Rep. Dan Donovan’s effort to stave off a primary challenge by his predecessor, Michael Grimm, has received a significant boost from political committees and organizations with ties to Washington D.C. Meanwhile, Grimm’s campaign has relied steadily on donors within New York’s 11th congressional district.
Roughly 70 percent of Donovan’s campaign contributions have come from outside of his district, New York’s 11th, which includes Staten Island and a sliver of Brooklyn. Of that amount, $332,000 came from individuals and groups with Washington, D.C. addresses, and another $144,000 came from entities in nearby Virginia.
The Grimm campaign, on the other hand, has received the majority of their contributions from within the 11th district. Of the 409 contributions they have received, 61 percent were from donors within the district, according to Sludge’s analysis of campaign contributions filed with the Federal Election Commission.
In addition to contributions from the D.C. area, Donovan has received a boost from outside spending by organizations aligned with the Trump administration or affiliated with special interest groups.
America First Action, a super PAC aligned with President Donald Trump, has spent almost $162,000 on mailers, calls and advertisement supporting Donovan’s reelection in the last two weeks, according to FEC filings. New Yorkers for Excellent Health Care, a super PAC funded by the Greater New York Hospital Association’s management corporation, has spent roughly $342,000 on mailers and media buys supporting Donovan. Defending Main Street Super PAC Inc—a super PAC mainly funded by unions—has also spent nearly $174,000 supporting Donovan through digital ad buys and spent an additional $20,000 on ads opposing Grimm, according to FEC records.
A spokeswoman for the Donovan campaign said in an email Monday night that the campaign has a “much higher volume” of contribution than Grimm, who “isn’t getting any institutional support in this race.”
Donovan campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud added that Donovan raised more from in-district donations than Grimm, but did not specify how much more.
The Trump Factor
The Republican primary for New York’s 11th congressional district has become a bellwether test for the value of Trump’s endorsement. While Trump endorsed Donovan in late May, critics have argued that Donovan has been insufficiently loyal to the president by voting against the Trump-backed Republican tax bill and the bill to repeal Obamacare.
The schism between the Trump agenda and Donovan’s votes has become a talking point for his challenger’s campaign.
“The people of Staten Island and Brooklyn know Donovan is being pushed by the Washington elite, and that has mortally wounded his chance at re-election” said Michael Caputo, a former Trump advisor and spokesman for the Grimm campaign. “They’re also well aware that Donovan voted against the President three times when he needed him most, and that doesn’t sit well in Trump Country. And make no mistake, NY-11 is Trump Country to it’s core,”
Invoking and associating with the Trump name could be a boon for both Donovan and Grimm. While the predominantly white district has a Democratic enrollment advantage, Trump won Staten Island in 2016 carrying 57 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 40 percent, and he has an 82 percent favorability within the district, according to a NY1 News/ Siena College poll of likely voters released earlier this month.
Despite the fact that Grimm—a former Federal Bureau of Investigations agent—spent seven months in federal prison after pleading guilty to tax fraud and received national attention when he threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony in the U.S. Capitol, voters in the district appear willing to send him back to Washington.
As of early June, Grimm led Donovan by 10 points, 47- 37 percent, according to the NY1 News/ Siena College poll. Despite the fact that Trump endorsed Donovan after the first night of polling calls were completed, likely voters of the 11th congressional district said Grimm would do a better job of working with the president.
“Michael Grimm’s success has been entirely attributable to his close connection to the district, and that’s reflected in his fundraising. The lobbyists and DC insiders are die-hard Dan Donovan supporters. And when you look at independent expenditures, the outsiders behind Donovan really stack up,” said Caputo.
Grimm’s top contributors include Platinum Maintenance Services, a New York-based restoration and services provider, whose employees donated $14,100 to Grimm’s campaign. Anthony Scaramucci, the short-lived former White House communications director, also donated $2,700 to Grimm’s campaign. Scaramucci has been stumping for Grimm, speaking at a fundraising event in mid-May.
Donovan’s top contributors are also from the New York area. The Giuffre family—which owns several car dealerships in New York under the name Bram Corp— and several Bram Corp employees have donated a combined $33,400 to Donovan’s campaign. Employees with the Greater New York Hospital Association, a trade group that represents hospitals around the state, donated a combined $20,000. Grocery store billionaire John Catsimatidis and his family donated $13,500 to Donovan. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $5,400, as did Bloomberg LP Chairman Peter Grauer.
Data Methodology: Sludge reviewed contributions to Donovan and Grimm’s campaign filed with the FEC. The data does not include unitemized individual contributions, which are donations smaller than $200 that aren’t required to be itemized and listed. The 48-hour reports only include spending of $1,000 or more.