New York's 22nd congressional race: How are Tenney, Brindisi campaigns funded?

Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica), left, and Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford)

With the midterm elections drawing near, the race in New York’s 22nd Congressional District seems to have energized donors from New York and all across the country who are hoping their money will be used to help to sway residents’ opinions before they vote for who gets to speak for them in the House of Representatives on Nov. 6.

Millions of dollars in campaign cash has been flooding into the race between Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) and Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford). Plus, NY-22, which encompasses Cortland, Chenango, Madison and Oneida counties, as well as parts of Oswego, Herkimer, Broome and Tioga counties, is one of a few being watched closely this election cycle.

The combination of outside spending and multiple small-dollar individual contributions can make it difficult to determine how all of the money is having an impact on the race. However, a close look at each campaign’s financial reports can provide insight into how much money the candidates have to work with; and an idea of who has been supporting them the most along the way.

Most of this information can be found in each candidate’s respective third quarter filings with the Federal Election Commission, the agency responsible for tracking elections and ensuring candidates follow campaign finance laws. The filings cover the period from June 28 to Oct. 17.

New York's 22nd Congressional District (Source: Ballotpedia)

Brindisi campaign thrives on small donors

According to FEC filings, Brindisi has raised over $3.8 million this year while Tenney raised $2.9 million. Specifically, Brindisi has raised most of his money—over $2.9 million—through individual donations after publicly rejecting money from large corporate political action committees, or PACs.

Most of Brindisi’s money has come in two forms: itemized and unitemized contributions. His campaign has received nearly $2.2 million in itemized contributions; that is, donations over $200 made by specific donors. The rest, roughly $711,000, has come from undisclosed donors contributing $200 or less to the campaign.

Under federal law, individual contributors can give a maximum of $2,700 to a candidate during both the primaries and the general election for a grand total of $5,400.

Some of those donors include Mohawk Valley Health System Senior Vice President Dr. Eric Yoss; Judge Margaret Walsh, a Democrat running for Supreme Court Justice in Albany County; and Jeremy Thurston, president of Syracuse-based construction company, Hayer Hoyt Co.

PACs support Tenney campaign

On the other side, Tenney has secured $1.2 million, the bulk of her campaign finances, through PACs, as well as a number of Republican politicians and other right-leaning groups. Like individuals, political committees can make contributions during primary and general elections, but the maximum amount they can give each time is nearly doubled at $5,000.

Some of the political committees found to have donated $10,000 to the Tenney campaign also happen to be connected to prominent Republican politicians. This includes outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Prosperity Action and the Alamo PAC, which is affiliated with Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the number two ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate. There is also the Making America Prosperous PAC linked to Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, who helped lay the groundwork for the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Further analysis of each candidate’s filings with the FEC was done by the non-partisan Washington D.C.-based research group, the Center for Responsive Politics, which breaks down who all the big-dollar donors are and how their money is being used to help or hurt candidates.

Outside funding plays pivotal role

The Center for Responsive Politics determined that more than $13.1 million in money from outside the district has been spent on the 22nd congressional race. Of that figure, $6.2 million has been spent to specifically oppose Tenney, and roughly $6.1 million was used to oppose Brindisi. Similarly, just over $401,000 was spent in support of Brindisi while more than $358,000 has been used to help Tenney.

As for the political affiliations of groups supporting the candidates, a majority of contributions has come from left-leaning groups. Of the top 10 outside spenders who have influenced the race over the course of 2018, seven were either Democratic Party arms, like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the House Majority PAC, or progressive groups, such as End Citizens United, who endorsed Brindisi, and the Environmental Defense Action Fund.

Tenney has seen similar support from the Republican establishment in the form of money coming from the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Congressional Leadership Fund, and the America First Super PAC. However, these three groups spent more money—a total of $6,268,085—than the $6,003,692 the other seven liberal groups spent altogether in the district.

By industry, the Brindisi campaign has garnered the support of building/trade unions and non-profits, along with educational and environmental groups. Tenney’s supporters largely work in the securities/investment sector, the oil and gas business, or the insurance and commercial banking industries. Both candidates seem to be popular among real estate and law firms, as well as retirees.

Altogether, individually, both Brindisi and Tenney received most of their funding from outside the district (64.7 percent and 68.3 percent, respectively). However, 54.9 percent of Tenney’s campaign cash came from out of state. That’s more than double the amount, 23.6 percent, Brindisi has received from out-of-state donors.

Tracking “local” contributions

On the local level, the zip codes of contributors give more insight into who is funding the candidates on the ground and close to home. For example, when it comes to top donors by metro area, both Brindisi and Tenney have received money from the Syracuse, Utica-Rome, and New York City metro areas. However, donors from the Binghamton and Boston areas round out the list for Brindisi as contributions from West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL areas, as well as Washington, DC, are going to Tenney.

The Brindisi campaign’s top 10 donor zip codes show contributions from within New York and include Utica, New Hartford, Cazenovia, Syracuse, Clinton, Ithaca, Vestal, and New York City. Most of Tenney’s contributors are from New York, as well, and include New Hartford, Utica, Rome, Cortland, Skaneateles, and New York City, but Palm Beach, FL; Lake Forest, IL; and Dallas, TX are on the list, too.

When it comes to spending the money, the Brindisi campaign has spent more than $3.5 million of the money it has received and reports just under $293,000 in cash on hand as of Oct. 17. The Tenney campaign reports spending more than $2.5 million in the race and had less than $10,000 left over by the same date.

While donors across New York and beyond are hope their campaign cash will help decide who will represent New York’s 22nd Congressional District, it’s likely no one will know for sure until votes are counted on Election Day. Over the the course of 2018, a majority of the polling has Brindisi and Tenney locked in a virtual dead heat. The results of an Oct. 25 poll published by independent Siena College shows Brindisi ahead 46 percent to 45 percent, but the results are well within the margin of error.