WASHINGTON – Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has raised only one-tenth as much money from Western New York donors as did 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and most of the region’s big GOP names – including high-profile Trump supporters Carl P. Paladino and Rep. Chris Collins – haven’t given this year’s Republican candidate a single penny.
Meantime, Democrat Hillary Clinton has raised eight times as much from Western New York as Trump has.
Those are the key findings of a Buffalo News analysis of federal campaign contributions to the presidential campaigns through July 31.
Top Republicans cited two factors explaining why Trump raised only $83,068 locally while Clinton raised $667,896.
First, Trump – a wealthy businessman who self-funded his race for the GOP nomination – didn’t even start soliciting funds for the general election until after sealing the nomination in May, more than a year after Clinton started seeking funding for her campaign.
And second, unlike Clinton, Trump has not held a fundraising event in Western New York. Anthony H. Gioia, the top local fundraiser for Romney and Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, has refused to back Trump, citing the candidate’s controversial comments and his temperament.
Still, those factors don’t explain why neither Paladino nor Collins contributed to the Trump campaign.
It’s not as if they’re staying above the fray during the 2016 campaign cycle. Paladino has contributed $14,400 to other Republican campaign efforts, including those of Collins and Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning. Collins, of Clarence, donated $25,000 in campaign funds to the Right to Rise, a “Super PAC’ that supported the presidential campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whom Collins supported until he dropped out of the Republican race in February.
Paladino did not return a phone call seeking comment. And in response to an inquiry, Collins’ office issued a statement from the congressman, saying: “As this campaign marches towards Election Day, it would not surprise me if Donald Trump looks to Western New York for financial support. If he does, I would anticipate our community being as generous as it has been to past GOP candidates.”
Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy said not much should be made of the fact that Paladino and Collins did not donate to Trump. After all, both men have made frequent media appearances on Trump’s behalf.
“You certainly can’t question either man’s commitment to the campaign,” Langworthy said.
Both Paladino and Collins would surely contribute if Trump held a fundraising event in the area, Langworthy said. The lack of a fundraising event is the main reason why Trump has raised so little locally, he said.
Another Trump visit to Western New York, including a rally and a fundraising event, remains a possibility, he added.
If a Trump fundraiser gets scheduled locally, there are some signs it might succeed. While Trump raised just paltry amounts locally through June, he raised $51,958 in the month of July alone, just shy of Clinton’s total of $53,786 for the month.
But if there is a local Trump fundraiser, Gioia may well not be part of it.
Gioia, a key fundraiser for George W. Bush in 2000 as well as for McCain and Romney, supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the battle for the Republican nomination. And ever since, Gioia has refused to board the Trump train.
“I have not yet come to the conclusion that Donald Trump would be a good president, based on many of his comments and his temperament,” said Gioia, adding that he does not support Clinton, either.
Gioia, who served as ambassador to Malta in the George W. Bush administration, said he is particularly concerned that Trump has criticized U.S. involvement in NATO, the alliance between the U.S. and European democracies that dates back to 1949. Gioia said he is also worried about Trump’s comments indicating that he would not oppose Japan and South Korea getting nuclear weapons.
Trump hasn’t called Gioia or, to Gioia’s knowledge, any other major local donors. And as a result, virtually none of the big names that often show up among local Republican donors – like Brian Lipke of Gibraltar Industries or Reginald B. Newman of NOCO Energy or real estate developer Nicholas Sinatra – show up on Trump’s list of donors.
Meantime, two big local players who supported Romney in 2012 have sent money to Clinton this time. Jeremy M. Jacobs Jr., chairman of Delaware North Cos., gave Romney $3,500 in 2012 and Clinton $2,700 for her current campaign. And Robert G. Wilmers of M&T Bank, who gave Romney $7,500, gave Clinton – a longtime friend – $2,700.
Trump’s biggest donors locally include David Buonerba of West Seneca, who listed himself as the owner of ABC Co., and Peter Wilson of Elma, an executive with Sonwil Distribution. Each gave the GOP candidate $2,700.
Not surprisingly, Clinton’s donor list is the polar opposite of Trump’s. It’s studded with the names of longtime Democratic donors.
Niagara Falls attorney John P. Bartolomei, who has been donating to Democratic candidates since 2007, led the list, giving Clinton $5,400, as did two other members of Bartolomei’s family. Bartolomei did not return a call seeking comment.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul also gave Clinton $5,400, as did Lynne Marie Finn of Williamsville, owner of Superior Workforce Solutions, and Syeda Zafar, a retired anesthesiologist from East Amherst.
Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner said that about $450,000 of the money Clinton raised locally came at a fundraiser that the candidate attended at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo last November. That fundraiser is the main reason why Clinton’s median donation was $384, way more than Trump’s median of $32.
“It was the largest Democratic fundraiser in the county’s history,” said Zellner, who attributed Clinton’s big cash haul to her eight-year tenure as a U.S. senator from New York during the 2000s.
“She has proven herself to people here,” Zellner added.