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Candidates in NY governor's race laying claim to small-money donors

Andrew Cuomo, Cynthia Nixon each say the other's campaign uses staffers to drive up the number of small contributions made over the past six months. 

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon in

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon in undated photos. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

ALBANY — In a governor’s race sure to cost tens of millions of dollars, candidates raced Tuesday to claim who has the most small-money donors and going to unusual lengths to do so.

A review of campaign-finance statements filed this week shows that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s campaign relied on a slew of donations of $10 or less — some from family and friends of the governor’s staff — which drove up the number of small contributions over the past six months.

For instance, Christopher Kim, a Long Island City resident, made 69 donations in increments of $1, $3 and $5, for a total $77 contribution. Further, Kim’s apartment address matches that of Julia Yang, a Cuomo campaign staffer.

Also, Cuomo received a $10 contribution from his former press secretary, Matt Wing, who is married to the governor’s chief of staff, Melissa DeRosa. Her father, prominent lobbyist Giorgio DeRosa, also gave $10. Richard Bamberger, Cuomo’s former communications director, contributed $25.

That prompted Cynthia Nixon, the actress challenging Cuomo for the Democratic nomination, to blast the governor’s “sham grass roots” support.

It’s part of her continued effort to turn a huge fundraising disadvantage — she has $660,000 on hand in her campaign coffers compared to Cuomo’s $31 million — into a virtue.

“The pathetic, transparent efforts of the governor’s staff (and roommates) to increase his number of small-dollar contributions shows just how little public enthusiasm there is for Andrew Cuomo,” said Lauren Hitt, a Nixon spokeswoman.

Cuomo’s campaign countered that Nixon listed a number of single-digit contributions from campaign staffers as well (Nixon campaign manager Hayley Prim gave in increments of $1, $2, and $5).

But a review shows nearly half of Nixon’s total contributions came from small money. Whereas for Cuomo, that number is about 1 percent of the $6 million he’s raised over the past six months.

Cuomo campaign officials acknowledge they have made recruiting small donors a “priority.” But that effort came after Cuomo faced criticism in the fall for building his $31 million war chest primarily on big-pocketed donors and companies.

"We rolled out a new low dollar campaign to reach a wide variety of supporters and, as part of that effort, reached out to our network, just as Ms. Nixon's campaign has dozens of contributions from her staff and their family members," Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Abbey Fashouer said in an email, while calling Nixon's campaign "desperate."

Republican candidate Marc Molinaro — who, like Nixon, is seeking to turn a disadvantage into an advantage — sought to make the size of Cuomo’s war chest itself an issue.

“A number this large reeks of corruption,” Molinaro spokeswoman Katy Delgado said of Cuomo’s $31 million. Molinaro raised more than $1 million since joining the race and now has $887,000 on hand.

The Republican also has criticized contributions from developers who were recently convicted in a bid-rigging scheme involving high-profile, high-tech projects backed by Cuomo. The governor wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing.

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