Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and state Sen. Martin Looney, who are seeking the Democratic nomination in this fall’s mayoral race, filed their first campaign finance reports of the year Thursday, and both sides immediately tried to spin the numbers in their favor.
The Looney campaign has raised $78,325 since it began fundraising in November, while DeStefano raised $45,925 in the reporting period, which began Oct. 6. The mayor has raised a total of $171,175 for the campaign. The two camps disagreed about the significance of Looney’s total. The disagreements continued when a DeStefano supporter questioned the diversity of Looney’s contributors while the senator’s campaign manager accused the mayor of using fear and intimidation to raise funds.
Almost all of the funds raised by DeStefano came from individuals, with the campaign receiving only one contribution from an organized committee. By contrast, 22 percent of Looney’s funds came from political action committees and other non-individual sources. Additionally, 77 percent of the individual contributions received by DeStefano’s campaign were for less than $200 whereas only 42 percent of Looney’s contributions from individuals fit that description.
Ward 1 Alderman Julio Gonzalez ’99, an enthusiastic DeStefano supporter who will have a leadership role in the mayor’s campaign, said these disparities bode well for his candidate.
“They relied overwhelmingly on support from a narrow constituency,” Gonzalez said, pointing out that a significant portion of Looney’s funds came from fellow attorneys and PACs.
Jason Bartlett, Looney’s campaign manager, had a different take on the statistics. He explained the fundraising was only in its infant stages and had focused in large part on Looney’s co-workers and acquaintances.
“We are actually now just putting together a finance committee,” Bartlett said. “He has gone to colleagues that have been serving with him. They’ve been friends and are trying to help him raise money.”
But Gonzalez insisted that there was a fundamental difference between the support enjoyed by each candidate.
“You’re looking at community-wide support versus a narrow set of relationships,” Gonzalez said. “The diversity of our contributor list is representative of our strong citywide support.”
Gonzalez and Bartlett disagreed about the degree of success Looney has experienced. Bartlett said he was excited.
“Senator Looney was hoping to raise $40,000,” Bartlett said. “Obviously, $78,000 is a much higher number.”
Bartlett said Newton, whose 1999 campaign he managed, raised only $40,000 total, but received 38 percent of the vote in that year’s Democratic primary.
Gonzalez said that he had heard the Looney campaign had a different goal.
“Their goal was $100,000, which was what most people said was necessary to be competitive by this reporting period,” Gonzalez said.
Bartlett denied that his campaign had fallen short of expectations.
“I don’t know what they mean,” Bartlett said. Looney “had his first fundraiser on Dec. 4, now it’s 40 days later and he’s raised $78,000. Quite frankly, they’re shocked.”
DeStefano has the advantage of incumbency, but Bartlett said he has used that advantage inappropriately by using intimidation to get city employees to donate to this campaign. He said city employees are asked by their supervisors to contribute.
“Employees in the city should not be put in that predicament,” Bartlett said. “That to me is unethical.”
Gonzalez scoffed at the allegations.
“We have roughly the same proportion of public employees contributing to the campaign as Looney,” Gonzalez said. “If you took away all of the money that New Haven employees have contributed, we still have a substantial fundraising advantage.”
James Newton, the former alderman who ran for mayor in 1999 and who has formed an exploratory committee for this year’s race, did not have to file a report since he is not an official candidate. Republican real estate developer Joel Schiavone, who has filed court papers to try to overturn a residency requirement which currently prevents him from running for mayor, said he has not started fundraising.