The Springfield Mayoral Campaign Finance Boys of Summer…
The July-August stretch of the Springfield mayoral campaign may become one of the most pivotal from the campaign finance perspective. It was in July that adult care mogul Cesar Ruiz deposited 100 large into a SuperPAC. Mayor Domenic Sarno also had his biggest haul since his massive December fundraising. Meanwhile, every major candidate in the race made investments in television ads.
With so many August expenditures clear and the month nearly over, July numbers may seem out of date. Still, they provide the penultimate look at finances before September 12. Plus, they are a benchmark of candidates’ standing before all five appeared in debates. In other words, when August numbers come in, will they show donors reacted positively or not to the mayoral hopefuls’ performances.
Sarno raised over $90,000 in July and spent less than $30,000, bringing himself to $267,878 at the start of August. The challenger who came closest to him in fundraising or cash-on-hand was State Rep Orlando Ramos. He ended the month with over $42,476 after raising $6,100 and spending $13,689.
As a practical matter, at-large City Councilor Justin Hurst and Council President Jesse Lederman ending July with $29,198 and $18,245 may not matter as much. As August would show, both Hurst and Lederman had funds to go on television and both have raised money this month.
Although Sarno has the cash and a SuperPAC is backing Ramos, neither enjoyed an early barrage of ads early in the summer when it could have defined the race. Instead, during the preliminary no candidate, save therapist David Ciampi, has fallen terribly behind on the air. Sarno did go up early, but whether two weeks worth of ads is a significant difference is unclear.
Drilling down deeper, in July Lederman raised $3,617 and spent $8,144. None of his donations exceeded $250 last month. Only a few expenses were four-figures. Among them was $1,733 for catering a fundraiser and $3,125 for advertising.
In July, Hurst raised $3,998 and spent $8,012. Aside from a $500 donation from a Northampton paralegal and some family donations, his receipts too were in denominations of under $250. His expenditures were driven by what are now regular costs for him. Among them are $3,750 for his campaign manager and $1,000 for his consultant. His only other four-figure expense was $1,482 for campaign literature.
Ramos did see some large donations. They came from Puerto Rico and Washington, DC in particular. Among those maxing out to Ramos was Federico De Jesus, a Washington consultant who worked for former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid. Paul Weiss, a Washington consultant who worked for Puerto Rico’s former resident commissioner and governor, donated $750. That former governor, Aníbal Acevedo-Vilá, himself gave Ramos $350.
The other two max-outs came from Jose Fernandez and Ignacio Gonzalez, both of Puerto Rico. Ramos’ report describes Fernandez as self-employed while listing Gonzalez’s position as advisor to the Puerto Rican government.
Ramos’ spending did indeed increase, too. He has been paying a campaign manager $1,000 a month. He spent over $7,000 at D3, which provided printing and mailing services for his campaign. Ramos also paid $2,500 for his consulting, MAPOL Strategies.
All of this does pale in comparison to Sarno’s July report, however. He received no fewer than fifty-seven $1,000 donations, the maximum under state law. Among those donating that much were former State Rep Valerie Barsom, powerbroker-laywer Frank Fitzgerald, the owner of Fontaine Brothers Construction, the owners of the building housing the police shooting range, the owners of TowerSquare, various Picknellys, and the Yee family.
On the expense side, Sarno spent $3,082 on refreshments at AC Produce and $3,415 on T-shirts for volunteers. He dropped almost $7,000 on Horgan & Associates for social media ads and edits for television commercials. There was nearly $1,500 spent at Langone’s Florists and $6,965 at the Student Prince for a June fundraiser. Sarno also paid out $3,200 for his campaign office manager.
Ciampi loaned himself $3,300 in July and spent $3,000 on marketing. He entered August with $34 in the bank.
Of course, all of these figures predate the thousands each candidate has spent on television and to a lesser extent social media ads in August. Sarno was the first on television followed by Hurst, Lederman and this week Ramos. Hispanic Latino Leaders Now, the SuperPAC supporting Ramos, began advertising on television last week.
One thing that continued into July was Sarno’s lead in audit letters from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Political Finance. Lederman and Ramos have received no letters from the agency since June. Hurst received a letter requesting clarification of expenses on August 14. His campaign already did so.
Sarno still has spending clarification requests dating to May and June outstanding. However, on August 15, OCPF sent the campaign a new letter outlining five issues. One, clarification of expenses, has been rectified. However, four other problems are outstanding according to OCPF records. The August 15 letter sought correction of a missing deposit, incomplete donor employment information, an excess contribution from another candidate committee, and clarification of vendor expenses.