By Tom Precious for Albany News
ALBANY – How much is enough?
It took Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s campaign 82 pages to list all the donations from individuals, corporations, unions and political action committees he brought in during the last six months for his re-election bid this year.
The $33.3 million on hand – millions more than he spent running for office four years ago – has a daily cash flow that would make most New York small businesses blush with envy.
In just six months, his campaign attracted an additional $7.7 million. Take out expenses, and Andrew Cuomo 2014 Inc. saw a net profit of $5.5 million in the six-month period.
By comparison, members of the National Federation of Independent Business – owners of companies with five to seven employees – have a net income of $350,000 to $500,000 annually.
Since July, Cuomo took in gross revenue of $38,356.16 each day.
The donations streamed in from developers, lawyers, labor groups, hedge fund executives, Hollywood and all sorts of people and businesses with dealings before the state government. Not all of it was cash. Cuomo uses other people’s private jets to get him to some fundraisers, such as one he held in Buffalo in November, which count as in-kind donations.
Meanwhile, Cuomo is advocating a publicly funded campaign finance system for New York candidates.
But 82 percent of the $7.7 million the governor raised in the last six months came from people donating at least $10,000 apiece, the New York Public Interest Research Group reported. That’s up from 80 percent in last July’s filing.
Since Cuomo took office, 45 percent of the money he has raised came from people giving at least $40,000 apiece, according to an analysis of the governor’s campaign money machine by NYPIRG.
In Cuomo’s filings this week, several pages of donations came from individuals in the range of $5 to $25. Almost all came in about the time Cuomo’s campaign announced that it was raffling off a handful of tickets to his December fundraiser – featuring Billy Joel singing onstage – to people who donate at least $5.
But when looking at the entire filing, it turns out the money flow wasn’t quite as grass-roots as thought, according to the NYPIRG analysis. Less than 0.7 percent of the new contributions came from donors giving under $1,000 apiece. The deepest of deep-pocket donors – $40,000 or more – have given Cuomo a total of $15.5 million since he took office, NYPIRG said.
During Cuomo’s time in office, various entities tied to Leonard Litwin, a New York City real estate developer, have contributed $800,000 to his re-election. Cuomo’s fundraising bonanza led one watchdog group Thursday to call on the governor to put his long-stalled plan for taxpayer-funded campaigns into his state budget plan that is being unveiled next week. If he doesn’t, EffectiveNY, a New York-based group, said that it would rename his administration “Cuomo Inc.”
“Cuomo can’t have it both ways,” said Bill Samuels, the group’s founder. “Either he is a real campaign finance reformer or he isn’t. If he is a real reformer, he will move quickly to add small-donor matching funds to his budget this session. If he isn’t, he should be honest with all New Yorkers that coddling corporations is far more important to him than cleaning up Albany. It’s one or the other – it can’t be both.”
Melissa DeRosa, a spokeswoman for the governor, said, “Gov. Cuomo abides by the same rules as everyone else while leading the charge to change them.”
The $33.3 million in Cuomo’s bankroll is up from $27.8 million in July. He spent just $1.5 million in the last six months. Among those donating to the governor were movie studios that benefit from tax breaks that the governor expanded and entities looking to get one of the casinos the state will award this year, such as Rochester developer David M. Flaum. The owner of an Albany-area restaurant company that runs a new cafeteria in a state concourse near the State Capitol also donated.
Among his biggest donors from Western New York during his time in office is construction executive Louis Ciminelli, who has donated $60,800, according to the NYPIRG analysis.
During the same period, Leslie H. Zemsky, director of special events at Larkin Square, active in the cultural community, donated $50,000. She is the wife of Howard A. Zemsky, the Buffalo businessman who is a top economic adviser to Cuomo.
For the six-month reporting period, Buffalo-area donors included former Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra, a registered Albany lobbyist, and Dr. Donald L. Trump, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, who both gave $1,000. Roswell Park has had talks with the Cuomo administration about future ventures. Uniland Properties, a Western New York real estate company, gave the governor $3,000.
The donations included $117,000 of in-kind contributions; how much of that went to pay for private jets that Cuomo flies when he goes to some fundraisers, such as ones held in Buffalo in mid-November and Rochester in late November, was not detailed in his campaign report. He also held fund-raisers in the Hamptons where Jon Bon Jovi played, and in Manhattan, where his friend Billy Joel performed.
The campaign committee for Senate Republicans, desperate to keep their partial control of the Senate this fall, reported raising $856,000 in the last six months. That’s down from the $1.7 million the Senate Republican Campaign Committee raised in the same election cycle period that was reported in January 2012.
The Senate GOP said it had $2.3 million on hand. That is considerably more than the $178.29 the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee reported left in the bank after raising $663,000 during the last six months. The Democrats did, however, pay off $665,000 in past campaign debts, and their fundraising take was up from the $548,000 they reported in their January 2012 filing.
With another campaign fund, Senate Republicans say they have $3 million more on hand than Senate Democrats.
Why the lower Senate GOP fundraising this time around compared with two years ago? Officials weren’t providing an on-the-record explanation, but it could be related to probes underway by an anti-corruption panel Cuomo appointed last year. Or it could be that the Senate GOP now is in a power-sharing period with a group of four breakaway Democrats, and so there are now more political mouths to be fed in a system where companies and PACs spend just so much in a year.
That group, the Independent Democratic Conference, reported it raised $454,000 in the last six months and has nearly $1 million on hand.
The GOP money drop wasn’t restricted to its overall campaign account. State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti, R-Buffalo, brought in $43,000 over the past six months; that is down from the $248,000 he raised during the same reporting period two years ago. A spokesman declined to comment.
The Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee said it raised $453,000 in the last six months, up from $422,000 two years ago, and has $1.8 million on hand. There was no report filed yet by former Assemblyman Dennis H. Gabryszak, D-Depew, who resigned in disgrace this week.
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