Monday, September 14, 2009

Campaign Finance Reports in the Allston-Brighton District 9 City Councilor Race

The four candidates for Allston-Brighton District 9 City Councilor in the preliminary municipal election have sent in their campaign finance statements. Harry Mattison over at the Allston Brighton Community Blog got the ball rolling requesting the reports from the candidates. Their forms were due September 14th covering the period January 1 - September 4, 2009.

All of the candidates provided their forms electronically, even though district city councilor candidates in Boston file their campaign finance forms in person with the city clerk. The candidates' generosity saved Mattison and I from having to schlep down to city hall and pay $0.20 per page for photocopies.

I swear: in the next session of the state legislature I will submit a citizen's bill to have candidates for Boston district city councilor file using the online OCPF website instead of the current paper method; candidates for mayor and councilor-at-large in Boston already file electronically. It is time to end this backwards 2nd millenium practice and enter the electronic 3rd millenium. Who wants to support my bill?


Nearly as much money has been spent on this campaign to-date ($75,000) as was spent at the similar point in the 2007 campaign for the open seat (nearly $78,000). That is very unusual for a race with an incumbent. Challenger Alex Selvig outspent incumbent Mark Ciommo by around 10% (approximately $36,000 vs. $33,000).

Ciommo raised all his money ($35,000) from donors, while Selvig mostly self-financed his campaign with loans totally $66,500 this year. Challenger Abigail Furey split her $6,700 raised roughly equally between self-financing and donors (which was mostly through a few large donors contributing the maximum $500). Challenger Benjamin Narodick is running a bare bones campaign funded mostly out of his own wallet ($400 out of $620).

Ciommo was able to increase his fund-raising by more than 40% compared to the same point two years ago. Selvig ran a relatively low-budget affair in 2007, spending only around $2,000 at this point in the campaign; this year he has spent nearly 17 times as much to date as he did in 2007.

More Than 300 Contributors to Ciommo Campaign

Incumbent Mark Ciommo blew away all his competitors by racking up more than 300 different contributors to his campaign. The list of donors runs as a veritable who's who of Allston-Brighton: elected officials; business owners; lawyers; activists; etc. Harry Mattison has a run-down of who some of the more illustrious names are.

Alex Selvig Spends Heavily -- Mostly Self-Financed

Alex Selvig, a candidate for District 9 City Councilor in next week's preliminary municipal election, has been spending heavily on the campaign, according to his campaign finance disclosure provided by the campaign. And he has largely been sinking his own money into the campaign to do so, too.

Two years ago at the similar point in the election campaign, Selvig reported expenditures of only a little more than $2,100. This time around, he has already spent more than $35,000 -- much of it on polling ($8,500), flyers ($9,400), web design ($1,500), and "consulting" ($9,150).

Challenger Selvig has even outspent the incumbent, Mark Ciommo, by around 10%, which is unusual for any campaign for elected office. Selvig's expenditures have been visible in the neighborhood through various mailings -- including one with a picture of a rat on one side.

Selvig is largely self-financing his candidacy with $77,500 in loans to his committee: $11,000 in loans from his 2007 campaign carried forward, and $66,500 in new loans. He added nearly $2,000 in contributions from other people.

As in 2007, Selvig wins this year's (newly-renamed) "John Corzine--Michael Huffington--Mitt Romney Award" for self-financing in an election campaign. I assume he wants to channel more Corzine than Huffington or Romney.

Susan Passoni Is Through With Office [Furniture]

Susan Passoni, a repeated candidate for public office, provided "in-kind" contributions to Selvig's campaign of "office furniture & supplies," valued at $350.00. Selvig makes the point on his Facebook page that his campaign office is green -- as in environmentally-friendly by reusing old office furniture.

Passoni ran for the state representative seat vacated by former Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi in 2009 (Aaron Michlewitz won the seat) and for Boston District City Councilor in 2007 (Bill Linehan won the seat). By passing on the furniture to Selvig, is Passoni signaling that she's done running for elected office?

Um, What Do You Mean by "Consulting"?

Unlike his 2007 reports, Ciommo's 2009 report breaks down some (but not all) of the consulting charges, for example: $1811.48 on 3/6/09 to Sage-Systems (his consulting firm) for "printing and mailing"; $1,500.00 on 7/6/09 to Sage-Systems for "web-site"; etc.

Selvig, on the other hand, listed a whole series of expenditures to Peter Panos of Walpole as "consulting," none of which identified the underlying purpose of the expenditure -- although, it should be noted, he lists some "graphic design," "internet," and "polling" expenditures as going to people other than Panos.

I was under the impression that the Massachusetts Office for Campaign and Political Finance now frowns on campaign finance documents itemizing expenditures under the category "consulting" without further explanation. For a number of years, many candidates were apparently having their consulting firm itself pay for various expenses -- such as polling, mailers, web pages/server, etc. -- which could be hidden from view on the campaign finance reports by listing the expenditures as "consulting." Then again, this could be a distinction in reporting between the "depository" campaign accounts (state-wide offices and Boston city-wide offices) versus "non-depository" campaign accounts (Boston district councilors). Anyone know more? A link?

2009 Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council Preliminary Municipal Election
CandidatePreviousRaised# ofOwn MoneySpentEnding

Mark Ciommo $13,671.56$35,316.00338
$0.00$32,869.69 $16,117.87
Abigail Furey
$0.00$3,070.10 0
$3,630.00 $5,849.01 $851.09
Benjamin Narodick $0.00$220.00 1
$400.00$461.50 $158.50
Alex Selvig

Notes: "Own Money" includes both loans and "In-Kind" contributions paid for by the candidate. "In-Kind Contributions" from a person other than the candidate are not included in the table. Personal loans have been removed from the "Total Receipts" (Schedule A) and instead included under "Own Money". Number of contributors is for itemized contributors. It is not necessary for the campaigns to itemize contributions under $50: Ciommo and Furey itemized all contributions, Selvig has $570 in un-itemized contributions, and Narodick has $70 in un-itemized contributions. Selvig's beginning debt of $11,000 is a carry-over of a loan made in a previous election cycle; that $11,000 has not been counted in the "Own Money" column for this 2009 reporting period.

** In an email, Selvig noted that the $11,000 carry-over is active money in his campaign account, hence that he has $32,516.04 cash on-hand as of September 4th. The accounting in the table follows the way the money is listed on the cover sheets of the filed campaign finance reports.

Links to individual reports (at Mattison's Allston Brighton Community Blog):

Image of "Money Grab" by Steve Wampler provided through a Creative Commons license.

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