Investigative Post/WGRZ: Campaign Cash in Race for Buffalo Mayor

6:38 PM, Jul 17, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - The three candidates for mayor of Buffalo have filed campaign disclosure reports showing how much money they have, how much they have spent and who is donating.

Mayor Byron Brown has a big lead when it comes to money on hand.

Here are the latest numbers:

Mayor Byron Brown (D):

- Raised since January 1, 2013: $414,000

- Cash on hand: $1.34 million

Bernie Tolbert (D):

- Raised since January 1, 2013: $213,000

- Cash on hand: $200,000

Sergio Rodriguez (R):

- Raised since January 1, 2013: $17,400

- Cash on hand: $1,100

Investigative Post's Jim Heaney spoke with Tolbert and Rodriguez about the numbers. You can view his report in the video player on this page.

A spokesperson for Mayor Brown tells 2 On Your Side that Brown has no comment on the fund raising totals. 

The numbers are revealing.

According to disclosure forms, the mayor has been relying on city employees. Many of the donations are in the $100 to $200 range, but added up they are significant.

"There are large, large, sums of money flowing from employees into Brown's campaign coffers, not everybody does business that way, but a lot of people do," said Heaney.

The mayor has gotten large donations from business people like, investor Howard Zemsky, a major Democratic contributor. He gave Brown $5,000. The mayor has also gotten money from unions and developers.

"It's all part of this culture in this town, that if you want a job, or if you want a contract from the City of Buffalo, you give money to a guy, who you think is going to get elected because that improves your chances of getting what you want," said Heaney.

According to Investigative Post, the best way to learn how Tolbert's campaign is doing in terms of money is to compare it to Mickey Kearns' campaign four years ago. At that time, Kearns had raised $90,000.

Tolbert has $200,000 on hand, which is more than double what Kearns had.

"Right now, I would bet, that there's a heated debate going on within the Tolbert campaign about how to spend that $200,000, should they spend it now, all at once, and hope that they draw some blood and get some momentum and raise more? Or do they wait until the last week or ten days out?" said Carl Calabrese, a political analyst.

Betty Jean Grant, chair of the Erie County Legislature, is the only elected official who's given to Tolbert's campaign. The contribution was just $100.

Tolbert himself has been a big donor, giving $45,500 to his own campaign.

Finally, Rodriguez's biggest single contributor was a family friend, who gave $5,235. Rodriguez has no major contribution from the Republican Party.

"Most of his donors are well below $1,000, a lot in the $25, $50, $200 dollar range," said Heaney.

All men in the race plan to keep up their fund raising efforts, but it seems like no one will raise as much as Mayor Brown.

For more coverage of the race for mayor and issues impacting Western New York, please visit the Investigative Post site (

Investigative Post/ NY State Board of Elections

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