ALBANY – In a bid to financially outmuscle his Republican opponent, Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday reported having $35 million in his re-election campaign account, after raising $8.5 million so far this year from an assortment of wealthy business owners, Hollywood insiders, unions, lawyers, hedge fund executives and others with and without a stake in the doings of Albany.
By contrast, Rob Astorino, the governor’s Republican challenger, reported to the state Board of Elections that his campaign ended the six-month period with $2.5 million on hand after raising $3.5 million since January, one-sixth of that coming in the form of a cash transfer from his Westchester County executive campaign account.
Notably missing from many of the pages of Astorino’s donor list were numerous special interest groups that can often drive the agenda at the Capitol, raising speculation whether such donors do not believe he can win and therefore do not want to risk alienating Cuomo if he is re-elected to a second term.
The numbers for Cuomo tell the story. He raised, on average, nearly $47,000 a day over the last six months. He refunded $151,000 in donations, without explanation, and earned $75,000 just on interest and dividends during the period from the six banks or investment companies where his campaign had its cash deposited.
Cuomo got money from industries he has promoted as governor, such as beer and wine interests, and brought in huge sums from Hollywood interests during a trip he made there earlier this year, including $25,000 from director Steven Spielberg and an assortment of donors with home and office addresses in California locations such as Beverly Hills and Sherman Oaks.
In all, 63 individuals gave Cuomo at least $25,000. Just 13 of Astorino’s deep-pocketed individual donors topped that level.
How much is enough for the governor’s campaign? With $35 million on hand, he could spend $312,000 each and every day between now and Election Day without raising another penny and still finish in the black.
The Cuomo campaign did not end up much further ahead from where it began in January – only about $2 million more – as it spent $6.8 million promoting the governor’s candidacy in ways campaigns flush with money can afford to do relatively early on during re-election efforts. It spent huge sums on ads, polls, consultants and places to host fundraisers, such as $12,500 to the Hyatt Regency Buffalo for a January event.
The governor also reported $131,000 for “in-kind” donations, but the disclosure filing submitted to the Board of Elections on Tuesday evening provides no detail on whether those contributions were for hosting fundraisers, providing private jet travel or any other of the assorted ways donors can give without actually directly contributing money.
On a single day – May 16 – the Cuomo campaign cut a check for $1,075,230 to a Chicago firm, AKPD Message & Media, for an ad buy. That was followed six days later with an additional $1,029,000 to the same company for ad buys.
For every dollar Astorino spent, Cuomo’s campaign spent $7 during the reporting period from mid-January to mid-July. Astorino spent $931,000, including $280,000 on television ads, and the rest heavily going to consultants, as well as $42,000 on lawn signs and $16,000 to a Westchester County golf club where he hosted a fundraiser.
The Cuomo campaign declined to comment, but Democrats and Republicans spent the afternoon seeking to point out to reporters potential controversial donations or other issues with each other’s disclosure reports.
The Astorino campaign sought to highlight the big dollars that Cuomo once again attracted in large individual contributions from people, companies and interest groups. “We’re enormously proud of the fact that more than 4,000 everyday New Yorkers invested in our campaign to turn the state around,” said Jessica Proud, spokeswoman for Astorino. “Gov. Cuomo raises money from Hollywood and special interests, but his millions can’t buy grass-roots support or change his failed record.”
The whereabouts of wealth in New York State dictates that Cuomo’s donations, as is often the case for his four years in office, are heavily tilted downstate, particularly in Manhattan.
His Western New York donors included former Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra, who lobbies the Cuomo administration as a partner with former U.S. Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato’s lobbying firm; Giambra, a Republican, gave him $2,000.
Others Buffalo-area donations to Cuomo included $25,000 from Kevin G. Reilly of Buffalo, $5,000 from James F. Bargnesi of Snyder, $25,000 from McGuire Development Co. of Buffalo and $5,000 from Orville’s Appliances in Lancaster.
Bill Mahoney, who analyzes campaign reports for the New York Public Interest Research Group, said New York real estate developer Leonard Litwin – at $1,019,200 over the last four years – remains at the top of Cuomo’s individual donors.
Among Astorino’s largest contributors were hedge fund manager Sean Fieler, an abortion and gay marriage opponent who gave him $41,000, and $82,000 from two New York City real estate development groups. The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, which has led the opposition along with Astorino to the NY SAFE Act gun-control law, donated $1,000 to Astorino.
The campaign filings for Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor who is seeking to challenge Cuomo in a Democratic primary, were not immediately available Tuesday night on the Board of Elections website.
Cuomo’s $35 million on hand for a July midyear filing report is sizable, but not a record. In July 2002, former Buffalo Sabres owner B. Thomas Golisano had $50 million on hand for one of his three gubernatorial runs.