In recent days, Governor Andrew Cuomo's campaign team has highlighted an almost unbelievable surge of grass roots support for the incumbent candidate, boasting that more than half of his donations were for under $250, and that his median contribution in the first six months of the year was just $150. This was a well-timed turn of events for Cuomo, who just last year was raking in average contributions of $2,500, while taking flack for having "virtually no small donors."
So how did the the governor manage to right this hefty fundraising ship, soothing the naysayers—led by challenger Cynthia Nixon—who've argued that true progressives shouldn't stockpile massive cash infusions from corporate lobbyists and Donald Trump. Was it his near-constant circuit of quiet campaign events with deep-pocketed executives? His lavish parties with Billy Joel and Bill Clinton? His bold gambit of ditching fundraisers in Montauk for different, fancier fundraisers in East Hampton?
No. Like any insurgent reformist, Governor Cuomo's small-donor mobilization was propelled by the hard-working constituents most inspired by his platform—many of whom, in this case, just so happen to be the roommates and family members of the people employed by Governor Cuomo.
Shot: "One contributor....Christopher Kim, made 69 donations worth...$77, making him single-handedly responsible for about one-tenth of the small donations."
Chaser: "Kim resides at the same address as... Cuomo's "Creative Director." https://t.co/WptZe7vR9F via @fredmogul @WNYC
— Kate Hinds (@katehinds) July 18, 2018
Campaign records filed Tuesday give us an inside look at the governor's dedicated rank and file. Take for example Christopher Kim, the Long Island City resident driven, remarkably, to make a $1 dollar contribution to the governor's campaign on 67 separate occasions. It was later revealed by the Times that Kim shares an address with Cuomo aide Julia Yang—a fact that might make Kim’s stirring political activation seem like a cynical ploy to juice the numbers. But ask yourself: Why would someone spend several days sending their roommate's boss a nominal amount of money, unless they sincerely believed in that person's message and/or wanted to get out of cleaning the bathroom?
And Kim wasn't the only one moved, for whatever reason, to repeatedly give the governor a tiny sum of cash. There's also Jaynne C. Keyes, a Cuomo appointee to the state arts council, and wife of one of Mario Cuomo's top aides, who kicked in two separate $5 donations just this weekend. And Giorgio DeRosa, one of the most powerful lobbyists in New York, and also the father of Cuomo's top aid, who in May gave $10 to the Cuomo campaign.
Mr. DeRosa is the father of @melissadderosa, the Secretary to the Governor, the highest unelected official in the state and @NYGovCuomo's closest aide.
Mr. Wing is @melissadderosa's husband. https://t.co/GGbMlAnrf4
— Jesse McKinley (@jessemckinley) July 17, 2018
Then there's Joe Rossi, managing director of the lobbying group Park Strategies, who in recent months gave $25, $5, and $1 to the governor's campaign. Asked about his commitments on Twitter, Rossi—whose firm did $1.3 million in lobbying last year for clients such as Lockheed Martin and Brookfield Property—explained that "money is tight," but that he still wanted to give $1 to "support a friends effort."
All told, Cuomo managed to raise a total of $6 million in the first half of this year, thanks in part to an energized base of struggling lobbyists, family members of top aides, selfless roommates of other aides, and Billy Joel. With their support, the governor is able to say that in the past six months, he raised 57 percent of his donations in contributions under $250—a figure that is only slightly obscured by the fact that those small donations made up less than 1 percent of his total haul of $6.6 million. But who's counting?
We've reached out to Cuomo's campaign spokesperson Abbey Fashouer—whose father also donated $1—for comment. We'll update if we hear back.
As we have said & you are aware, 57% is the overall percent of the number of contributions received as we continue to prioritize this effort https://t.co/XOX4ridyyA
— Abbey Fashouer (@abbey_fash) July 17, 2018