New York City

Outside Money Gusher Now Floods Cash Into Seawright Campaign

Disclosures released his week show a gusher of outside money flooding Rebecca Seawright’s Campaign with cash, but little comes from local sources.

By David Stone

Scanning her New York State board of elections financial disclosure, Seawright’s campaign cash quickly rings a bell. The incumbent is up for reelection in the 76th Assembly District, but her support arrives from elsewhere.

An outside money gusher leaves her flush with resources in the campaign’s final month, but it also raises serious questions.

Roosevelt Island News: Rebecca Seawright with her daughter at Roosevelt Island Day 2018. Her campaign cash is now an issue.
Rebecca Seawright brought her daughter along, celebrating Roosevelt Island day in 2016.

Why, after six years in office, has she so little local support? And the converse… Why is a convoy of outsiders rushing in, filling up her bank account?

Running also are progressive Patrick Bobilin and Republican/Liberal Lou Puliafito. Read a current summary of the race on Patch.

A Solid Start and Also a Finish

Seawright’s campaign started with  $184,885.13 in cash, and it closed out the reporting period with $151,952.40.

But she spent $213,326.98, and therein lies the story, how it came in and how it was spent.

Typical assembly campaigns seldom spend more than the low five figures, and neither of her competitors spent that much.

After she fumbled like a rookie at quarterback in the Super Bowl, losing two no-brainer ballot lines in the general election, pandemic conditions forced Seawright’s campaign into scrambling for signatures and cash.

Finally, she gathered enough signers on petitions and will appear in November as an independent on the ballot.

But with only Puliafito holding a major party slot and both he and Bobilin winning independent spots, the incumbent’s back was against the wall.

That’s when her spirits lifted on a rising tide of outside cash.

Outsiders Swell Seawright’s Campaign Cash Balance

It struck me right away as I scanned the list of individual cash contributions. Big donations flowed in from Texas and New Jersey, but 76th Assembly district folks? Not so much.

What clued me in?

I ran down the zip codes for Seawright’s 58 contributors, looking for supporters in my own Roosevelt Island neighborhood. Not one.

I looked again. After six years representing us, she must have people ready to offer a little cash, but no, she didn’t.

And it became clear that I was not alone in my frustration over how little she’d done for us. Looking further, I saw that the rest of the Upper East Side probably felt the same way.

After six years, 58 contributors ain’t a lot, in the first place, but when the majority records addresses outside the district, it’s paltry.

Bring in the cavalry…

Significantly, though, individuals chipped in only $21,510.00 of the total inflating Seawright’s campaign with cash.

The rest of it…?

Water flows down the Hudson River from Albany into New York City, and so does cash for Seawright’s campaign.

There’s a handful of small union campaign contributions and a couple of lobbying firms, but by far, the biggest gifts come from the New York State Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee.

The Committee pitched in over $112K, and a PAC associated with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie chucks in another $4,700.

Do the math. With sources far outside the 76th Assembly District dwarfing local contributions into Seawright’s campaign cash account, the question of who is being served by the incumbent is irresistible.

Seawright’s campaign cash gushes in but where does it go out?

Just as the sun also rises, her money also gushes out.

Close to three-quarters of the $213K spent goes to The Hamilton Campaign Network, hired to manage things for her.

And no, they’re not in the district either, but yes, the “Hamilton” has to do with the popular musical. Hamilton is run by the father of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the acclaimed Broadway creator and performer.

That’s a hefty sum for a state assembly campaign, but probably more concerning is $16K paid to “Bronx fixer” Stanley Schlein, an attorney aligned with Heastie and Albany Democrats.

His job? Head up Seawright’s hypocritical court fight to force her competitors off the ballot on technical grounds.

Seawright’s Campaign Cash Conclusion

It’s the simplest conclusion: when you give, you get. And when you haven’t given, you ain’t gettin’.

Rebecca Seawright’s powerful campaign for reelection seems displaced. It happens mostly in Albany with an accent from Broadway.

But it should’ve been easier. Just filing petitions like a pro would’ve allowed her to take the district’s voters for granted as local politicians usually do.

Having flubbed the simplest tasks, though, facing a real fight, the incumbent called on her supporters. No, not her constituents, who appear unwilling to contribute, but Seawright’s campaign cash account absorbed money from far away.

This give us some things to think about between now and November3rd.


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