When incumbent Reps. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) won reelection by wide margins in November’s elections, they did so with major fund raising advantages over their opponents.
And it was not just the value but the source of contributions that separated Israel and McCarthy from their challengers – the incumbents drew heavily from political action committees for their campaign funding, while their opponents relied almost exclusively on individual contributions.
Israel raised $3.15 million over the course of the 2012 campaign, while challenger Stephen Labate (R-Deer Park) took in $285,000, according to campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission. $1.1 million of Israel’s total came from PACs, while Labate took $7,300 from committees, according to data from campaign finance watchdog the Center for Responsive Politics.
McCarthy had similar advantages in fundraising and PAC contributions over opponents Frank Scaturro (C-Hempstead) and Francis X. Becker (R-Lynbrook.) The Democratic incumbent took in $2.27 million, including $765,000 in PAC contributions. Scaturro raised $176,000 and Becker $153,000; both challengers received less than $1,000 from PACs.
PACs are political committees used by ideological, business or labor groups to donate money to candidates. While corporations and unions are legally prohibited from contributing directly to candidate campaign accounts, they can establish PACs which can give up to $5,000 to a candidate per primary or general election.
Israel’s top sources of PAC money were from unions, the real estate industry, securities and investment firms and lawyers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Labor groups gave $244,000 in PAC money to Israel’s 2012 campaign, while lawyers and law firm PACs gave $25,000.
Securities and investment PACs gave $46,500, including maxed-out $10,000 donations from the Goldman Sachs PAC and industry group the Investment Company Institute.
Of the $50,000 Israel received from real estate PACs, $20,000 came from two trade groups: the National Association of Realtors and the National Multi Housing Council.
McCarthy’s also drew heavily from securities and investment groups, taking in $110,000 from industry PACs. Like Israel, she received $10,000 each from committees representing Goldman Sachs and the Investment Company Institute.
Union PACs gave McCarthy $139,500, including a maximum donation from the National Education Association.
And insurance industry committees gave her campaign $105,000, with New York Life Insurance and Prudential Financial leading the way with $10,000 contributions.
Though the difference in funding is stark, it is not surprising, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Incumbents receive an overwhelming majority of PAC contributions, as business, labor and ideological interest groups seek to support candidates with the best chances of election.