With the June 28 Democratic primary approaching, mandatory financial disclosures have been posted for the campaigns of the two candidates seeking to represent the 103rd district in the New York State Assembly, incumbent assemblymember Kevin Cahill and challenger Sarahana Shrestha. The May 27 filings, the last before the primary, shed light on the financial health of each campaign. Added to the previous filings, they showed the well-heeled contender actually outraised the veteran incumbent by $3319.
On May 27, Cahill reported $116,175.86 in new contributions. Including the $24,075.00 he had reported in the January 2022 itemized amended contributions list, he had raised a grand total of $140,250.86 for his 2022 campaign.
As of May 27, Shrestha reported $74,543.60 in new contributions. Including the $69,026.47 she had reported in the January 2022 itemized amended contributions list, she had raised a grand total of $143,570.07 for her 2022 campaign.
California political figure Jesse Unruh is supposed to have said that money was the mother’s milk of politics. No matter the validity of the characterization, many people, including politicians, have no trouble believing it to be true. That being the case, we present the production of contributor dollars for this Assembly race. Both candidates have authorized committees to accept contributions for them, and both candidates have politically interested parties raising dollars in their names.
With $12,403, Act Blue, an online processing service that’s a sort of a Democratic Party clearinghouse for contributions, was Cahill’s largest single contributor. Made popular in the past campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, disclosure records on the New York State Board of Elections website identify Act Blue as a Political Action Committee. The fundraising platform itself views its role as “a conduit.” Act Blue enables only left-leaning movements, non-profit, Democratic and progressive candidates. It charges a 3.95 percent processing fee.
The New York State Board of Elections insists their anonymous contributions are not tolerated in the political contests of the state. If so, this must be the closest thing to it.
While Shrestha’s contributions were derived primarily through individual donations, in accordance with her pledge to avoid contributions from corporate interests or Political Action Committees (PACs), she too utilized the Act Blue clearinghouse. The difference was that Shrestha disclosed each individual donor who was supplying her contributions. Serving a middleman function similar in many ways to Act Blue, contributor DSA For The Many is a multi-candidate committee put together by the Democratic Socialists of America, that, as the committee type implies, solicits contributions for a slate of politically sympathetic candidates, among them Shrestha, to whom it donated $4000.
The contributions of speaker Carl E. Heastie’s PAC ($3700) and assemblymember from district 49 Peter J. Abbate Jr.’s Peters New York PAC ($4700) provide examples of political action committees put together by political allies of Cahill’s such as Heastie and Abbate. Much like Act Blue in many ways, these PACs can raise amounts above the candidate’s receiving limits, and can behave more like permanently established war chests with contributed funds available for allocation.
The bundling of money for political purposes as a form of free speech is practiced in most advanced nations. The New York State Board of Elections doesn’t allow bundling, it says, so the practice needs to be called something else, likr filed anonymously together. As in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” insurgents frequently use that reality to imply impure motives on the part of the recipients, Sometimes true, sometimes not.
Shrestha’s financial support comes from individuals in a wider geographic area than Cahill’s. Her most generous individual supporter was the actress Kristen Stewart, with $4500. Susan Sarandon, another celebrity actress, contributed to DSA For The Many.
Cahill’s largest contributions are from varied entities on the form of political action committees. Some are unions, politicians and environmentalists whose interests are varied. Some are businesses advocating for themselves, their clients or industries.
Both candidates say they favor state funding of elections, scheduled to be implemented in New York State in 2024. Both have promised not to run if they lose the June 28 Democratic primary,
According to the New York State Board of Elections, non-family contributions for an Assembly candidate are capped at $4700, regardless of whether the contributors are individuals, partnerships, corporations, political action committees, or other hybrid entities. While PACs serve in part to obscure the identities of the supporters making contributions, the identities of contributors are not beyond examination.
Below is a list of the top 20 contributors for each candidate. These materials identify campaign contributions.