Small-Dollar Donor Contribution Leaders in the 2017 Citywide Elections

William Fowler, CFB Public Relations Aide May 12, 2017

With another filing day upon us, we wanted to take a quick look at what campaign disclosures can tell us so far about New York City’s small-dollar matching funds program. To date, a remarkable 89% of the $21.4 million contributed to candidates running in this year’s citywide elections has come from individual donors. Of the individual contributions, two-thirds were contributed by residents of New York City.

So far, participating candidates1 in the 2017 election cycle have collected small-dollar contributions from 19,419 city residents, for a total of $1.3 million2. For candidates who meet the required thresholds, these contributions may qualify for matching funds, which are administered at a $6-to-$1 rate through the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB). This system can amplify a small contribution of, say, $100 to $700 for participating candidates.

During the six-month disclosure period ending on March 11, Bill de Blasio’s re-election campaign for mayor reported receiving contributions from 2,033 unique contributors who gave $175 or less – more than any other candidate in the two-month period. This was followed by Liam McCabe, a candidate for South Brooklyn’s City Council District 43, who reported 246 such contributors.

For this latest disclosure period, McCabe tops all City Council candidates in small donor fundraising efforts. Two other District 43 candidates – John Quaglione and Robert Capano – also appear in the top 10, and another District 43 candidate, Justin Brannan, was the City Council small donations leader in the previous disclosure period, which ended January 11. This suggests a remarkable level of engagement in the race unfolding in District 43.

Top Ten Candidates Ranked by Small Contributions Raised from NYC Residents
(January 12, 2017 – March 11, 2017)

Candidate

Office

No. of small donors (gave $175 or less)

Amount raised from small donors

Pct. of total contributions from small donors

Bill de Blasio

Mayor

2,033

$63,266

16.4%

Liam McCabe

Council (#43)

246

$16,036

35.2%

Carlos Menchaca

Council (#38)

175

$11,935

53.0%

Christopher Marte

Council (#1)

175

$11,354

40.3%

Mary Silver

Council (#2)

166

$10,552

49.5%

Tony Avella

Mayor

162

$13,529

46.4%

Alan Maisel

Council (#46)

153

$14,058

40.6%

Elvin Garcia

Council (#18)

144

$7,595

55.7%

John Quaglione

Council (#43)

143

$17,850

42.1%

Robert Capano

Council (#43)

127

$4,745

30.9%

Many of these candidates raised a significant share of their total contributions from donors who gave $175 or less, which suggests a particular focus on small donors. The candidates on this list who raised the highest percentage of their contributions from small donors are Elvin Garcia (City Council District 18) with 55.7%, Carlos Menchaca (City Council District 38) with 53%, and Mary Silver (City Council District 2) with 49.5%.

For the entire election cycle, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Letitia James maintained their lead gaining the most small-dollar donors to date. De Blasio has nearly doubled his lead this period, accumulating 4,268 donations from individuals who gave only $175 or less, while James has reported contributions from 452 donors. The City Council candidate with the highest number of small donors is Carlina Rivera (City Council District 2), overtaking Melinda Katz (Queens Borough President) since the last disclosure period. In the race for Manhattan’s Council District 2, Silver and Rivera are closely competing to gain the most small-dollar donors.

NYC Small Contribution Leaders in the 2017 Election Cycle
(from January 11, 2014 – March 11, 2017)

Candidate

Office

No. of small donors (gave $175 or less)

Amount raised from small donors

Pct. of total contributions from small donors

Bill de Blasio

Mayor

4,268

$210,973

5.9%

Letitia James

Public Advocate

452

$39,700

6.6%

Carlina Rivera

Council (#2)

446

$27,188

32.0%

Scott Stringer

Undeclared

416

$41,215

2.1%

Melinda Katz

BP (Queens)

405

$43,252

5.8%

Mary Silver

Council (#2)

361

$21,832

36.4%

Carlos Menchaca

Council (#38)

338

$21,815

40.4%

Elvin Garcia

Council (#18)

310

$16,350

38.2%

Sal Albanese

Mayor

305

$25,516

45.1%

Richard David

Council (#28)

290

$15,204

63.7%

Overall, 48,825 individuals have contributed an average of $390 to candidates in all citywide races, accumulating $19 million in total. For City Council seats, the average donation is $198 from 21,900 individuals. The amount raised from individuals ($19 million) far outweighs contributions from committees, unions, and other interest groups ($2.4 million).

Our interactive contribution maps clearly illustrate the benefits of raising money through small donations. As the New York Times has pointed out, these maps highlight how candidates for city offices have raised money from nearly every corner of every neighborhood in all five borough.

This presents a stark contrast to state and federal elections, which lack small-dollar matching programs, and where special interest contributions dominate. For comparison, here is the breakdown of contributions by source to candidates for city office in 2013 compared to contributions to candidates for state legislative offices in 2016.

In an age of “big money” politics, a campaign finance system that empowers everyday voters in this way is truly exemplary.

Additional research generously provided by Steve Romalewski of the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Footnotes:

1 Analysis only applies to candidates who indicated that they are likely to participate in the matching funds program.
2 Small donors for the overall 2017 election cycle are individuals living in New York City who have contributed no more than $175 per candidate during the overall election cycle.
3 Small donors for the latest reporting period (January 11, 2017 through March 11, 2017) are individuals living in New York City who have contributed no more than $175 per candidate during the reporting period.  If any of these contributors provided earlier contributions to each candidate that caused the total amount of their contributions to that candidate to exceed $175, they were excluded from these tallies.

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