10:01 am Nov. 30, 2011
The problem with John Liu's campaign finances, at its most basic, is that he claims to have raised lots of money from lots of individual donors with relatively little help from intermediaries.
The intermediaries, or bundlers, are the people who help bring donations into a campaign but aren't officially working as fund-raisers. In plain language: They are extra-important money people, and therefore the very people who need to be identified if the city's campaign-finance disclosure requirements are to have any deterring effect whatsoever on favor-trading by the public officials who get elected with their help.
Liu raised $5,106,340, but, according to his filings, only $25,100 was raised with the help of an intermediary. That's about half a percent.
The Post's David Seifman quoted one anonymous Democrat saying that percentage is impossibly low.
So, what is an acceptable bundler-to-donor ratio? And do other candidates fail to meet that standard, as Liu apparently has?
The first part isn't entirely clear, because the law that defines who should be listed as an intermediary leaves room for interpretation. According to the Campaign Finance Board, an intermediary has to be known to the campaign and active in soliciting money on its behalf. But people who are on a host committee for an event paid for by the campaign, for example, don't count.
One election-law expert I spoke with yesterday said there's really no broad-brush general rule about how many intermediaries a campaign should be reporting. Some campaigns, out of caution or lack of knowledge about the loopholes, include lots of intermediaries. By the Liu Standard of bundler-declaration, if we can call it that, they seem to be over-reporting.
But other campaigns take a more restricted view of who is, and who isn't, a intermediary. And their reports end up looking more like Liu's.
Here's a breakdown of some 2009 and 2013 citywide candidates, showing the amount of money they say was brought in by bundlers, and how much they've raised overall.
On the low end is Bill Thompson and Bill de Blasio (who, according to a piece in Crain's today, will be revising his filing to add more intermediary info), and on the higher end are Scott Stringer and Christine Quinn.
2009 and 2013:
de Blasio*: $38,825 / $2,995,798 = 1.3%
Gioia: $243,855 / $2,151,463 = 11.3%
Green: $9,775 / $762,755 = 1.3%
Katz: $342,495 / $2,540,601 = 13.5%
Liu*: $25,100 / $5,106,340 = 0.5%
Quinn*: $1,854,009 / $4,501,877 = 41.2%
Siegel: $11,866 / $303,105 = 3.9%
Stringer**: $679,297 / $1,671,082 = 40.7%
Thompson, Jr.*: $128,733 / $4,893,602 = 2.6%
Weiner: $1,184,268 / $4,857,489 = 24.4%
Weprin: $0 / $1,822,438 = 0.0%
Yassky: $283,775 / $2,506,695 = 11.3%
Total Result: 4,801,998 / 34,113,244 = 14.1%
* includes fund-raising from 2009 and 2013 election cycles
** includes 2013 only
And here's one more breakdown, looking at just the 2013 filings from the major mayoral candidates.