CD17 Blog

First Quarter 2020 Financial Filings Reveal Some Surprises and a Controversy

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Seven candidates filed 1st Quarter 2020 financial disclosures  (fundraising and spending) with the FEC.  As before, these numbers warrant scrutiny and examination from several different angles. This report does not include Asha Castleberry-Hernandez (who will appear on the June ballot) because she did not file 1Q2020 financials with the FEC by the deadline.  

First overall funds "collected" or "accumulated"  (you'll see why I use this language below):

CAMPAIGN FUNDS ACCUMULATED: 1Q2020 and Total to-date



Rather impressive for Adam Schleifer, the attorney turned political novice, right?  Viewed another way,  Schleifer's campaign has accumulated $2,343,487 while the six other major candidates combined have raised $3,089,051.  Schleifer's pile is more than double his closest rival in funds, Farkas, and almost triple the total that Mondaire Jones has gathered.  This is real money that gives Schleifer a huge advantage in producing glossy mailings, buying ads, paying staff etc.  

But as we found during the review of the 4th quarter 2019 filings, there are different ways to view the funding total which may provide more informative ways of considering the candidates.  Consequently, I'm again resorting to "Real Fundraising" to subtract funds contributed by the candidates and close family members sharing the same last name.




Measuring "real fundraising," we see that Schleifer falls to a distant third place.  Schleifer has gained his funding advantage by  handing over nearly $2 million of his own money and contributions from people sharing his last name.  Still, for a political newcomer (who has spent little time living in CD17 in recent years), Schleifer's real fundraising would be impressive, except that he trails two other political newcomers, also with little time spent residing in the district in recent years (or none at all in Farkas's case) compared to other candidates.  

Farkas's campaign is a fundraising machine and Mondaire Jones has shown consistency in bringing in money in his short political career, but the major story here is the poor performance of incumbent politicians named David.   Senator Carlucci's not very impressive haul of $156K in 4Q2019 fell to $119K in 1Q2020.  I would have assumed he would start to pick up momentum at this point.  But the real shock is the collapse of Assenblyman Buchwald's fundraising efforts.   Buchwald's "real fundraising" numbers plummeted from $257,178 in 4Q2019 (good for third place) to only $91,150 in  1Q2020, lowering him to fifth (!) place.   How is it possible that these two young but veteran politicians, who have lived for decades in-district and have each won many primaries and elections, trail three complete newcomers in fundraising by a large distance?   

Fundraising pace gives a good measurement of continuing fundraising success.  Fundraising pace simply takes the "Real Fundraising" number and divides it by a the number of days in a selected time period.  In 4Q2019, we could use fundraising pace to compare the candidates' fundraising success by taking into account when each candidate entered the race.  We could then place into context Mondaire Jones's headstart in campaigning and fundraising.   Now we can use fundraising pace to compare the candidates' ability to maintain fundraising after the initial enthusiasm of their launch dates when family, friends and colleagues could be expected to donate.  



As expected, most of the candidate saw a sharp drop-off in fund raising pace, with many falling by two-thirds.  Farkas's fundraising operation again holds a large lead, having fallen "only" in half.  Buchwald disappoints again by falling from third in 4Q2019 when he out-paced Mondaire Jones and David Carlucci, to fifth place in 1Q2020.   Carlucci had a relatively small decline but his numbers were low to begin with.  The standout, however, is Mondaire Jones.  Unique among the candidates, Jones has shown actual increases in "Fundraising Pace" in each of the three quarters since he entered the race.  As opposed to formerly presumed contender Buchwald, whose fundraising operation shows disarray, the Jones team is picking up fundraising steam as the campaign progresses.

Previously, we also looked at small (non-itemized) donations.  Mondaire Jones dominated that category in 2019, doubling Farkas, although it should be remembered that Jones had a big head start in time. 




Small donations appeared previously to be Mondaire Jones's secret strength, confirming his appeal as an establishment outsider.  He's still strong in this category, but 1Q2020 was the weakest of his three quarters, falling behind Farkas whose small donations also fell from 4Q2019 but not nearly as much as Jones.  Buchwald's collapse comes in every fundraising category as his small donations fell in half from the previous quarter as also did Allison Fine's small donation total.  Schleifer actually saw an increase in this category (who is giving him small donations?) and  Catherine Parker, by doubling her pervious quarter total, earns a mention in this post for the first time.  

The last category we will review in this first installment of analyzing the 1Q2020 financials is in-district fundraising among itemized donors.  We can't tell the locations of small donors (contributing cumulatively under $250), but we have that information for individual itemized donors.   In 4Q2019, David Carlucci won this category easily



Farkas was the only candidate to actually gain in this category: progress among the actual voters whose support Farkas will need on primary day is as positive sign for her campaign.  Everyone else fell, with Mondaire Jones falling the least, which allowed him to move up from second to first place.  Carlucci's drop-off by more than half is a surprise here.  Buchwald held steady with the actual number of donors, but their contribution amounts fell.  Allison Fine also suffered a notable decrease. 

Mondaire Jones and Evelyn Farkas are the only candidates with a genuine right to be pleased with the 1Q2020 financials. Both campaigns show strength, breadth and sustained energy in their fundraising efforts.   The big story, however, is the rapid decline in Buchwald's fundraising.  The favored son of the Westchester County Democratic Party establishment has to be very disappointed along with his donors.  Buchwald's status as a first tier contender now is suspect until an actual poll shows otherwise.  The Carlucci campaign's mediocre performance after a tepid launch in 4Q2019 is also dismaying - particularly to the author of a certain January 2019 report.   Yet, all this analysis of fundraising and these small victories and disappointments seems myopic in light of the Schleifer financial domination.  Adam Schleifer's willingness to deploy his personal fortune in service of his campaign and out spend his rivals by multiples calls into question much of the value of this analysis.    Next, we'll start looking at spending to see where all this campaign  money, especially the Schleifer fortune, is ending up.