Mayoral hopeful Donovan gets $1.5M in public campaign funds after CFB dismisses violation complaint

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Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan received nearly $1.5 million in matching funds for his mayoral run from the Campaign Finance Bureau on April 22, 2021.
REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB) released nearly $1.5 million in matching funds to former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan’s mayoral campaign, a week after it upheld the funds in order to investigate possible violations.

The CFB had received a complaint about a Donovan-supporting political action committee, New Start NYC, which purchased $2.74 million in television advertising in order to promote the campaign. According to published reports, the PAC received two million-dollar contributions from Michael Donovan, Shaun’s father, the founder and chair of Mediaocean, an advertising software company.

Following an investigation, which included receiving statements from both the candidate and his father, the CFB moved to dismiss the complaint and provide the Donovan campaign with matching funds. 

CFB Chair Frederick Schaffer, however, noted the campaign, along with all other campaigns, be subject to “an ongoing, post-election audit.” He further relayed concerns about the influence of “dark money” — contributions to campaigns from outside the city — in citywide politics. 

“In this election cycle, several single-candidate super PACs have been established, particularly in connection with the race for mayor, and a significant level of contributions and expenditures is occurring to and by these PACs,” Schaffer said. “This development poses a particular challenge to the goals of the City’s system of public campaign financing. The CFB may address these issues after the election in connection with its recommendations for changes in the law and in amendments to its rules dealing with the factors that define independent expenditures on the one hand and coordination between campaign committees and PACs on the other hand.”

Even so, Schaffer noted that the CFB has “implemented among the strongest disclosure regulations around independent expenditure groups in the country.” 

Brendan McPhillips, Donovan’s campaign manager, seemed to agree.

“We are grateful for the CFB’s swift action to resolve this issue, as well as to the thousands of New Yorkers who donated their hard-earned dollars to support our campaign of ideas,” McPhillips said in a statement Thursday. “This decision upholds New York City’s unique, progressive campaign finance system as a model for the nation.”


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