State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) is heading into the general election for the congressional seat centered around Flushing with a 7,700 percent fund-raising advantage over City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), although the GOP lawmaker won his first and only election as a financial underdog.
In total, Meng has raised about $817,000, with possibly half of that still left in her coffers after she trounced her three Democratic opponents in a June 26 primary. In contrast, Halloran had $9,760 as of his last filing with the Federal Election Commission June 6.
About 97 percent of Meng’s war chest came from individual donations, according to the FEC, and an analysis of her fund-raising reveals she is being propelled by a groundswell of monetary support from the New York Asian community.
About 94 percent of her donations came from individuals with names that appeared Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean or Japanese, according to FEC documents.
The assemblywoman’s meteoric rise in politics inevitably draws comparisons with city Comptroller John Liu, who began his career as a Flushing councilman before attainting citywide office.
Fund-raising efforts by members of Liu’s 2013 mayoral campaign have drawn the eye of federal investigators, who are currently pursuing charges against two staffers, which has led the Meng campaign to be extra careful about how donations are collected, she said in earlier interviews.
The independent political watchdog website opensecrets.org, which is run by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, ranked each Democratic campaign in the Queens primary on how completely they collected information about donors.
More than 98 percent of Meng’s donations were considered fully disclosed by the site, while only 68 percent of donations from competitors Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) were deemed fully disclosed.
Partially disclosed donations often list a donor’s job as vague titles, including self-employed, entrepreneur or businessman, according to the site.
Donations to Liu’s campaign by people who listed their occupation as “worker” at places like supermarkets or restaurants led to intense scrutiny of the comptroller’s finances, but Meng’s camp appeared to avoid the same mistakes.
Significantly more than 100 people donated to both Meng and Liu’s campaigns, a comparison of the data shows, although several factors prevented an exact count. In some cases, a donor used an English first name to donate to one campaign and a full Chinese name to donate to another.
For example, William Chiang, of Pacific Concor Investment Inc., donated $2,000 to Meng’s campaign, but donated $800 to Liu’s under the name Wen Hui Chiang.
Most of the common donors provided all of the required information to both campaigns, although it was more common for a donor to provide less information to Liu’s campaign.
For example, a man named Chau Hung Nam listed himself as retired on Liu’s campaign finances, but as the owner of the New Song Bo Restaurant.
Meng’s camp seemed to avoid large contributions from donors who listed their job as simply “worker” or “dishwasher,” but several employees of grocery stores who listed themselves as “staff” gave between $250 to $2,000 and a deliveryman for the U.S. Postal Service gave $2,500.
Halloran’s war chest is entirely made up of individual donations, and while his ability to spend on campaign tools including mailers, commercials and staff pales in comparison with Meng’s, he won his Council seat in 2009 with only $100,000 to his opponent Kevin Kim’s $517,000, a disadvantage of 5-1.
The website opensecrets.org also categorized the donations flowing into Meng’s campaign by the industries where her donors worked.
The site found that aside from donors who listed themselves as retired, Meng received the next biggest bloc of contributions from real estate circles.
Heavy hitters in Flushing development, like Michael Lee from F&T Group and Michael Meyer of TDC Development, added to the assemblywoman’s coffers, along with RKO Keith’s Theatre developer Patrick Thompson.
Meng also received several donations totaling $7,800 from Queens Lumber, the company owned by her father and political predecessor Jimmy Meng, and also the employer of Simon Ting, a man who was indicted on charges of forging voter registration documents during Jimmy Meng’s successful 2004 bid for Assembly.
Super PACs did not play a large role in Meng’s fund-raising, but she did receive about $7,000 between donations from Ameripac, which backs Democratic candidates across the country, the American Dental Association PAC and the Jobs, Opportunities and Education PAC, which is affiliated with U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights).
In the final days before the primary, Meng chalked up a donation from Alexandar Cohen, who works as the director of research for the Soros Fund, a trust belonging to billionaire investor George Soros.
Meng spent slightly more than $400,0 0 in the primary, with about a quarter of that money going to a Washington, D.C., firm called Kennedy Communications, which provided campaign literature.
Green Party candidate Evergreen Chou has not filed any campaign finance reports with the FEC, which is required once a candidate raises more than $5,000.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community News Group
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