Attempting to Show Small-Donor Support, Cuomo Pads Numbers with Allies

Donations from individuals for $250 or less accounted for $63,694 of Cuomo’s $5.85 million haul, or 1.09 percent of the amount he’s raised since mid-January

Attempting to Show Small-Donor Support, Cuomo Pads Numbers with Allies
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 21, 2018: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gestures to the crowd as he arrives at a healthcare union rally.

Ahead of Monday’s filing deadline, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign boasted about its strong support from small donors, but a review of campaign finance records shows the campaign tapped into allies, relatives and spouses of members of his administration and campaign to bolster his contributor pool.

Since mid-January, the two-term Democratic governor has raised roughly $5.85 million, according to his campaign finance disclosure released late Tuesday morning. Of that amount, nearly $2.7 million came from individuals or partnerships. While the Cuomo campaign boasted Monday that 57 percent of his latest contributions were $250 or less, small donors made up a fraction of Cuomo’s overall haul.

At a time where a growing number of Democratic candidates are embracing small donors to show their grassroots support, Cuomo has shied away. Donations from individuals for $250 or less accounted for $63,694 of Cuomo’s $5.85 million haul, or 1.09 percent of the amount he’s raised since mid-January, according to Sludge’s analysis. While donors contributing $250 or less makes up a fraction of Cuomo’s fundraising, it’s a leap from the 0.12 percent he raised from small donors in 2014, according to Politico New York.

Cuomo’s efforts to court small-donor donations were marred by instances where it appeared that the campaign was padding its small-donor figures.

  • Christopher Kim, a Long Island resident, contributed 69 times, totaling $77, in the final days before the filing deadline. Kim shares the same address and apartment number with a Cuomo campaign employee, which was first reported by Shane Goldmacher of the New York Times.
  • Tom Fashouer, father of Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Abbey Collins, donated $1 to the campaign, his first political contribution in New York.
  • Gregory Drilling, a finance associate on Cuomo’s campaign, donated $5.
  • Jennifer Bayer Michaels, a senior advisor to the campaign, donated twice totaling $15.
  • Joseph Pickreign, who is listed as an audit office manager for the Cuomo controlled Department of Environmental Conservation made four donations totaling $200.
  • Constance “Connie” Hoyt, the wife of Cuomo’s former state economic development official Sam Hoyt, made two donations totaling $200.
  • Matt Wing, a former Cuomo spokesman and current spokesman for Uber who is married to Melissa DeRosa, the Secretary to the Governor—the highest ranking non-elected position in state government—donated $10 to the Cuomo campaign.
  • DeRosa’s father, Giorgio—one of the most powerful lobbyists in Albany—also donated $10.
  • The son of Cuomo campaign chairman, Bill Mulrow, also donated $10 to the governor’s campaign.
  • Former Cuomo spokesman Rich Bamberger donated $25.
  • Joe Rossi, the managing director of Park Strategies—the lobbying firm founded by former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato—contributed a combined $31.
  • William Pittman, a resident of Tennessee who worked with Cuomo at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, made 10 contributions to the Cuomo campaign totaling $130.
  • Osman Chowdhury, the taxi driver who famously returned $500,000 worth of diamonds left in his cab and hosted a low-dollar fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, made six donations to Cuomo totaling $185.

Cuomo’s campaign spokeswoman, Abbey Collins, pointed to Cynthia Nixon’s filing, noting that several donations were made by members of her campaign and relatives.

“We rolled out a new low dollar campaign to reach a wide variety of supporters and as part of that effort reached out to our network, just as Ms. Nixon’s campaign has dozens of contributions from her staff and their family members. As the latest filing and poll numbers show, Cynthia’s campaign is on life support, which is why her lines are getting increasingly more combative and desperate,” Collins said in an email.

Collins did not say whether the Cuomo administration or campaign employees were asked—or encouraged to ask relatives—to donate small sums of money in an effort to boost the governor’s small-donor figure.

The average of Cuomo’s 1493 donations from individuals and partnerships is $1,803, which includes the 69 donations by Kim.

Cuomo, who’s been courting small donors in the past few weeks, only had 26 donations of $250 or less in March and 35 donations of that amount of less in April. In May, the campaign ratcheted up its small-donor contributions getting 143 donations of $250 or less.

That amount was more than doubled in June, when the governor’s campaign received 313 donations of $250 or less. So far this month, Cuomo received 571 small-donor donations, according to a Sludge analysis of more than 1,200 individual donations.

Cuomo’s largest haul of donations of $250 or less came on July 12th, when he received 111 small-donor donations, campaign finance records show. That same day, Billy Joel hosted a fundraiser for the Democratic governor at his Long Island estate where entry started at $5,000. Joel and his wife, Alexis, each donated nearly $27,000 for “event costs.”

Cuomo, a prolific fundraiser, has been criticized by the New York Times and his Democratic opponent for having virtually no small donors, opting instead for donations and fundraisers well into the thousands of dollars.

“The pathetic, transparent efforts by the Governor’s staff (and their roommates) to increase his number of small-dollar contributions shows just how little public enthusiasm there is for Andrew Cuomo,” said Nixon campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt. “Try as he might, there is no hiding that Cuomo is the candidate of Wall Street and the Winklevii.”

Despite his anemic small-donor contributions, Cuomo heads into September’s primary with $31 million on hand.

Cynthia Nixon

Nixon, who is known for her role in “Sex and The City,” has raised a combined $1.6 million since she announced her candidacy in March. The $1.5 million she raised from individuals and partnerships came from nearly 22,000 different donors, according to Sludge’s review of her campaign disclosures. The average donation among individuals and partnerships to Nixon’s campaign is $49.26.

Nixon’s campaign received 7,152 $10 contributions and 4,785 $5 contributions, according to Sludge’s analysis.

Nixon’s top donors include fellow actors and celebrities.

  • Rosie O’Donnell, whose brother is a New York Assemblyman, donated a $21,000.
  • Alec Baldwin donated $16,000.
  • Director Michael Patrick King donated $15,000.
  • Talent manager, Emily Gerson Saines donated $15,000.
  • Actress Susan Sarandon donated $13,000.
  • Actresses Lena Dunham and Kyra Sedgwick each donated $10,000.

Nixon heads into September’s primary trailing Cuomo, with $657,000 in her campaign account.