email fundraising, had a group of volunteers doing research, and the campaign had two fundraisers planned in the next month, including at the Tiger House in Hudson.
PACs and other committees are entering the race
Not to be confused with super PACs, multi-candidate Political Action Committees, or PACs, raise money with the intent of getting candidates elected who will promote their interests. The interests vary widely, from veterans’ issues to the interests of a particular industry or company. PACs raise money from individuals and from other political fundraising organizations.
Faso has gotten $463,509 from 70 PACs so far, about 40 percent of the total money he’s raised. Big donors include the New York Life Insurance PAC, the More Conservatives PAC, and Prosperity Action Inc.
The only PAC to give the maximum donation to Faso as of the end of 2017 was Select Medical Corp PAC, a hospital-centered fundraising organization that also contributes to democrats, but its number-one benefactor last year was House Majority Leader Paul Ryan, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
It’s normal for incumbents to raise this proportion of their money from PACs, said Malbin.
Business and trade association PACs give about 85 percent of their money to incumbents, he said, while ideological PACs — fundraising committees centered on a particular issue — are not yet putting money in the race.
There may be more than one candidate left-leaning ideological PACs find acceptable at this point in the race, and they have not chosen which democratic candidate to favor, Malbin said.
“They will be there in the general election, because they have a strong interest in the race, even if they don’t have a strong interest in the primary,” Malbin said of ideological PACs.
Malbin called the race “one of the prime targets in the country.”
“There’s not much question about that,” he added. “It’s on everybody’s list.”
Five of the democratic candidates received insignificant amounts from PACs and other committees. Pat Ryan, who served two tours of duty in Iraq, received about $47,000 from the Serve America Victory Fund, an organization that fundraises from individuals for candidates with a record of public service.
“The idea” behind the committee, Ryan said, is “with a very broken Washington, and a lot of elected officials who are about themselves and their re-election, we need people with a real record of service who know how to put their country and their community ahead of themselves.”
The committee is supporting 19 candidates across the country, Ryan added.
The campaign has also held a series of home fundraising parties, where Ryan makes his case to a group at a supporter’s house and the group contributes if they are swayed.
Ryan pledged to not take money from corporate PACs.
Delgado still gets a significant chunk of cash from his law/lobbying firm
Antonio Delgado is taking a leave of absence from Akin Gump, an international law and lobbying firm, to run for Congress. He specializes in “complex commercial and bankruptcy litigation, white-collar criminal investigations and contractual matters,” according to his profile on the company’s website.
He raised $107,550 from Akin Gump employees before Oct. 2017, and an additional $21,000 between October and the end of 2017. The money makes up about 9 percent of his total individual contributions.
Delgado said in a previous interview there was no conflict of interest, and the money had been given by co-workers he considered friends who hold the same political views he espouses in his campaign.
Beals and Clegg have gotten the most small-dollar donations
Twenty-one percent of the money Beals has raised through individual contributions has been in amounts of $200 or less, while Dave Clegg’s number is 20 percent. Faso has raised less
money from individuals in small-dollar amounts than any of the democratic challengers, with 7 percent of his money coming in this way.
On the other end of the spectrum, Brian Flynn has more high-dollar contributions than Faso or any of the democratic candidates, with two-thirds of his individual contributions being $2,000 or more. Delgado has the most maximum contributions, receiving 199 contributions of $2,700.
Most democratic candidates are getting large chunks of their cash through ActBlue
ActBlue is a website allowing liberals from across the country to easily donate to democratic candidates. Zephyr Teachout, Faso’s opponent in the 2016 election, extensively used this platform, as did Bernie Sanders during his presidential run.
Malbin called ActBlue “a very, very large factor in democratic financing,” and said Delgado had raised one-third of his individual contributions this way, which he considered one of the major take-aways from the FEC reports.
“People who give through ActBlue are worked up about the 19th district, both because…it’s a toss-up race, and then, in addition, there are many people who were not happy with Mr. Faso’s position in the healthcare bill.”
Faso voted to end the Affordable Care Act, a measure which passed the House but failed in the Senate. His democratic opponents have constantly flogged him with the vote in their campaigns.
There is no Republican equivalent to ActBlue, Malbin said.
Clegg and Flynn are running their campaigns using mostly their own money
The two candidates have loaned their campaigns large amounts of money. Flynn loaned his campaign $650,000 early in the campaign, while Clegg initially loaned his campaign $110,000 and added an additional $208,000 in the fourth quarter.
Campaign loans can be paid back from campaign contributions. Beals, who loaned his campaign $56,000, has paid himself back half of the loan during the fourth quarter.
Responding to a question about whether self-financing campaigns allows candidates to be less beholden to contributors, Malbin questioned how beholden campaigns truly were to their financers and pointed out that Flynn had raised more than a half-million dollars from contributors anyway.
He used President Trump, who largely self-financed his primary campaign and had more small-dollar contributions during his general election than any candidate in history, as a counter to the self-financing argument.
“His governing in office looks as if It’s in line with the wishes — I wouldn’t say beholden to — in line with the wishes of the largest contributors to Republican super-PACs, including his own,” he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Gareth Rhodes had raised the second-lowest amount from individual contributions. Clegg, not Rhodes, raised the second-lowest amount.