Stefanik raises big bucks from PACs, out-of-state donors

Dem challengers’ PAC funds pale in comparison

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro (Photo — Adam Colver, Post-Star)

New York’s 21st Congressional District may sometimes feel isolated, but political action committee and other committee donations to candidates running for the seat have come from as far away as California and as close as small-town Democratic committees.

Organizations representing wind farms, hardware stores, clean energy, women in politics, fraternity life and a host of other interests have all committed money to candidates, with the vast majority going to incumbent U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro.

In the race for the 21st, four out of the five Democrats and Stefanik have received donations flagged by the political finance website OpenSecrets.org as coming from PACs or other candidate committees, as of the last filing date on March 31.

Among Democratic candidates, these donations are small. Tedra Cobb of Canton has the most at $650, Katie Wilson of Keene has $50. Dylan Ratigan of Lake Placid has received none.

According to Open Secrets, however, Stefanik has raised $805,283 from PAC donations compared to $471,208.68 in individual donations. She has raised $78,814 in small donations, those less than $200 each. About 51 percent of her donations are from within New York state.

Tedra Cobb, candidate for the Democratic nomination for New York’s 21st Congressional District, discusses the campaign in January. (Photo provided — Watertown Daily Times)

These PAC and committee donations come from a variety of places. For the Democrats, with very few such donations, they are easy to track.

The town of Milton Democratic Committee donated $50 to each of the candidates who visited it, including Wilson and Cobb, as well as two candidates no longer in the race: Don Boyajian of Cambridge and David Mastrianni of Saratoga Springs. According to Ellie Dillon, committee co-chair, the committee has more recently made a $50 donation to Patrick Nelson of Stillwater and will send one to Emily Martz of Saranac Lake.

Dillon said these donation amounts were a result of the large number of candidates early on.

“We weren’t going to endorse any candidate at that early stage,” she said.

No other committee made donations to all the candidates, although Cobb did receive $600 from the election committee of Charles House, a former St. Lawrence County legislator with whom she had served.

Democratic congressional candidate turned Senate candidate Emily Martz speaks at a forum in August 2017. (Enterprise photo — Antonio Olivero)

Both Martz and Nelson received small donations from outside PACs.

Nelson received $197.40 in an in-kind donation of phone dialing software from the Justice Democrats, a national group of progressive Democratic candidates that Nelson was nominated to.

Mostly, though, the Justice Democrats label involves advice and support for Nelson’s campaign.

“They have helped us reach a broader range of donor,” Nelson said.

Martz received $250 from Clean PAC, founded by U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., to support candidates working on environmental issues. Martz’s finance director, Madison Goldstein, said Martz reached out to Huffman to request the support and did not anticipate any more donations from the PAC before the primary vote.

Patrick Nelson speaks during an interview in November 2017 at the Enterprise office. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

All of these donations pale, however, in comparison with what Stefanik’s campaign has been able to raise from inside and outside the state.

“The Democratic candidates’ embarrassing fundraising numbers speak for themselves,” wrote Stefanik campaign spokesman Leonardo Alcivar in an email. “These candidates are among the weakest fundraisers in the entire country.”

According to filings with the Federal Election Commission reviewed by the Times, many of Stefanik’s campaign PAC donations came from Republican PACs not aligned with any industry.

The Republican Mainstreet Partnership PAC, which supports centrist Republican candidates willing to work across the aisle, has given Stefanik’s campaign $3,000. The Value in Electing Women PAC donated $5,000.

John Bolton, the current national security adviser, endorsed Stefanik last summer and donated $10,000 to her campaign. Her campaign also received $1,000 from the National Rifle Association of America Political Victory Fund.

Dylan Ratigan, a Saranac Lake native and Lake Placid resident, talks to Enterprise staff about his choice to run for Congress Feb. 20 at the Enterprise office. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

Open Secrets also lists Stefanik as receiving $93,000 total from Leadership PACs established by current or former politicians. Her campaign has received donations of $10,000 from the two largest of these PACs — Prosperity Action and Majority Action PAC — among others.

Stefanik has also received numerous donations from industry, including Exxon Mobil Corp. PAC ($7,500), Raytheon Co. PAC ($10,000) and Home Depot Inc. PAC ($7,000), among others.

Stefanik received $1,000 from Avangrid, the company behind a number of proposed and active wind turbine energy projects in the district, and $5,000 from the Koch Industries Inc. PAC.

Then there are some donations that remain puzzling, such as a total of $10,000 from the Fraternity & Sorority PAC. Stefanik’s campaign was unsure why she was receiving support from this PAC, which says on its website that it “seeks to provide financial aid to the campaigns of federal office candidates (House, Senate, and president) who support the objectives of fraternity life.”

Overall, Stefanik’s campaign is proud of the broad range of financial support, from inside and outside the state, it has received.

Katie Wilson, who is running for the 21st Congressional District, shakes hands at a coffee meet and greet Jan. 4 at Left Bank Cafe in Saranac Lake. (Photo provided)

“The Stefanik campaign is proud to have earned such overwhelming financial and grassroots support across every county in our District, and beyond,” Alcivar wrote. “She has outraised every opponent in every quarter this campaign cycle, showing her broad support.”

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