At the Greenburgh Democratic Town Committee "CD17 Mini Convention" to approve candidates this past Thursday (2/20), a ballot with ten names was distributed to district leaders consisting of: Borgia, Buchwald, Carlucci, Castleberry-Hernandez, Farkas, Fine, Jackson, Jones, Parker and Schleifer. It was explained that these 10 candidate were selected because they had been invited to, or appeared at, one of the three debates held prior to the Greenburgh convention. As it is not clear to me how the debate/forum organizers selected invitees, this system for recognizing candidates is confusing. The below chart presents the current status of the campaigns of seventeen individuals who have publicly announced their candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination for CD17 as reflected by their filings with the FEC.
Yellow: filed FEC-1 and FEC-2, reported raising $ in 2019.
Blue: filed FEC-1 and FEC-2 but did not report raising $ in 2019
Purple: filed FEC-2 but not FEC-1.
Red: filed FEC-1 but not FEC-2.
Green: has not filed FEC-1 or FEC-2
Orange: has announced withdrawal from campaign.
The eight candidates in yellow have fully functioning campaigns, including recruiting volunteers, actively raising money, hosting fund raising events, and maintaining a social media presence. County Legislator Catherine Borgia, despite having taken no steps to confirm that she has an active campaign (not even a CD17 website) beyond appearing at debate/forums, is being granted deference by party leadership as though she belongs among the eight active and FEC-compliant campaigns. Two candidates, Katz and Osoria, have stated their withdrawal. I have tried contacting the remaining candidates and have heard back from Jo-Anna Rodriguez-Wheeler and Duane Jackson who each confirm that they are still in the race. The deadline for submitting petitions to appear on the ballot will further narrow the field and finally confirm the actual candidates.
What do you think of the party's candidate vetting process so far? Are marginal, little-known candidates being unfairly ignored? Or are party organizers doing a good job of narrowing the field to only candidates with realistic potential? What, if anything, should be the Democratic Party's role in recognizing campaigns? Conversely, why do individuals bother filing with the FEC is not making an active attempt at carrying-on a campaign?
Three individuals, Mondaire Jones, Luz "Lucy" Moreno-Casanova and Lola Osoria, filed a Statement of Candidacy (FEC-2) and a campaign committee Statement of Organization (FEC-1), prior to Nita Lowey's October 10, 2019, announcement of her decision not to run for re-election in 2020. Osoria has since withdrawn her candidacy. John Jabbour of Hartsdale filed an FEC-2 in March 2019, but has not filed an FEC-1 and has not responded to my inquiries.
The FEC considers an individual a "candidate" when "he or she receives over $5,000 in contributions or makes over $5,000 in expenditures" which triggers the candidate's obligation to file FEC-1 and FEC-2 forms. As Catherine Borgia has filed neither form with the FEC, I'm presuming that she has not passed the $5,000 threshold, which is surprising at this late date; six candidates had reached $100,000 in fundraising by the end of 2019. As Borgia has appeared at debates alongside other candidates, she is well beyond the "testing the waters" safe harbor and would be requried to file with the FEC had she reached the $5,000 spending/raising level. www.fec.gov/resources/cms-content/documents/candgui.pdf
Duane Jackson, who confirms that he is a candidate, has filed his FEC-1 (campaign committee organization), but has not filed his FEC-2 (statement of candidacy) for 2020, although he did file an FEC-2 when he ran for congress in another district in 2012. He will be required to file a new FEC-2 should he reach the $5,000 threshold.
Yesterday morning, Presidents Day, Mondaire Jones for some reason decided to take the opportunity of a Bernie Sanders tweet directed at Michael Bloomberg to take his own swipe at Adam Schleifer.
I can't find what provoked this tweet from Jones. Is there some history between Jones and Schleifer that anyone wants to tell me about? In any event, about 45 minutes later, Schleifer tweeted the following in response to a different tweet.
It's unclear to me whether Schleifer intended this as a response to Jones, but the Jones campaign's twitter activists jumped all over Schleifer's tweet, insisting that Schleifer was defending billionaires and comparing their plight to "Jews and Mexicans." "People for Mondaire", an anonymous twitter account, apparently affiliated with Jones' campaign, took umbrage and a twitter lecture followed about the distinctions between billionaires (allegedly a self-induced affliction) and forms of identity that are not so easily shed (e.g.,, being born Jewish or Mexican - or in the case of some of my relatives, both). A few minutes later, Schleifer responded to "People for Mondaire" and directly attacked Mondaire Jones' by implicitly comparing the two candidates' resumes (I would have preferred a comparison of their annual reviews at Watchell Lipton and Davis Polk):
Strong stuff from Schleifer. Maybe he'll invoke implausible deniability by insisting he was referring to Trump? As expected, Jones's team took great offense (this is twitter, after all). You can follow @people4mondaire; @charlieB_ATL (Mondaire's campaign manager), @katbrezler (from the Bernie Sanders campaign) @barefootRockU for accounts more or less affiliated with the Jones campaign to see the responses. Here is a sample:
After this exchange, Schleifer wisely moved on. Later Monday afternoon, Jones took the opportunity to defend his resume and end the skirmish (for now) by tweeting his bio from the Facebook page of New York State Young Democrats (omitting the footer stating "This is not an endorsement"). He also slips in a final taunt with a sharp-elbowed hashtag.
