WASHINGTON – Rep. Tom Reed was raising money like a man with a big political future in the weeks before his career imploded amid a revelation regarding a drunken advance he made on a female lobbyist four years earlier.
Reed's congressional campaign committee raised $648,121 in the quarter ending March 31, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission late last week. That's more than three times as much as the Republican from Corning raised in the same quarter two years earlier – and nearly three times what Reps. Brian Higgins and Chris Jacobs raised combined over the first three months of the year.
Reed's big fundraising numbers come as no surprise. Until March 19, he was openly contemplating a run for governor in 2022 – and other House members who have run for state office in recent years have transferred federal campaigns to their state races. And even if Reed had opted to run for reelection to the House next year, a big cash haul could have come in handy, given that redistricting could have forced Reed into a race against an incumbent lawmaker such as Jacobs or Rep. Joe Morelle, a Rochester-area Democrat.
Such hypotheticals became obsolete on March 21, when Reed announced he would not run for any political office in 2022. Reed's announcement came two days after the Washington Post reported that Nicolette Davis, a former insurance company lobbyist, said a highly intoxicated Reed unclasped her bra strap and reached for her leg while sitting next to her at a Minneapolis pub after an ice-fishing expedition in early 2017.
In some ways, Reed's first-quarter FEC report is similar to those he's filed in the past but with bigger numbers attached. As usual, he raised the majority of his money – $599,396 – from individual donors. Some $48,000 of Reed's money came from political action committees, including many finance and health industry PACs with a keen interest in the work of the Ways and Means Committee, the tax-writing panel where both Reed and Higgins serve.
And as he has for years, Reed maintained a full-time campaign operation – although this time he spent money like a candidate gearing up for a big race. His campaign spent $240,819 in the first quarter, with large sums going to political and fundraising consultants, digital advertising, staff and travel.
After all that spending, Reed ended the first quarter with $589,691 on hand. That money probably could have provided a modest head start for a gubernatorial campaign that would have needed to raise millions in order to be competitive in heavily Democratic New York.
Asked if state law allows federal candidates like Reed to use their campaign cash on state races, John Conklin, director of public information for the state Board of Elections, said: "The state board has never opined on this specific question." But Conklin added that in his unsuccessful 2018 race for attorney general, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Hudson Valley Democrat, transferred federal campaign funds to his state campaign account.
Reed clearly seemed interested in running for governor.
"Governor Cuomo: Your days are numbered. There's leadership coming to Albany very soon," he said on Feb. 3.
Now, though, Reed is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee in connection with Davis' accusation that he touched her inappropriately. And Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican, has already entered the governor's race.
Zeldin raised almost as much as Reed in the first quarter: $504,857. Zeldin had $387,412 on hand as of March 31.
Campaign finance reports filed last week also showed that:
• Jacobs, an Orchard Park Republican, raised $167,540 in the first quarter. That's a modest sum for an incumbent member of Congress. And it appears that Jacobs' fundraising suffered a small dent because of his refusal to vote to certify the election results that made Democrat Joe Biden president.
Twenty-two companies announced that they had suspended donations to the 147 congressional Republicans who voted against certification, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Jacobs' campaign finance reports show that he received a total of $17,500 for his 2020 campaigns from PACs representing five of those companies: AT&T, BlueCross BlueShield, Comcast, Verizon and Walmart. He received no money from those five PACs in the first three months of this year.
Jacobs reported having $171,106 on hand as of March 31.
• Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, raised only $50,837 in the first quarter of the year.
However, Higgins has been adding to his campaign war chest year after year even though he has not had a closely competitive race since his first campaign for Congress in 2004. That being the case, Higgins had far more on hand at the end of the first quarter – $1.07 million – than either Reed or Jacobs.