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CD17 Fund raising: deep diving into the numbers, NYCD17

Friday, February 7, 2020

By now, followers of the NY CD17 Democratic race are aware of the 2019 4th quarter campaign financial numbers posted by the candidates at www.fec.gov/. Eight candidates reported their 4th quarter results as follows:

OCT-DEC. 2019 FUNDRAISING

  1. Adam Schleifer $741,386
  2. David Buchwald $543,228
  3. Evelyn Farkas $465,058
  4. Mondaire Jones $271,967*
  5. Allison Fine $201,603
  6. David Carlucci $158,098
  7. Catherine Parker $ 63,248
  8. Asha Castleberry-Hernandez $ 52,224

Pretty simple, right? Actually, far from it. A lot of information is contained in those numbers and they can be spun or reexamined in a number of ways. Mondaire Jones gets the asterisk as he deserves to be a lot higher on the list. While all other candidates announced their candidacy and launched their fundraising in October or later, Mondaire Jones has been running this race since July 2019. From July through September, when Mondaire was the only candidate seeking to primary Nita Lowey, he raised another $218,398, giving him a 2019 total of $490,365 which would push him ahead of Evelyn Farkas into 3rd place.

Now is a good time to ask the obvious question: what is the reason to examine these fundraising numbers? Obviously cash on hand can be used to pay campaign staff and buy media time and space to gain the name recognition that each candidate desperately needs. Also, however, fundraising numbers give insight into the vigor of each campaign, and tell us a lot about the people the candidates associate with and, by extension, the candidates. For example, money that comes from the candidates themselves or their immediate family members can buy ads but doesn't us tell much about the campaign's viability or success in reaching donors. Consequently, now we're going to list the candidates' "REAL FUNDRAISING" during the entire campaign by taking out personal loans and donations given by the candidates personally and individuals sharing the candidate's last name. The Real Fundraising list is very different from the first list and it covers all of 2019, including Mondaire's head start:

REAL CD17 FUNDRAISING IN 2019

  1. Mondaire Jones $486,715
  2. Evelyn Farkas $459,458
  3. David Buchwald $257,178
  4. Adam Schleifer $224,586
  5. Allison Fine $174,750
  6. David Carlucci $156,997
  7. Catherine Parker $ 58,428
  8. Asha Castleberry-Hernandez $ 11,382

Real Fundraising gives a very different picture of the race, showing us two clear frontrunners in fundraising strength in Mondiare Jones, who benefitted from a three month or more head start over everyone else, and Evelyn Farkas. As Castleberry-Hernandez's non-family fundraising is so limited, I'm going to drop her from this blog post.

How do we put Mondaire Jones's headstart into perspective? To offer some fundraising context, I've created a stat that I call "Fundraising Pace" which is simply the Real Fundraising number divided by the amount of time the candidate has been raising money, or put another way, money collected per day on average:

FUNDRAISING PACE IN 2019:

  1. Farkas $10,442
  2. Schleifer $ 6,070
  3. Buchwald $ 3,384
  4. Jones $ 2,704
  5. Fine $ 2,648
  6. Carlucci $ 2,181
  7. Parker $ 1,948

Fundraising Pace may be best at measuring the organizational strength of each candidate's respective campaign structure. Farkas shot out of the gate with a very strong fundraising operation that was primed to launch in mid-November. It has to be pointed out that Mondaire Jones has been at this longer than the other candidates and his ability to reach donors might be assumed to settle down after initial enthusiasm. Mondaire's 4Q-only Fundraising Pace was actually higher than his 3rd quarter pace, but at $2,956 the 4Q pace does not raise him on the list.

A few takeaways at this point: Farkas obviously has a professional operation. Schleifer is not the joke some Indivisible members might insinuate: he has shown he is capable of real fundraising beyond his family. Observers have to start wondering about what's going on with the Carlucci campaign: has he been slow in getting organized, or is he struggling to raise money? Jones supporters have to be happy that their candidate actually increased his fundraising pace in the 4Q when he faced competition for donors, but should have some concern about whether his fundraising has peaked early.