So evidently, there is some rancor between Mondaire Jones and Adam Schleifer. Unless someone shows me an antecedent provocation from Schleifer, it appears that Mondaire launched the first salvo and that Schleifer fired back, first indirectly and then overtly to escalate the situation. Mondiare got the last word and last dig.
So what's worse? To be accused of being a billionaire trying to buy an election, or dismissed as a lightweight? Did someone win this skirmish or did both candidate come out looking petty?
This being the Democratic Party, the participation by lawyers, especially New York and DC Big Law attorneys, in donating to candidates is no surprise. But the extent that lawyers and their money are already playing in the NYCD17 race is startling. From that inexhaustible source of fascinating detail in the campaigns' filings at FEC.GOV, we find large donors ($250+ cumulative) listed with their names, occupation and employers. No one will be shocked to learn that the Buchwald campaign is largely funded by lawyers. After all, David Buchwald, a Harvard Law School grad, is a tax attorney who formerly practiced at Big Law firm Paul Weiss. And he comes from a family of lawyers: his wife, Lara, is a partner at prestigious Davis Polk, his father, Don, is a well known attorney, and his mother, Naomi, is a federal district court judge. Buchwald's 2019 filing shows donations from 204 individuals who can be identified as current or retired lawyers, judges or law professors. These legal professionals gave the Buchwald campaign about $177,000 which is almost 2/3 of the total amount of money received by the campaign from individuals not named David Buchwald. The Big Law connections are led by 24 donations from Paul Weiss attorneys and 12 from Davis Polk.
But the Buchwald campaign isn't the only one with significant ties to lawyers and Big Law. Prior to his joining the Westchester County district attorney's office, Mondaire Jones was an associate at Davis Polk for about three years. For this Harvard Law grad, connections to lawyers remain strong as demonstrated by the nearly 250 lawyers and professors, active and retired, who gave the Jones campaign about $160,000 in 2019. Big Law ties, and the overlapping donor networks between the Buchwald and Jones campaigns, show up in the more than 40 lawyers from Davis Polk, followed by 11 from Paul Weiss, who contributed to Mondaire Jones. Jones, however, drew about 1/3 of 2019 donations from law professionals, in contrast to Buchwald's nearly 2/3. Adam Schleifer (alum of Columbia Law School and Wachtell Lipton) and Evelyn Farkas (not a lawyer!) came in a distant 3rd and 4th in the legal donation sweepstakes. We'll examine the major donors for the other campaigns in a future post.
In the previous post, we created a fundraising category we called "Real Fundraising." As discussed, the 2019 fundraising totals announced by the candidates and appearing on the face of their FEC filings don't give an accurate picture of comparative fundraising success - which is what we really want to know to help understand what's going on in this convoluted, multi-character campaign. By subtracting personal loans lent to their campaigns ($250K each from Buchwald and Schleifer), personal contributions from candidates to their war chests (Schleifer again with $250K, Allison Fine $20,500, Buchwald $5600, Catherine Parker $5000) and then same last-name contributors (several from most of the campaigns), I felt that we came up with an objective measure of each campaign's true fundraising picture as of the end of December 2019.
We start entering Into murkier territory, however, when we examine "in kind" services. Digging into the itemized donor line items, we notice that several candidates included "in kind" services in their contribution totals. In-kind donations listed by the candidates vary from plane tickets, catering, web design, legal services and similar services provided to the campaigns by apparent volunteers. The key thing to know is that while these may be valuable services donated to the campaigns, no cash actually changes hands. (To make matters more confusing, in kind services are also listed as disbursements on the campaign filings).
The campaigns that listed "in kind" services as contributions are
1. Allison Fine: $20,100 "in kind" contributions from ten individuals, including accounting, legal, speechwriting, website design, research, and various video production work.
2. Mondaire Jones: $5,670 "in kind" contributions (over 3Q and 4Q 2019) for services described as photography, travel, web design, advertising and catering. Mondaire does get the prize for "best in kind" for an item described simply as "tacos" (for $280)!
3. Evelyn Farkas: $2,378 listed as "in kind" for catering services.
The other campaign listed no "in kind" contributions on their donation receipt list.
So, should "in kind" services be deducted from the Real Fundraising number?
