One candidate, two campaign committees

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On July 15, candidates running for city office filed their latest campaign disclosure reports, detailing how they are spending money to get elected.

Candidates who have campaign committees for state offices filed similar reports, also on July 15.

Assemblyman Micah Kellner filed two reports.

Taken together, they illustrate one of the advantages incumbents can enjoy, even when they're running for another office, by using both accounts (perfectly legally) to keep the incumbent in the public eye.

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Kellner is one of the sitting state lawmakers who is running for a seat in city government. (City elections take place in odd-numbered years and state elections are in even-numbered ones, so there's little risk for a state legislator seeking city office.)

Kellner has served in the New York State Assembly since 2007 and is well-positioned to move to the Council; among other things, he has the lion's share of the Democratic establishment's support in his race for the Council seat on Manhattan's east side.

He's running against two lesser-known rivals: Ben Kallos, a lawyer and Democratic activist, and Edward Hartzog, a lawyer and community board member who is still figuring things out about how candidates deal with the press.

In his City Council campaign account, Kellner has a clear advantage over his rivals, having raised $153,000, compared to Kallos' $78,000 and Hartzog's $47,000.

In his other disclosure report, Kellner's Assembly campaign committee reported spending $12,360.15 in the last six months.

Some of the expenses were for taxis, telephones and bank fees, the seemingly unavoidable costs of keeping an active campaign committee.

The committee also paid for reusable grocery bags with his name printed on them in large letters, which have been handed out by Assembly staffers at least one public event (on Roosevelt Island, inside both the Council district and the Assembly district, in close proximity to Council-campaign staffers handing out fliers).

There was also $2,350 to political clubs and organizations (most outside of the Council district), a total of $800 taken out for "petty cash" and $1,800 for a "database" from NGP Software, a firm based in Washington.

I asked Kellner about these expenses. He said he's taken careful steps not to have his Assembly campaign activity buttress his City Council campaign.

He said he's donated to these clubs for years and said, "This year, I specifically refrained from making donations to the three Democratic clubs (East Side Democratic Club, Lenox Hill Democratic Club, Lexington Democratic Club) whose districts directly overlap with Council District 5."

The petty cash, he said, represented withdrawals for expenses that were itemized throughout his filing.

And the database, he said, "is only used to maintain the campaign finance records of my Assembly campaign account."

He also said, "my Assembly campaign originally paid for the use of the NGP software on 4/18/11 for $970. The Assembly campaign then paid $2,700 for continued use on 12/1/11 (both expenses are listed in the Kellner Committee’s campaign filings). The July 2013 payment merely reflects the latest licensing payment for the preceding months."

The recyclable shopping bags, he said, were paid by his Assembly campaign account.

"The 'Go Green with Assemblyman Micah Kellner' recyclable shopping bags were purchased by the Assembly campaign (expenditure listed on 2012 disclosure reports)," he wrote in an email to me. "They are regularly distributed by my Assembly staff along with Assembly and other governmental informational materials, as is permissible under State law."

He also said his Assembly staff were "staffing the Assembly table as they do every year."