The candidates' fundraising reports available at www.fec.gov break down donations as itemized and non-itemized. For donors who give $200 or more in a calendar year to a candidate, the recipient campaign must file an itemized donation report. We have a lot of information about these "big" itemized donors. We have no information about the small (<$200/year) donors. We don't know many such donors gave to a campaign. We only know the total received. Maybe the campaigns want to help me out and disclose this data? (HINT)!. Anyway, here are the campaigns ranked by small donations received:

NONITEMIZED (SMALL) DONATIONS

  1. Jones $113,077 (3Q: $52,525/ 4Q: $60,482)
  2. Farkas $ 56,281
  3. Buchwald $ 29,088
  4. Fine $ 22,475
  5. Castleberry $ 10,773
  6. Carlucci $ 9,945
  7. Schleifer $ 9,176
  8. Parker $ 7,328

Here is the best evidence yet of the strength of the Mondaire Jones campaign: his continuing strength in small donor fundraising. His edge over Farkas in the 4Q, however, has to be qualified by the fact that he had a six week head start over Farkas even during 4Q as Farkas didn't start raising money until mid-November. Carlucci, again, raises concern about the state of his campaign. And, here the Schleifer campaign should have some serious concerns: they need real voters not just big donors. I put Castleberry back into this chart to give some context to the lackluster small donor performance of Carlucci, Schleifer and Parker.

Small non-itemized donations give some vague hint about broad-based, even grassroots, appeal of a candidate, but without more information (i.e., how many, where did they come from) the numbers are more tantalyzing then useful. Itemized donations, however, are a different story. Now we can start seeing who is raising money (at least big donations) among voters who actually live in CD17:

$CD17 DONATIONS/ # of CD17 DONORS (ITEMIZED ONLY)

  1. Carlucci $92,631 / 86
  2. Jones $56,578 / 67*
  3. Schleifer $52,140 / 24
  4. Buchwald $47,790 / 56
  5. Fine $43,130 / 43
  6. Farkas $30,678 / 35
  7. Parker $ 6,600 / 6

Like Real Fundraising above, the Itemized list excludes family members (which drops Buchwald from 2nd to 4th). This is where Carlucci supporters can find encouragement: they are not raising a lot but unlike the other campaigns it's almost all from actual CD17 residents. Carlucci is the only candidate raising more than 50% of his funding in district. Jones's numbers include 3Q and 4Q. Farkas has to be congnizant that she can raise big money and fast, but her success in-district among potential voters hasn't manifested itself yet. Buchwald has to be very disappointed: one would have expected that he would shine in CD17 donor support like Carlucci.

Where do the big donors in-district live?

TEMIZED DONORS RESIDENCE

  1. White Plains 44 (29 just for Buchwald)
  2. New City 38 (Carlucci-land!)
  3. Chappaqua 36. (17 for Farkas)
  4. Irvington 27. (Fine and Jones with 12 each)
  5. Dobbs Ferry 18. (14 for Allison Fine)
  6. Nyack 16
  7. Tarrytown 15
  8. Suffern 13

Or viewed another way, the three Greenburgh rivertowns (Irvington, Dobbs and Tarrytown) add up to 60 big donors to lead the list.

Observations: From these numbers we can see that about $1,819,500 in donations flowed into the NYCD17 Democratic primary race in 2019 (not including money given by candidates and their family members). More than half of this money has been raised by two candidates (Jones (27%) and Farkas (25%)). Only $258,143 (14%) of this money comes from small donors (dominated by Mondaire Jones who has collected 44% of the small donor money). We don't know where the small donors live but of the 86% of campaign fund raised from big donors ($200+), we know that only $330,897 (21%) of these itemized donations comes from inside CD17. Only Carlucci (62% from CD17) has found most of his money from CD17 residents. Jones and Farkas are finding fewer than 10% of their itemized donors in-district.

Mondaire Jones has shown the most balanced and successful fundraising effort to date with both small and large donors, as well as geographically diverse donors within CD17 (both from Rockland and Westchester). He has to be happy that his fundraising pace even increased as the campaign opened up with new candidates in October. Jones's head start of six months fundraising compared to six weeks for Farkas and five weeks for Schleifer, however makes comparisons difficult. Farkas's initial six weeks were explosive but we'll have to see the initial 2020 numbers to learn if that pace is sustainable and will allow her campaign to overwhelm the others with spending. For both Farkas and Schleifer, their campaign outlook would improve with more widespread fundraising results among actual CD17 voters. Carlucci's slow start is surprising and should be concerning to his campaign but he can take some comfort is knowing that he is the strongest candidate to date in local fundraising. Buchwald and Fine simply need to find ways to shift their fundraising into the next gear to keep pace with their better funded competitors.