2005 fourth quarter fund raising summaries are out today. Detail reports will be available at a later date. A cursory review of the two main candidates in New York's 20th Congressional District show a real race in this district.
Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic challenger, shows total receipts of $370,680 according to available FEC reports. Ms. Gillibrand has already outraised the total of Jean Bordewich who raised $339,883 when she ran against John Sweeney for Gerald Solomon's open seat in 1998. Bordewich captured 42.1% of the vote that year in what was then a differently configured 22nd district. Her's was the highest previous number raised against Sweeney in any of his four previous elections.
In her first fundraising numbers Gillibrand posted about $119,000 which was just shy of the three previous challengers combined. The numbers this quarter show that she more than doubled her previous quarterly total and is well on her way to catching up to Sweeney's money advantage. Ms. Gillibrand reported cash on hand of $286,158.
Rep. John Sweeney, the incumbent since 1998, showed total receipts of $677,045. With beginning cash of $495,774 this leaves Sweeney with a cash on hand advantage with $712,933 despite his habit of spreading his largesse around key supporters with Total Disbursements of $459,885.
With the incumbents advantage of left-over money from previous campaign basically spent the FEC report shows where his remaining funding advantages lies... Lobbyists, PAC's, and other committees.
Gillibrand matched Sweeney virtually dollar for dollar in contributions from individuals with Gillibrand's raising $358,655 or 97% of her campaign contributions from individuals.
Sweeney raised $409,098 or only 60% of his contributions from individuals.
A full 40% of his contributions came from lobby and PAC money. This is in keeping with Mr. Sweeney's previous elections in which his reliance on big money has ranged anywhere from 35% to 45% of his total receipts.
In 2006 Mr. Sweeney has had to donate to charity $2,000 he received from one of tribal clients involved in the Jack Abramoff bribery and corruption scandal. FEC reports show the following lobby money amongst Sweeney's receipts during the 2006 cycle:
Greenberg Traurig - $1,000 on 3/28/2005
Greenberg Traurig - $1,500 on 8/23/2005
Preston Gates Ellis - $1,000 on 6/22/2005
TYCO International - $1,000 on 5/11/2005
In addition, according to Open Secrets the Alexander Strategy Group, run by Tom DeLay's former staffer Ed Buckham which announced just days ago that it was closing operations due to it's implication and the likely future indictements in the Abramoff scandal, has contributed a total of $6,050 to Sweeney. Greenberg Traurig is listed at $4,750. I believe their numbers include executives and other employees of the company in the total.
There are no reports of Sweeney returning or divesting himself of any of these highly questionable contributions.
Mr. Sweeney has recently been vocal in calling for sweeping change in House Leadership. Yesterday he backed down however from calling for a vote on a new Speaker of the House. He had previously singled out Speaker Dennis Hastert who is one of the largest recipients of money from Abramoff clients.
Sweeney's reformist words rang hollow at the time and even hollower in light of today's MSNBC report showing an unrepentant John Sweeney as a prime example of the influential and ubiquitous role of lobbyists in Republican Washington. They list a series of separate lobbyist events being held on this past Dec. 14, 2005 in which Promia, Inc.'s VP for Government Affairs, Adrian Plesha...
hosted a reception for Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) at his East Capitol Street home --
$5,000 for "sponsors,"
$1,000 for PACs
and $500 for individuals.
Kirsten Gillibrand has made accountability in government a centerpiece of her campaign. She has singled out Sweeney's lack of accountability to the people and the fact that he has never bothered to travel the district and get to know the citizens of the 20th district. Gillibrand has said she will hold regular open forums around all 10 counties in the district. She has already held events in every county and is continuing an aggressive schedule of the same. Gillibrand's fundraising totals to date reflect her commitment to the citizens and rather than lobbyists.