The Campaign Finance Glimpse before Springfield Votes in Its Mayoral Prelim…
On the one hand, the final campaign finance reports are entirely consistent with the main themes of the Springfield mayoral race. Sitting on a massive pile of campaign cash, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno entered August with the most money and began this month with the most. In other words, the September 12 preliminary may only be a battle among his challengers to live to fight in November. City Councilor Justin Hurst, Council President Jesse Lederman and State Rep Orlando Ramos are Sarno’s principal challengers.
This is likely the story history shall record for this mayoral preliminary. Yet, August also saw Sarno dropping at least $130,000 to buy ads on television and radio. While still more than his opponents, his war chest now has under $87,000. As many of his donors have already maxed out, was this spend down pound foolish—or will it prove wise to head off an unpleasant result on Tuesday?
Complicating a full assessment of the August campaign finance picture is the Sarno campaign’s failure to report any contributions. The Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Political Finance is only able to disclose the raw number because it receives info from the campaign’s bank. The law requires campaigns to report qualifying contribution each month.
Something similar happened earlier this year. The bank reported funds in Sarno’s February report, but the campaign did not identify the donors until May 29. As of this posting, the mayor’s campaign has yet to correct five unrelated issues that OCPF has identified in his prior reports. The oldest dates to June.
Sarno began August with $267,878 in the bank. He raised $12,171 from sources unknown and spent $193,217. Largely thanks to media buys, this was by far the most he spent in any month of the campaign. The mayor’s August campaign expenses also exceed any month in any prior campaign of his, even adjusted for inflation. Moreover, he spent several times what his challengers spent in any given month.
Of Sarno’s expenses, $154,440 were on television and radio ads. They appear as expenses to Horgan & Associates, the mayor’s videographer and media buyer. Another $8,500 to Horgan paid for production.
Broadly speaking, these expenses are consistent with filings broadcasters and cable providers have filed to report political ad buys. However, some are not directly apparent. Only about $120,000 of the ads appear in federal filings Springfield area that local TV and radio stations and cable provides file.
Sarno’s report also lists $14,840 in ads for Spanish television and radio. However, no Springfield area Spanish broadcaster has filed any political advertisements disclosures for a Sarno ad either. Either way, that leaves another $20,000. This likely went to online advertising, including MassLive.com, which one entry in the August report alludes to.
It is also possible the campaign authorized more ads than that which it ultimately purchased. This would be clearer if the campaign files a subvendor report for Horgan.
Other major expenses for Sarno’s campaign include $4,000 for campaign’s office manager. Another $6,000 went to rent for the campaign office. There was $15,000 spent on DAPA Research, Sarno’s pollster. Roughly $4,000 went to printing expenses. The balance of the mayor’s August campaign expenses paid for food, entertainment or donations to nonprofits.
Councilor Justin Hurst began August with $29,198 and ended the month with $1,010. He raised $14,152 and spent $42,430. Hurst spent $8,966 on WWLP ads and $6,272 on WGGB ads. There is another $1,147 that appears to be for cable ads. He also spent about $11,888 on D3, a marketing company. He bought a $1,600 in ads in the Afro-American Point of View, his parents’ publication.
Hurst also had about $5,350 in staffing services between his campaign manager and communications support. The remainder of his expenditures were for food, donations and attendance at events.
In this period, Hurst had a handful of contributions of $500 or. Among the notable ones was from Nyles Courchesne, a former Holyoke School Committee member.
Although Hurst ended last month with only a grand, he has since raised at least $8,400 in September per partial records. However, that is somewhat offset against some additional ad spending on local TV and radio station WAQY.
Council President Lederman began August with $18,245, raising $18,198 while spending $32,276. That left him with $4,167 at month’s end.
Lederman’s largest expense was $10,567 on printing and mailings from Connolly Printing. He also paid Connolly $664 for signs. There was another $1,000 in separate printing expenses.
After printing costs, the Springfield Council President spent another $8,465 on cable ads and $4,725 on WWLP. There is another $2,125 in additional advertising expense and a bit under $1,000 in advertising for Facebook and Google. The rest of Lederman’s expenses were for food, event services and space, supplies and donations.
Of his large donations last month, Lederman received three $1,000 donations, all from his in-laws. He also loaned himself $7,000 in August and received $3,155 in refunds from vendors. Early data show he has received at least $2,100 in September contributions so far.
Rep Ramos, who had been especially frugal among all candidates until this August, began the month with $42,477 and ended it with $17,601. He raised $7,550 against $32,425 in expenditures.
By far, Ramos’ largest expense in August was $23,784 for printing and mailing from D3, the marketing company. After that, his biggest expense $5,120 for WWLP ads. Ramos did buy ads on WGGB in August, too, according to federal filings. However, the contract has an August 31 date. It may not appear on OCPF’s records until this month’s report.
The rep spent $1,000 for his campaign manager. The remainder of his expenses are food, supplies, event donations and campaign swag.
Following a pattern from last month, Ramos received several individuals with ties to Puerto Rican politics and government. Jose Julina Roldan Villanueva, a legislative advisor in Puerto Rico’s lower legislative house, gave Ramos $1,000. John Belk, a consultant who appears to be a former a prosecutor on the island.
Another notable contribution, of$500, came from Melissa Mark-Viverito, the former speaker of the New York City Council. She gave to him in 2021, the first full year he was in the legislature. Ramos received additional contributions of $1000 from a Springfield behavioral health CEO. In addition, Ramos received $500 from a Cambridge Carpenters Union local.
It is not possible to review last month’s expenses without acknowledging Hispanic Latino Leaders Now Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee. The SuperPAC, which got off the ground in July spent heavily for Ramos in August. Golden Years Homecare Services head Cesar Ruiz funded it with $100,000. In August, it spent about $40,000 supporting candidates. Not all of that boosted Ramos, but a substantial amount did.
WMP&I previously reported all of the SuperPAC’s spending in August.
As an independent expenditure PAC or SuperPAC, it cannot coordinate with Ramos’ campaign under state law. While Ramos and Ruiz have appeared together in recent weeks, Ramos has told WMP&I he has no involvement with the SuperPAC’s activities.
David Ciampi, a therapist, is also on the mayoral ballot Tuesday. He began August with $34 and raised $4,790. Like Sarno, he did not report the origin of this funding as state law requires. He spent $3,000 on email marketing an $1,500 on Bossa Nova Entertainment. The rest went to food and postage.