By now, followers of the NY CD17 Democratic race are aware of the 2019 4th quarter campaign financial numbers posted by the candidates at www.fec.gov/. Eight candidates reported their 4th quarter results as follows:
OCT-DEC. 2019 FUNDRAISING
Now is a good time to ask the obvious question: what is the reason to examine these fundraising numbers? Obviously cash on hand can be used to pay campaign staff and buy media time and space to gain the name recognition that each candidate desperately needs. Also, however, fundraising numbers give insight into the vigor of each campaign, and tell us a lot about the people the candidates associate with and, by extension, the candidates. For example, money that comes from the candidates themselves or their immediate family members can buy ads but doesn't us tell much about the campaign's viability or success in reaching donors. Consequently, now we're going to list the candidates' "REAL FUNDRAISING" during the entire campaign by taking out personal loans and donations given by the candidates personally and individuals sharing the candidate's last name. The Real Fundraising list is very different from the first list and it covers all of 2019, including Mondaire's head start:
REAL CD17 FUNDRAISING IN 2019
How do we put Mondaire Jones's headstart into perspective? To offer some fundraising context, I've created a stat that I call "Fundraising Pace" which is simply the Real Fundraising number divided by the amount of time the candidate has been raising money, or put another way, money collected per day on average:
FUNDRAISING PACE IN 2019:
A few takeaways at this point: Farkas obviously has a professional operation. Schleifer is not the joke some Indivisible members might insinuate: he has shown he is capable of real fundraising beyond his family. Observers have to start wondering about what's going on with the Carlucci campaign: has he been slow in getting organized, or is he struggling to raise money? Jones supporters have to be happy that their candidate actually increased his fundraising pace in the 4Q when he faced competition for donors, but should have some concern about whether his fundraising has peaked early.
The candidates' fundraising reports available at www.fec.gov break down donations as itemized and non-itemized. For donors who give $200 or more in a calendar year to a candidate, the recipient campaign must file an itemized donation report. We have a lot of information about these "big" itemized donors. We have no information about the small (<$200/year) donors. We don't know many such donors gave to a campaign. We only know the total received. Maybe the campaigns want to help me out and disclose this data? (HINT)!. Anyway, here are the campaigns ranked by small donations received:
NONITEMIZED (SMALL) DONATIONS
Small non-itemized donations give some vague hint about broad-based, even grassroots, appeal of a candidate, but without more information (i.e., how many, where did they come from) the numbers are more tantalyzing then useful. Itemized donations, however, are a different story. Now we can start seeing who is raising money (at least big donations) among voters who actually live in CD17:
$CD17 DONATIONS/ # of CD17 DONORS (ITEMIZED ONLY)
Where do the big donors in-district live?
ITEMIZED DONORS RESIDENCE
1. White Plains 44 (29 just for Buchwald)
2. New City 38 (Carlucci-land!)
3. Chappaqua 36. (17 for Farkas)
4. Irvington 27. (Fine and Jones with 12 each)
5. Dobbs Ferry 18. (14 for Allison Fine)
6. Nyack 16
7. Tarrytown 15
8. Suffern 13
Or viewed another way, the three Greenburgh rivertowns (Irvington, Dobbs and Tarrytown) add up to 60 big donors to lead the list.
Observations: From these numbers we can see that about $1,819,500 in donations flowed into the NYCD17 Democratic primary race in 2019 (not including money given by candidates and their family members). More than half of this money has been raised by two candidates (Jones (27%) and Farkas (25%)). Only $258,143 (14%) of this money comes from small donors (dominated by Mondaire Jones who has collected 44% of the small donor money). We don't know where the small donors live but of the 86% of campaign fund raised from big donors ($200+), we know that only $330,897 (21%) of these itemized donations comes from inside CD17. Only Carlucci (62% from CD17) has found most of his money from CD17 residents. Jones and Farkas are finding fewer than 10% of their itemized donors in-district.
Mondaire Jones has shown the most balanced and successful fundraising effort to date with both small and large donors, as well as geographically diverse donors within CD17 (both from Rockland and Westchester). He has to be happy that his fundraising pace even increased as the campaign opened up with new candidates in October. Jones's head start of six months fundraising compared to six weeks for Farkas and five weeks for Schleifer, however makes comparisons difficult. Farkas's initial six weeks were explosive but we'll have to see the initial 2020 numbers to learn if that pace is sustainable and will allow her campaign to overwhelm the others with spending. For both Farkas and Schleifer, their campaign outlook would improve with more widespread fundraising results among actual CD17 voters. Carlucci's slow start is surprising and should be concerning to his campaign but he can take some comfort is knowing that he is the strongest candidate to date in local fundraising. Buchwald and Fine simply need to find ways to shift their fundraising into the next gear to keep pace with their better funded competitors.
This is the report that caught the attention of CD17 Democratic Party leadership and campaigns. With no polling data publicly available, someone had to take up the challenge of analyzing this race, especially as the number of candidates expanded. Examining recent primary results and enrollment data, I presented this report in late January 2020. The main take aways were (i) the low vote threshold that can win this primary (25% or lower) and (ii) an attempt to define the "Carlucci Advantage" derived from a "home base" voting model. The consensus reaction was that the report was a fair and objective presentation of the race as it stood at that time, with pushback coming only from one campaign. Be aware that the report presents the circumstances of the race as I found them in late January 2020. Real polling data, or changes in the number or identity of candidates may compel changes or corrections in this analysis which I will welcome.