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October 16, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Campaign money talks in Astorino-Latimer county executive race

If money is the mother’s milk of politics, then the $4.2 million given to Robert Astorino and George Latimer in their contest for Westchester county executive suggests priorities and obligations.

Real estate developer Louis R. Cappelli, for instance, was Astorino’s biggest contributor at $65,000.

Latimer’s biggest contributors were three wealthy individuals who tend to support Democrats and liberal causes and who kicked in $111,000.

The numbers come from recent financial disclosure reports filed with the state Board of Elections.

Overall, the lion’s share of campaign contributions has gone to Astorino, the Republican, two-term county executive who is seeking re-election on Nov. 7. Friends of Rob Astorino has raised more than $2.9 million through mid-October.

That’s more than twice as much as the $1.3 million given to Latimer, a Democratic state senator.

More people and organizations have supported Astorino, 2,783 to 2,159 for Latimer, and their average donation was nearly twice as much, $1,051 to Latimer’s $598.

Individual contributors, partnerships and trade associations were twice as generous to Astorino as to Latimer. Latimer received twice as much from unions, $97,000, to Astorino’s still respectable $48,000.

The greatest differential was in corporate money: $413,000 for Astorino and $27,000 for Latimer.

Astorino, as the incumbent, has been raising money continuously for years. On Jan. 1, 2016, for instance, his committee had $557,000 in the bank.

Latimer was running for re-election in the state Senate in 2016. He did, however, continue to raise money after the election, and he transferred $50,000 to his county executive committee, Latimer for Westchester.

By filtering for campaign donations of $5,000 or more, one can follow the big money, or what some would call the smart money. Less than 7 percent of all transactions accounted for 68 percent of the contributions.

Ten percent of the Astorino donations brought in nearly $2.4 million, or 81 percent of his total. A bit more than 2 percent of Latimer’s donations accounted for $504,580, or 39 percent of his total.

The influence of big donors is even greater than these numbers suggest, because many people donated several times or through several entities during the election cycle. Cappelli, for instance, donated $25,000 to Astorino, but when his wife and two partnerships are included, the total grows to $65,000.

Two organizations associated with sports owner James Dolan — The New York Knicks LLC and MSG Sports and Entertainment LLC — gave Astorino his second highest haul, $55,340.

Many donations are in the names of obscure partnerships that can conceal who is behind the donation. Sometimes a common address can be a clue.

Astorino got $55,200 in five donations from RSA-PAC and Neighborhood Preservation PAC, 123 William St., New York. That’s the address of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents residential building owners and agents.

Seven donations, totaling $49,000, are linked to 101 Park Ave., New York, including N. Richard Kalikow/Gamma Realty, HJ Kalikow & Co., HJK LLC, and Kenilworth/Marlin Realty LLC.

Latimer’s biggest contributors tended to be individuals. Donald Sussman, a hedge fund manager from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who contributed $41.8 million to Democrats last year, gave $44,408. Marie T. McKellar of Dobbs Ferry, who supports Democrats, gave $42,000. Adam Katz of Farmingdale, president of Talon Air Inc., gave $25,000. A union, 1199 SEIU NYS Political Action Fund, gave $36,000, including a donation last year to his Senate committee.

Latimer also raised a lot of money from political committees and other elected officials: Westchester County Democratic Committee, $25,000; Democratic City Committee of New Rochelle, $15,000; Friends of Andrea Stewart-Cousins, $11,000. Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave $11,000 to his Senate race last year.

The fundraising dovetails with campaign themes, as portrayed in criticisms of one another.

Latimer claims that Astorino fosters a “pay to play” culture. The campaign cites more than $200,000 in donations to Astorino, going back to 2008, from 28 companies with county airport contracts worth more than $55 million.

Astorino paints Latimer as an old-style Democratic pol who likes to increase taxes.

The campaign money imbalance is also evident on the spending side.

Astorino’s committee has spent more than $3.5 million. Latimer has spent one-fourth as much, $862,988.

Astorino also benefits from Win for NY, an independent political action committee backed by consecutive billionaire Robert Mercer that has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into anti-Latimer advertisements.

A spokesman for the Latimer campaign who asked to remain anonymous said that Astorino’s spending advantage has not made much of a difference. As of mid-October, he said, the campaign’s polling showed Latimer ahead by 1 percent.

An Astorino spokesman, William O’Reilly, said the campaign does not speak about donors as a matter of policy.

Both campaigns had plenty of money to continue getting their messages out. As of a month before the election, Astorino had $1.7 million left and Latimer had $501,000.