Also running are Green Party candidate Ursula Rozum of Syracuse andRepublican Robert Spencer of Parish. As of the end of March, neither Rozum nor Spencer had filed any campaign finance reports with theFederal Election Commission.
In 2010, then-incumbent Maffei outspent Buerkle by more than three to one. But Buerkle won the seat with a little more than 600 votes.
This year, the candidates are running in close competition in money raised. So far, Buerkle is outspending Maffei. Maffei has about $650,000 cash on hand, compared to about $550,000 for Buerkle. Also, since the end of 2011, Buerkle has borrowed $17,300 in loans. Maffei has not taken out any loans since the beginning of 2012.
All finance information comes from the Federal Election Commission’s financial database and The Center for Responsive Politics, an independent organization that monitors campaign finance reports for Congressional and presidential races. Here’s an early look at their finances through March 31:
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (Incumbent, Republican)
She has raised a nearly $750,000 for this year’s campaign. That’s about $100,000 less than she raised in total during her first campaign in 2010. She is still trailing against Maffei, by about $30,000.
Buerkle’s campaign manager said they aren’t concerned about finances this year. About the 2010 race, David Ray said, “We beat Maffei.” He added, “Even though he outspent us three to one. Money isn’t everything.”
Since the end of the year, around 40 percent of Buerkle’s donations have come from multiple industries and groups, including:
- 42 percent — or $82,100– from out-of-state Republican political action committees, or PACs.
- 17 percent — or $32,500 — from local corporations
- 14 percent — or $27,000 — from aerospace,oil, and manufacturing
- 9 percent — or $17,000 — from the healthcare industry
- 1 percent — or $2,500 — from local party organizations
Buerkle’s corporate donors include companies with local ties, among them Honeywell, Anheuser-Busch and Lockheed Martin.
In mid-April, Buerkle’s campaign told The Post-Standard that she had her best quarter yet this spring. She raised almost $238,000, according to the newspaper.
Dan Maffei (Challenger, Democrat)
Dan Maffei’s campaign also says he broke records this spring. Maffei campaign officials report raising almost $308,000, his personal best for a quarter. Maffei has raised just under $770,000 for the entire campaign.
Maffei also received around 40 percent of donations from groups, including:
- 44 percent — or $74,380 — from out-of-state Democratic PACs
- 38 percent — or $63,500 — from labor unions
- 7 percent — or $11,500 — from healthcare organizations
- 3 percent — or $4,700 — from local Democratic PACs
Maffei received donations of at least $1,000 each from 18 different labor unions including the AFL-CIO, American Federation of State County Municipal Employees and the New York State Labor Unions of North America.
Political analysts predict Maffei will receive more local party support now that he is the presumptive nominee. Syracuse lawyer Brianne Murphy, his only challenger for the Democratic nomination, dropped out in early April.
Although both candidates downplay the money issue, experts say finances can make or break an election. The more money a candidate can accumulate in their war chest, the more money they can spend on grass roots organization and in television and radio ads.
“You got to have money or you can’t get your message out,” said election expert Jeffrey Stonecash of Syracuse University’s Maxwell School.
But Stonecash admits the amount of money doesn’t always matter. “The public image for Democrats was just bad in 2010,” said Stonecash, “It probably wouldn’t have mattered how much money Maffei had.”
Viveca Novak, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, said it’s not unusual for candidates to get lots of money from different interest groups. It’s a double-edged sword, she said. Candidates love the money, she added, but hate the label that their opponent can stick on them.
(Matt Porter is a graduate student in broadcast and digital journalism.)