Jul 16


Surge in donations for Walton after win

Campaign contributions spiked after victory in the Democratic primary for mayor. Filing shows $178,000 in donations.

Considering the odds against her, India Walton’s fundraising was pretty good prior to last month’s Democratic primary.

It’s gotten a lot better since.

Walton’s campaign raised nearly $178,000 in the three weeks after she beat incumbent Byron Brown in the Democratic primary for mayor of Buffalo, according to her campaign’s July 15 filing with the New York State Board of Elections.

That’s more than she raised in the six months leading up to the June 22 election. And the total amount she raised in the current reporting period — just shy of $199,000 over the past 33 days — surpasses Brown’s performance in that same period. While the mayor’s filing has yet to appear on the Board of Elections website, his campaign reports raising “about $193,000.”

All told, since launching her campaign in late December, Walton has raised just over $325,000. That total comprises nearly 5,600 contributions, with an average donation just over $56, according to a statement the Walton campaign released Friday.

“Our campaign is proud to be a grassroots, people-powered movement, and our most recent filing with the Board of Elections reflects that, with thousands of small donations not just from individuals in the Buffalo community, but the community at large,” Walton said in the statement.

Almost a third of Walton’s money came from unitemized individual donations under $100 made through the Democratic fundraising website Act Blue. The campaign is not required to attach names and addresses to those donations, according to state election law, until an individual’s aggregate giving surpasses that $100 threshold.

Walton’s surprising upset of a four-term incumbent has drawn lots of national media attention, including most recently a feature in Rolling Stone. A piece in The New Yorker is forthcoming, according to a campaign spokesperson.

That coverage has been a boon for fundraising: About a quarter of the donations that do have names and addresses attached to them came from outside Western New York: Brooklyn, Yonkers, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, to name a few. A Buffalo expatriate living in Tokyo sent Walton $450.

Most of Walton’s donors, however, are locals. Of the 398 donors listed by name and address in the campaign’s latest filing, 250 of them live in Western New York ZIP codes, about 80 percent of them in Buffalo.

The July filing covers a 33-day period from June 7 — two weeks before the primary — to July 11. 

In that period Walton’s campaign raked in nearly $199,000. Roughly 90 percent of that money came in after her primary win. 

About $75,000 came in small, unitemized donations through Act Blue. 

The biggest individual donor was Pulitzer Prize winning poet Carl Dennis of Buffalo, who gave $11,296 in two donations, one the week before the primary and one after. 

Another local writer, Maria Scrivani of Buffalo, kicked in $6,000. 

The Buffalo Teachers Federation, which endorsed Walton, donated $1,000.

Walton’s biggest out-of-town donor was Karla Jurvetson of Los Alto, Calif., a prolific donor to progressive Democrats across the country. Jurvetson gave $9,797 in two installments. 

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From the start of her campaign, Walton has sworn off accepting money from corporate donors, specifically eschewing the wealthy business people and real estate developers who donated prolifically to Brown in the week before the primary. 

Nonetheless, there are two donations of $5,000 each from related corporate entities: Trinity Title and Abstract Corp. and Trojka DWA LLC, which share an address at 74 Niagara Street in Buffalo. (The business is located at that address; the LLC owns the property.) Trinity is an all-women company headed by Audrey Czesak.

The campaign spent nearly $80,000 in the 33-day period covered in the report, mostly on bills incurred before the primary. About $34,000 went toward television ads produced by Win Creative LLC, a company in the Hudson Valley that has done work for progressive politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders. 

Most of the rest went toward mailings, radio and print ads, and lawn signs. 

There’s just one paid campaign consultant listed: Tehmina Pechefsky, who has been paid $2,000 since the primary. The rest of Walton’s campaign staff are volunteers. On primary day, the Walton campaign claimed a list of more than 500 of them. That number has nearly doubled since Walton’s victory, according to a campaign spokesperson.

Some of Walton’s volunteers offered more than their labor: In the home stretch before the primary, with cash running short, volunteer campaign manager Courtney Friedline fronted $3,800 for lawn signs, according to the filing. When the money started flowing in after Walton’s seven-point victory, the campaign paid Friedline back.

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On June 28, Brown announced he would pursue a write-in campaign in the November general election. Sources inside the Walton campaign told Investigative Post that her team is being restructured and expanded to meet that challenge.

As of 4:15 p.m. Friday, the Brown campaign’s July filing — which was due by midnight Thursday — was unavailable on the state Board of Elections website. Mike DeGeorge, the mayor’s communications director, told Investigative Post the campaign was “still completing the filing process due to technical issues with the Board of Elections site.”

The Brown campaign’s last filing, two weeks before the June 22 primary, was also slow to appear on the board of election’s website.

DeGeorge provided Investigative Post a financial summary from Browns campaign. According to the summary, Brown for Buffalo started the cycle with about $301,000. The campaign raised $193,000 and spent $293,000 during the current reporting period, leaving just over $200,000 on hand.

Nearly $120,000 of that total was donated the week before the primary by a cadre of wealthy business people, as Investigative Post reported at the time.