Obvious errors in the way campaign finance informaton came to be posted on the New York State Board of Elections website led this week to two unrelated instances where small donors looked briefly like huge benefactors.
The roots of these twin anomalies, and possibly others yet to be discovered, have been under review by board officials. They appear to involve how and why the data technology used by the campaigns of Gov. Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James ended up creating jumbled and distorted public postings.
In one, Hochul’s campaign committee attributed a literally incredible $9.4 million in 1,944 donations to a single individual named Emma DeVito, who is neither a known philanthropist nor a political honcho — a sighting reported by the website City & State. Election experts said that pattern was not only far above campaign contribution limits from individuals but logistically hard to comprehend.
On Friday, election board spokesman John Conklin told The Point: "We were aware Tuesday night of the Hochul situation. They used a third-party vendor (to whom) we gave suggestions what to do about it." He said the information was taken offline and then resubmitted on Wednesday morning. "The problem was corrected," he said.
Changes made last year to a new campaign finance reporting system led to exchanges between the board’s information technology staff and third-party vendors. Difficulties have been reported with the new system and how it interfaces with users.
One Hochul campaign official, who noted DeVito actually contributed less than $250, said: "The campaign filed the accurate and appropriate information, but in the translation, to the board website, an error occurred outside the campaign’s control."
Fault for the problem between the vendor and the board was still a murky matter on Friday, and there were other errors as well involving donor DeVito, who was wrongly shown to be receiving expenditures as well as refunds — in other words, a mess.
A parallel problem developed with James’ filing, first indicated to The Point by an amazed election professional in Nassau County. An Alison McKinney was listed as donating $1.86 million. James’ aide said Thursday that this was erroneous and that this person actually contributed less than $100. There, too, multiple contributions were noted that differed from what was supposed to be filed.
When it comes to the campaigns that are filing, Conklin said, "Our systems have to talk to each other."
By all appearances, something got lost in translation.