The candidates looking to see who will fill the city council seat currently occupied by Eric Dinowitz like to raise money from people in the Bronx to fund their campaigns. It's just keeping that money in the Bronx they all, for the most part, struggle with.
That couldn't be more clear in the first financial filings of the six remaining candidates in the June 22 Democratic primary where of the nearly $62,600 spent so far, just 4 percent — $2,500 — was spent in the Bronx.
Dinowitz — who won a special election for the seat last March, and who developed a reputation of not spending money here — actually had the best home-borough spending record of all the candidates. That's despite only writing one check to a Bronx organization: One for $1,474 to the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club.
That was enough to account for 8 percent of total spending of just under $18,000 since the special election. However, the councilman also noted he has an outstanding bill from his Brooklyn-based consulting firm, Red Horse Strategies. If he had paid the $33,600 he owed them for this past reporting cycle, Dinowitz's Bronx spending would have fallen to just 3 percent.
And that would have matched the local spending of whom observers say is Dinowitz's biggest challenger in the primary, theatre non-profit founder Mino Lora. She spent just over $450 in the Bronx out of more than $14,750 total. However, she, too, has an outstanding bill — to Bronx attorney Raquel Batista. If that $1,500 invoice had been paid, Lora's Bronx spending would have jumped to 11 percent.
Abigail Martin, who skipped the special election to focus only on the primary, was the biggest spender of all the candidates since March, shelling out just under $30,000. Yet just $590 — or 2 percent — remained here in the borough.
Attorney Dan Padernacht spent just over $200 since March — none of it here — while Marcos Sierra and Carlton Berkley told the city's campaign finance board they didn't spend any money this cycle.
The candidates not keeping such spending close to home comes despite more than 60 percent of the $76,000 they've raised since March all coming from the borough. In fact, in terms of local investment, for every $1 raised from Bronx sources, $18 more go to businesses and people outside the borough.
Dinowitz appears to get that time and again with Red Horse Strategies. Beyond the $33,600 he owes the Brooklyn firm, the councilman paid out some $150,000 to the firm. Some of those payments were not just for consulting, but also to reimburse other expenditures that are not required to be itemized by the campaign finance board.
And Red Horse is thanking Dinowitz for that business in various ways, including a donation made this cycle by Matthew Rey, who listed his occupation as a "consultant" with Red Horse. His $1,000 donation — which is the maximum donors can give — comes with a Brooklyn address, but still qualifies for the city's matching funds program, which means Dinowitz would ultimately get an additional $1,400.
Sylvia Gottlieb — Dinowitz's campaign treasurer, and his mother — tells The Riverdale Press this particular donation was not designated for the city's match. She also added Rey has been friends with Dinowitz for more than 25 years, and that there was "nothing sinister" about the donation.
Rey has donated to past Dinowitz campaigns, including $500 in the special election.
In all, Dinowitz had 17 people donate the maximum in this cycle, including four members of Jeffrey Moerdler's family, and several employees of Excel Global Security, a Manhattan company founded by late city council president Sanford Garelik, who died in 2011. Garelik's son Neal donated the maximum, as did four other employees. A fifth employee, Mikhail Tsypenyuk, donated $825.
Dinowitz also had a number of Community Board 8 members — or those associated with them — giving smaller amounts of money. Those included Paul Ellis, David Gellman, Sergio Villaverde, Rosemary Ginty and Robert Fanuzzi, as well as Rob Spalter, husband of CB8 chair Laura Spalter.
Friends of Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz — the campaign arm of his father — donated $825, while the Assemblyman himself gave $175. The older Dinowitz's donation matched that of former councilwoman June Eisland, and U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres. Assemblyman Michael Benedetto donated $250.
The just $38,970 raised by Dinowitz was more than any other candidate in the race, although Lora followed not too far behind with $22,030. Lora also has what could be considered the most grassroots campaign, with more than 300 individual donations averaging less than $75 each, compared to the 200 donations Dinowitz received, averaging about $200 each.
Lora did not have many giving the maximum $1,000 donation, but one is higher-profile. Rafael Martinez is chief executive of MBE Capital Partners, which worked with NBA legend Magic Johnson last year to help ensure Paycheck Protection Program loans were making it to minority-run businesses.
Padernacht — the first candidate to enter the race in 2018 who finished fourth in the special election — is third when it comes to fundraising this time around with a haul of just under $12,500. He, too, is seeing some grassroots support with donations averaging at a little more than $90 each.
Martin raised just under $1,000 since March, but she hasn't had to focus on fundraising. She already had $50,000 raised from before the special election that she was allowed to use in the primary instead, and already has picked up $160,000 in city-funded matching money. She's already spent nearly $64,000 for this race, with about another $150,000 still in the bank.
Democratic voters will decide June 22 who moves forward to the November general election, with that candidate almost assured a win based on he political makeup of the council district. The March special election had turnout of less than 10 percent, although more voters are expected to turn up for the primary.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify the donation made by Matthew Rey to the Eric Dinowitz campaign, which Rey's employer — Red Horse Strategies — has received some $150,000 so far between the March special election and the June primary.