City Council elections are still a year away, but five non-incumbent candidates have already raised more than $100,000, according to campaign finance disclosures that were filed on Monday. If these candidates opt into the city’s public financing program, most of them will have raised all the money they need for the primary and the general election.
The city’s public financing program encourages candidates to raise small contributions from individual New Yorkers by providing matching funds and imposing strict spending limits. This makes candidates less reliant on large donors.
The first $175 of each donation is eligible for a $6-to-$1 match as long as the donation comes from a city resident. Donations from non-city residents are not matched. The city will give up to $92,400 to a candidate for the primary election, and up to the same amount if he or she moves on to the general election. Candidates who opt into the program cannot spend more than $168,000 in the general election. In the primary election candidates are allowed to spend $45,000 before 2013, and an additional $168,000 during the 2013 primary season.
By looking at the matching fund claims of each candidate, we found that between 25 and 30 percent of the contributions to all five campaigns qualified for the city’s public financing program. Most candidates have raised more qualifying funds than could be matched under the program rules, which means, after a review by the Campaign Finance Board, they could receive the maximum amount of public funds.
By analyzing data from the city’s Campaign Finance Board, we also found that four of the candidates raised 19 percent or more of their money outside of the city.
Corey Johnson, who is running for the seat that is currently held by Christine Quinn, has raised over $167,000, more money than any other candidate running for an open seat. His filings show that 28 percent of his donations qualified for the city’s matching funds program. But almost the same amount—27.6 percent—came from outside of the city. Johnson’s campaign has already gained considerable attention from outside of New York; last May two congressmen held a fundraiser for him in Washington D.C. A representative from Johnson’s campaign says that the out-of-city donations came from people who have worked with Johnson.
The other four top fundraising candidates are all running in District 6 for the Upper West Side seat currently held by Gale Brewer. Three of the candidates—Helen Rosenthal, Ken Biberaj and Marc Landis—have already raised more than the maximum amount of money that can be matched by the city in the primary and general election. Mel Wymore is within a few thousand dollars of doing the same.
Rosenthal, Biberaj and Landis have all received significant contributions from outside of the city. Biberaj has the greatest share of contributions from outside the city, with 47 percent of his funding coming from people who were not city residents. Biberaj said that these funds came from friends and family; Rosenthal and Wymore said the same about their out-of-city contributions. Landis said that out-of-city contributions to his campaign came from friends, family, and people he has met in New York.
“It’s not unusual because they have to raise huge amounts of money,” said Stuart Osnow, a political consultant with Prime New York. According to Osnow candidates for the City Council often turn to friends and family during the fundraising season