Small Donor Contribution Leaders for 2017 Elections

February 17, 2017
By William Fowler, CFB Public Relations Aide

Across the United States, unprecedented sums of money are flooding the electoral process, most of it coming from a few wealthy donors. But New York City’s matching funds program remains a central component of campaign fundraising that ensures that city candidates spend more time raising contributions from constituents than chasing special interest money.

The city’s program, which the New York Times describes as “one of the most progressive in the United States,” diminishes the role of big money contributions by amplifying small donations from average New Yorkers. Matching funds encourage candidates to raise money from their constituents – the residents of New York City – because only small-dollar contributions from city residents will be matched with public funds.

In fact, so far, two-thirds of contributions going to candidates in the 2017 election are from donors living in the five boroughs. Participating candidates1 in the 2017 election cycle have collected small-dollar contributions from 12,292 city residents, for a total of $908,600 in small contributions2. If the candidates meet the required thresholds these donations may qualify for $6-to-$1 matching funds administered through the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB).

Our interactive contribution maps clearly illustrate the benefits of raising money through small donations. As the Times points out, these maps highlight how candidates for city offices raise money from nearly every corner of every neighborhood in all five boroughs.

During the six-month disclosure period ending in January, Bill de Blasio’s re-election campaign reported receiving contributions from 2,055 unique contributors who gave $175 or less – more than any other candidate in the period. This was followed by Justin Brannan, a candidate for City Council District 43, who reported 266 such contributors. Brannan tops all City Council candidates in his small donor fundraising efforts during the latest disclosure period.

 The following table lists the candidates with the most small-donor contributions as of Statement 63:

Small Contributions Raised from NYC Residents
(July 11, 2016 – January 10, 2017)

Candidate

Office

No. small donors (gave $175 or less)

Amount raised from small donors

Pct. of total contributions from small donors

Bill de Blasio

Mayor

2,055

$95,002

3%

Justin Brannan

Council (#43)

266

$21,460

37.6%

Mary Silver

Council (#2)

224

$13,255

34.3%

Carlina Rivera

Council (#2)

220

$13,123

18.9%

Sal Albanese

Mayor

199

$18,556

57.4%

Marjorie Velazquez

Council (#13)

163

$12,030

21.2%

Eric Ulrich

Undeclared

154

$15,491

43.5%

Amanda Farias

Council (#18)

152

$9,143

64.7%

Carlos Menchaca

Council (#38)

150

$8,244

26.3%

Scott Stringer

Undeclared

141

$12,384

0.7%

Several of these candidates raised a significant share of their total contributions from donors who gave $175 or less. The candidates who raised the highest percentage of their contributions from small donors were Amanda Farias (City Council District 18) with 64.7%, Sal Albanese (Mayor) with 57.4%, and Eric Ulrich (undeclared) with 43.5%.

For the entire election cycle, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Letitia James have reported the most small donors to date. De Blasio accumulated 2,579 donations from individuals who gave only $175 or less, while James has reported contributions from 441 donors.

NYC Small Contribution Leaders in the 2017 Election Cycle
(from January 11, 2014 to January 10, 2017)

Candidate

Office

No. small donors (gave $175 or less)

Amount raised from small donors

Pct. of total contributions from small donors

Bill de Blasio

Mayor

2,579

$149,960

4.7%

Letitia James

Public Adv.

441

$39,714

6.9%

Melinda Katz

BP (Queens)

371

$39,302

6.0%

Carlina Rivera

Council (#2)

370

$23,864

34.4%

Scott Stringer

Undeclared

332

$32,349

1.7%

John Doyle

Council (#13)

270

$15,430

27.2%

Justin Brannan

Council (#43)

266

$21,460

37.6%

Richard David

Undeclared

238

$10,739

69.8%

Mary Silver

Council (#2)

224

$13,255

34.3%

Ruben Diaz Jr.

Undeclared

222

$17,096

1.8%

The candidates listed above who have raised the highest percentage of their contributions from small donors are Richard David (undeclared) with nearly 70%, Justin Brannan with 37.6%and Carlina Rivera and Mary Silver (both in Council District 2) with 34%. Rivera also leads City Council candidates with the most small donors throughout the election cycle.

These results show that candidates are clearly prioritizing small city donors and donors from their districts. Overall, there are 34,741 individuals who gave an average donation of $475 to candidates in all city races, accumulating $16.5 million in total (for City Council seats the average donation is $221). The amount raised from individuals ($16.5 million) far outweighs contributions from committees, unions and other interest groups ($2.2 million).  This presents a stark contrast to state and federal elections, which lack small-dollar matching programs and where special interest contributions dominate.

As mandated in the City Charter, the CFB collects each campaign’s contributions and expenditures and releases this information to the public through the searchable database and the campaign finance summaries. The most recent disclosure period was Statement 6, which covers financial activity from July 12, 2016 to January 11, 2017.

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 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 (July 11, 2016 through January 10, 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 are excluded from these tallies.

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