Niagara Falls Mayor James C. Galie's re-election campaign spent almost twice as much last month on refunds of illegal contributions as it did on the actual campaign, according to figures filed Friday at the Niagara County Board of Elections.
Galie's form listed 17 refunds totaling $6,305 during the period since Aug. 13, while actually spending $3,596 on his re-election effort.
The refunds were required because the contributors exceeded the $1,000 limit on total giving, according to Republican election commissioner Michael J. Norris and Democratic deputy commissioner Nancy L. Sharpe.
Galie's campaign manager, City Administrator Anthony J. Restaino, said, "It was not done intentionally."
State law sets the contribution limit at $1,000 or 5 cents per registered voter eligible to vote in the given race, whichever is more. It's $1,000 in a Niagara Falls primary. Contributors may give more than once, as long as their total doesn't go over the limit.
Norris and Ms. Sharpe said they start keeping score on an incumbent from the day he takes office until Primary Day in his re-election bid. In Galie's case, that means the meter started running in January 1996.
Restaino said, "I was actually informed the fund-raising period began with the calendar year. I don't want to get anyone in trouble, but I got it from someone in Albany. If that had been the case, those folks (the 17 donors who received refunds) would have been OK."
Candidates had until 5 p.m. Friday to file their final financial disclosure statements before the Sept. 14 primary election.
The forms show Galie has spent more money than his Democratic primary rival, Councilman John G. Accardo. However, Accardo's forms do not reflect the large sums spent on anti-Galie advertising by the city's firefighters' unions. Those ads never mention Accardo's name.
Stefan G. Kundl, president of the Niagara Falls Fire Officers Association, said political action committees organized by that union and the Niagara Falls Uniformed Fire Fighters Association have spent about $30,000 to defeat Galie. He said they intend to spend $15,000 more before the primary.
Galie incurred the firemen's wrath when his administration included layoffs of some of them in its budget for 1997. They've been feuding ever since.
During his term, Friends of James C. Galie has raised $125,954, and spent $97,074. Restaino said no more than $50,000 of that was actually raised this year. The mayor's current remaining balance is $7,554. The Committee to Elect James C. Galie, left over from his 1995 campaign, hasn't done any fund-raising but still has $1,015 in the bank.
Accardo's committee has raised $39,449, and spent $40,998. Its remaining balance at the end of August was $1,451.
Fund-raising totals are often supplemented by loans, which are frequently out of the candidate's own pocket or those of his relatives. Because of the loans and previous balances, the amount raised minus the amount spent doesn't always equal the campaign's remaining balance.
Galie's largest refund, $1,300, went to J.A. Brundage Sewer & Drain Cleaning of Niagara Falls, meaning that firm had given his campaign a total of $2,300 during his term.
In the Republican primary race, endorsed candidate Irene J. Elia has raised $43,160, spent $27,748, and has $25,311.91 in her war chest, including $10,000 in loans.
Her opponent, Councilwoman Barbara A. Geracitano, has raised $8,040, spent $5,671, and has a war chest of $3,732 as of the end of August.
In the Lockport GOP mayoral primary, incumbent Kenneth D. Swan has been outspent so far by his opponent, Council President Michael W. Tucker, but Swan has more money in reserve.
Swan has raised $4,989, although none of it was gathered since mid-August, and spent $3,445. He has $1,628 on hand. Tucker has raised $5,322, including $755 since mid-August, and spent $5,318. His balance left is $267.
In the North Tonawanda Republican mayoral primary, Alderman Scott P. Kiedrowski has raised $8,175 and spent $2,513. He has a war chest of $5,141 left. His opponent, Mary C. Kabasakalian, has raised $4,646, spent $2,918, and has $3,097 left.