Tag Archives: campaign funds

6th District candidates reveal war chests

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Assemblymember Grace Meng has a fundraising edge over her three rivals in the congressional mad dash to the primary finish line, according to the latest figures released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Meng’s war chest going into the 6th District Democratic primary holds more than $750,000, her camp said, including $390,000 contributions from a combined 663 individuals since April 1.

Assemblymember Rory Lancman has raked in over $500,000 since the beginning of his campaign, including $150,000 of his own funds.

“We’ve got money coming in every day,” said Lancman’s spokesperson Eric Walker.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley currently ranks third in fundraising totals, with $280,916 and $19,500 in contributions.

Dr. Robert Mittman – a Bayside allergist and the only non-politician candidate in the race – who generated significantly lower totals so far than his rival elected officials. He had roughly $150,000 to advance his run in the home stretch, but of that amount, $100,000 came from his own pockets, his camp said.

“There’s a big difference here,” said Susan Silverman, Mittman’s spokesperson and wife. “[The other candidates] have big money coming in. We don’t have unions. This is a grassroots campaign. We’re going from the bottom up, not the top down.”

The campaign kickoff and fundraising efforts were delayed, Mittman said, and 15 percent of his limited campaign time was knocked off when he had to spend weeks defending petitions both in Queens Supreme Court and the Board of Elections after Lancman challenged them. Mittman cleared the 938 minimum with 1,220 valid signatures.

Now, Silverman said the team is taking a financial hit, especially with the pricey cost of mailers.

“We’re doing the best we can. It’s very, very expensive to send these mailers out. You can’t even believe how much — tens of thousands of dollars. You’re printing up 40,000 pieces or more, plus postage. It’s enormous,” she said. “We started late, but we hope we get the message out. We hope he’s going to be the horse that’ll run them out.”

Meanwhile, Mittman questioned the money-making matters of Meng and Lancman, pointing to reports that say the pair has missed over 75 percent of Assembly votes since they announced their congressional candidacies.

“The taxpayers are footing the bill for their electioneering. This is typical politics as usual. We elected them to do a job. We elected them to represent our area,” Mittman said.

Lancman was not slacking in Albany, Walker said, but instead was engaging in important conversations with voters on major issues.

A spokesperson for Meng said she is “extremely proud” of her recent record — which includes voting to raise the minimum wage and voting to pass DREAM Fund legislation — and has “worked hard to maintain a practical balance between her responsibilities in Albany and her commitment to the voters.”

Meng recently received huge endorsements from the New York Times, New York Post, El Diario, Queens Gazette, Queens Times, the Sierra Club, the New York League of Conservation Voters and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Leadership PAC. But Lancman will walk into the primary touting new boosts from the New York Daily News, Queens Chronicle, Grand Council of Hispanic Societies in Public Service and LaborPress, and Crowley with the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors FDNY Local 2507 and Uniformed EMS Officers Union Local 3621.


Where Does Unspent Campaign Money Go?

| kevinj.ryanmail@gmail.com

In this busy political season, candidates struggle to raise funds for their war chests, in the hopes of winning their races. Even with the enormous amount of money needed to mount a political campaign, there is often some left over after the buzzer. What happens to that unspent campaign money?

According to the rules set forth by the Federal and State Election Commissions, candidates’ committees can generally do a variety of things with surplus funds. Whatever they choose to do with it, it must be reported to the applicable commission in accordance with its rules. A surplus amount only exists if there is any money left over after all expenses and debts have been paid.

All expenditures must be filed under one of several general categories. The one universal rule is that the money must not be spent for “personal use.”

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) says that campaign funds may be used in a wide variety of ways, including:

• Moving expenses (including costs associated with “winding down” an office or campaign for a losing candidate)

• Payments to Committee

• Gifts. Campaign funds may be used to purchase gifts or make donations of nominal value to persons other than the members of the candidate’s family.

• Donations to charitable organizations

• Unlimited transfers to any national, state or local political party committee

• Donations to state and local candidates, pursuant to state law

• Returning it to the original donors

• Any other lawful purpose that is not considered a personal use

What constitutes personal use? It’s a murky area, but The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) states that an expenditure is considered personal use “if the contribution or amount is used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign or individual’s duties as a holder of Federal office, including:

(A) a home mortgage, rent, or utility payment;

(B) a clothing purchase;

(C) a non campaign-related automobile expense;

(D) a country club membership;

(E) a vacation or other noncampaign-related trip;

(F) a household food item;

(G) a tuition payment;

(H) admission to a sporting event, concert, theater, or

other form of entertainment not associated with an election campaign; and

(I) dues, fees, and other payments to a health club or recreational facility.”

Similarly, New York State Election Law says that surplus campaign funds may be transferred to a constituted committee or party committee, contributed to a charity, prorated and returned to the donors, or held for use in a subsequent election campaign. Surplus campaign funds may also be used by an elected official for any lawful purpose, including defraying the ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with his or her duties as the holder of an elected office. Contributions may not be converted to personal use not related to political campaign or holding public office or party position.

A candidate could hold on to campaign money for years, as long as he or she is still contemplating another run for office. Expenditures related to keeping that possibility alive, such as parties and dinners, are permissible.

Candidates who receive matching public funds from the government, such as New York City candidates receiving public funds from the Campaign Finance Program of

the New York City Campaign Finance Board, are required to use surplus money to repay public funds to the government. However, it can be a slow and difficult process for the City to collect those funds.

Leaving aside the broader issue of campaign finance, there is always the potential for abuse in reporting surplus expenditures, such as hiding the true purpose of expenditures by filing them under one of the acceptable uses. But given how much time and effort candidates and their committees need to spend to raise funds in even the smallest race, the law gives them latitude on how to spend it.

Let’s hope our Queens leaders and their staff are keeping accurate, open and timely records of the hard-earned money that voters donate to them.