Nick Shalek ’05, the independent challenger in the upcoming Ward 1 aldermanic elections, has spent almost four times as much on his campaign as incumbent Alderwoman Rebecca Livengood ’07 has on hers, according to filings each made with the City Clerk’s Office on Tuesday.
According to the filing, Shalek has spent over $5,600 on campaign expenses, $5,400 of which were from his own pocket, although he said he plans to be reimbursed at least partially with money from campaign donations he has received. Livengood’s campaign spent $1,326, of which $250 came from her own funds. Each campaign’s expenditure is proportional to the donations they have collected: Shalek raised $5,753.39, while Livengood raised $1,905.
Shalek said he needed to increase awareness of his campaign as he is an independent candidate. Most of his expenditures were for publicity materials such as t-shirts.
“It was worth spending a little bit of money up front to try to get my name out there,” Shalek said.
While he said he plans to be reimbursed from the $5,400 his campaign still has in its coffers, Shalek said he wanted the flexibility of saving those donated funds for use at the end of his campaign if necessary. He said also that much of what he paid for was needed before his campaign began to receive donations.
Livengood said her campaign has made a conscious effort to keep expenses low, and said she is hoping to spend only around $3,000, an amount that previous aldermanic contenders told her was appropriate.
“I think our opponent is spending much, much more than that, but we’re looking to run a grassroots campaign,” she said. “We aren’t spending very much money.”
Both candidates were required to file detailed reports of campaign contributions and expenditures with the city, listing names, addresses and lobbyist status for all contributors donating more than $30 to their campaign. The maximum amount an individual can contribute is $250. If a person donates more than $100, the campaign is required to indicate that individual’s primary occupation and employer.
Geraldine Gassam ’07, treasurer for Shalek’s campaign, said she is required to keep records of everything — deposit slips, receipts — for up to four years, but there is no official process for vetting the accuracy of every piece on information included in the report.
“The forms aren’t going to be as heavily scrutinized as they would be for the race for mayor,” Gassam said. “These forms are open to everyone. You don’t need someone to review the forms so heavily because your opponents are going to be looking at the forms [and] that alone keeps you in line.”
Neither Shalek nor Livengood collected funds from students in Ward 1 to date, instead focusing their efforts on out-of-state family and friends. Livengood said she is planning a small student fundraiser for next week, where her campaign hopes to raise a few hundred dollars. Shalek, however, said his choice to not solicit donations from students is part of a conscious effort to be perceived as independent. The only local contribution to his campaign, a $250 contribution from the New Haven Chamber of Commerce, was “not something I asked for or actively sought,” he said.
“I wanted to make it clear to people that I was going to be making decisions based on what I thought was good policy,” Shalek said. “Because I work for the university, one thing my opponent has charged me with is being biased.”
Shalek works for the Yale Investments Office, though he said his office does not make decisions regarding town-gown policy.
Out-of-state donations can be preferable to local ones, as out-of-state residents are less likely to be interested in buying a politician’s favors, Ted Fertik ’07, president of Students for Clean Elections, said. He said local donations can, however, force candidates to be more accountable to their constituents.
“What you don’t want is people who have a vested interest in government contributing large sums of money that means that politician has to reward them,” Fertik said. “If a candidate is receiving the money from family members in New Jersey, there isn’t a lot of influence you’d even be interested in buying [from a New Haven alderman].”
Fertik added that he recognized the difficulty of raising money from Ward 1 voters, as they are mostly students.