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Masiello, La Marina, and Mickey: On The Money

Masiello, La Marina, and Mickey: parsing the latest campaign finance disclosure forms

Mickey Kearns

Wednesday was the deadline for the filing of campaign finance disclosure forms with the New York State Board of Elections, and the story they forecast for mayoral candidate Mickey Kearns involves a lot of worn shoe leather and exhausted volunteers.

The South District Councilmember, who is challenging the incumbent, Byron Brown, had about $16,000 in his mayoral campaign account, as of July 11. His other committee, formed to support his 2006 race for Common Council, was in the red about $2,500.

Brown’s campaign finance forms had not yet been posted when this paper went to press, but suffice to say he’s got plenty of money. In January, at then end of the last filing period, Brown’s two campaign committees totalled close to $750,000. He has raked in many hundreds of thousands since then at a number of well attended fundraisers, and certainly has more than $1 million to spend.

One of these soirées was sponsored at least in part by Tony Masiello, the former mayor who still has a little more than $500,000 in campaign money to play with, three and a half years after leaving office. Masiello kicked in about $3,900 toward the price of the event in June and July: $3,700 to La Marina for catering and a tent, $148.99 to Maureen’s for flowers, and, oddly, $60 to Mineo & Sapio for sausages.

The sausages seem odd because Masiello really likes La Marina’s food: He’s spent nearly $10,000 in campaign funds there since December 2005.

In addition to money, Brown also has a vast pool of potential campaign workers (some volunteer and some obligated) and a well organized get-out-the-vote operation. Kearns is at a disadvantage on those counts, as well, although his campaign finance disclosure statements yield this interesting fact: His committee has taken in about $83,000 since January, and spent about $67,000. About $31,000 of his contributions came from individuals; $11,000 came from the committee formed to support his first Common Council race; just under $6,000 came from unions, businesses, and political committees.

The rest, about $34,000, comprises in-kind donations from printers and signmakers and consultants and a host of others. Once could read those numbers as a sign of desperation: There’s little money, so the faithful must labor for nothing. One could also read those numbers and claim Kearns is trying to make it seem that he has raised and spent more cash than he has, in order to attract more donors over the final two months.

Alternately, one can see in those numbers evidence that Kearns understands he has only one course to follow: a grassroots, volunteer campaign, with little or no traditional mass media support, no sophisticated polling or market studies, and a lot of long hours.

The Brown administration has been helping Kearns over just the past few months: Brian Davis and One Sunset, the forced resignation of Brian Reilly from BERC, an unflattering HUD report on city’s handling of federal anti-poverty funds, Tanya Perrin-Johnson pressuring her employees to work on Brown’s campaign, the unsuccessful shakedown of Cleveland developer NRP that killed a federally funded housing project for the East Side.

The list of scandals and errors, new and old, is long. Whether Kearns can use that material to overcome the incumbent’s advantages and pose a credible threat remains to be seen.

geoff kelly

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