Nathaniel Brooks/The New York Times

Marc Molinaro is running on the Republican ticket to be New York's 19th district's congressional representative.

October 25, 2022

Who Your Candidates Answer To: An Investigation Into Riley and Molinaro Campaign Contributions

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For the 2022 midterms, New York’s 19th district, which Ithaca is part of, ranked as a toss-up district by the Cook Political Report, meaning every cent of donations matters for both candidates: Josh Riley (D) and Marc Molinaro (R). As of Oct. 17, Riley has outraised Molinaro $2,910,872.67 to $2,030,389.08. However, the raw number is not the be-all-end-all of campaign finance.

Due to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), corporations, unions and political action committees are permitted to spend as much money as they see fit for any candidate of their choice.

Both Riley and Molinaro have received significantly more money in donations from individuals than in those from PACs and institutions, with the vast majority of these individual donations being donations through party-endorsed PACs, WinRed and ActBlue, according to publicly available data from FEC campaign finance filings. However, donors — both connected to the district and not — have also donated significant sums of money to the campaign. 

Although many of Riley’s individual donors are not affiliated with the 19th district, many of the donors, including Amy Habie, are employed by his former employer, Boies Schiller Flexner, LLP.

Habie declined to comment to The Sun.

Many of Molinaro’s donors come from New York’s 18th district. For example, Zeidan Nesheiwat, vice president at Gas Land Petroleum, a company which operates more than 100 gas stations with convenience stores, has donated a substantial amount — $14,100 — to Molinaro’s campaign. According to the FEC filing, Nesheiwat lives in Lagrangeville, New York, which votes in the 18th district.

However, several unions and PACs have donated sums of money to both Riley and Molinaro. 

Some of these organizations, such as the Communications Workers of America — which donated $10,000 to Riley — and the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers — which donated $15,000 to Molinaro — have donated significant sums of money from national PACs.

Others, local groups such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1249 — which donated $100 to Riley — have donated comparatively less.

“I tried to go out and meet these candidates and talk to them about issues that we feel strongly about. And in doing so, I felt that Josh [Riley] best represented our interests here in 1249,” said Tim Daley, assistant business manager and registrar for IBEW 1249.

According to Daley, although the union’s donations have been slanted towards the Democrats, IBEW 1249’s members span the political spectrum.

“We don’t frown on somebody just because of their political party. We just base everything off of what you’re going to do for labor in general. So, I have to believe our membership is a pretty good mix of independents, Democrats and Republicans,” Daley said. “But the bottom line is, our members are going to back whatever candidates do good for labor.” 

According to OpenSecrets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to tracking campaign spending and lobbying expenditures, 87.71 percent of all victorious House candidates in the 2020 election also spent the most money in the campaign; Riley has spent $1,735,374 compared to Molinaro’s $1,625,177 and leads 46 percent to 41 percent in the most recent Siena College / Spectrum News poll.

Riley and Molinaro did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Correction, Oct. 26, 3:19 p.m.: The initial version of this article misstated that donations made through WinRed and ActBlue were anonymous, but they are not anonymous donations.