Sean Patrick Maloney campaign funds coming overwhelmingly from outside pol's district
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Of the $516,763 that Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring) raised in campaign contributions during the first quarter of this year -- a haul that makes him the fourth-best fundraiser in the House's freshman class -- less than $90,000 came from contributors within Maloney's district.
Campaign finance records show that Maloney, a lawyer, got a sizable chunk of the money from New York City-based attorneys and business executives, some dropping checks for as much as $5,000 at fundraisers.
Observers have lauded the Democrat's fundraising success as confirmation that Maloney's message of social tolerance and focus on jobs has resonated with his constituency. Maloney is the first openly gay politician to represent the state in Congress. His outspoken defense of same-sex marriage shortly after taking office in January coincided with a national debate on the issue and raised his profile across the country, observers have said.
In commenting on the fundraising numbers, Maloney's staff took pains to emphasize that his focus is local.
"Rep. Maloney has received extensive grassroots support because he has gone to work for business, families and veterans in the Hudson Valley," said Maloney spokeswoman Stephanie Formas. "Our focus is solely on the constituents."
Maloney, 46, defeated Republican incumbent Nan Hayworth in November. He was one of 82 freshmen joining the 435-seat House, where Republicans maintain a 233-200 advantage despite a net loss of eight seats in November.
On the campaign trail, Hayworth and her supporters were critical of Maloney's Hudson Valley credentials, accusing the former Manhattan resident of "shopping" for a congressional seat and blasting him as a "carpetbagger" in TV ads.
Christopher Malone, a professor and chairman of the political science department at Pace University in Manhattan, said members of Congress are required to live within the district they represent but are free to accept campaign contributions from outside the district or even other states.
"Obviously, it would look better for him if most of his money was coming from inside the district," Malone said. "But as a freshman congressman, he is vulnerable, and my guess is that he will be trying to raise money from wherever he can to prevent a likely challenge in the next election."
Malone said the carpetbagging label has more impact on an insurgent candidate than a sitting congressman.
"If someone who is going to run against him is going to use this in campaign literature, I don't think it's going to go very far," Malone said. "He has another 18 months to prove himself to the district, to show that he does work hard for his constituents. He's really going to be judged on what he delivers for the district, rather than where he gets his money from."
Maloney's staff says he has worked hard since taking office in January on issues that affect his sprawling district, from advocating for increased benefits for veterans impacted by federal budget cuts to funding for the Tappan Zee Bridge project as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
But Maloney has been equally aggressive on the fundraising front, sending out regular messages to supporters and setting monthly fundraising goals with urgent please for help. The fundraising messages tell supporters that Maloney is under constant attack from the Tea Party and Republican-backed super PACs.
Support for Maloney is not confined to New York State. Contributions have come from North Carolina and California, to name a few other locations. Maloney got a few checks from Hollywood film producer and director Rob Reiner and his wife, Michelle, totaling $1,000.
Sarah-Ann Kramarsky of Manhattan gave Maloney a check for $350. She says she believes he is a rising political star.
"We supported his campaign last year and we've been very pleased with his work in Congress," said Kramarsky, who added that her daughter lives in Maloney's congressional district. "We give whatever we can and will continue to support him."
Democratic super PACs pumped more than $1.6 million into Maloney's successful bid to oust Hayworth last year, blanketing the airwaves with biting criticism of Hayworth's support for Tea Party positions even as she worked hard to describe herself as a fiscal conservative with liberal views on some social issues, such as gay rights. Meanwhile, Republican and outside conservative groups spent more than $2.89 million on Hayworth's behalf -- nearly twice the amount spent by groups backing Maloney.
In the most recent quarter, Maloney got more than $109,000 from Democratic super PACs as well as political action committees representing labor unions, corporate and business interests. Included among the super PACs that contributed were Cambridge, Mass.-based Act Blue and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Fellow Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) gave Maloney $1,000.
Republicans already have targeted Maloney in negative TV ads and on the Internet, setting the stage for next year's election. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC working to help Republicans get elected to the House of Representatives, has taken aim at Maloney and other Democratic freshman lawmakers with its first ads of the 2014 election cycle.