BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Mayor Byron Brown, in the early weeks of a write-in campaign to save his job, is questioning the source of more than $30,000 in contributions to the campaign of Democratic nominee India Walton.
Without providing evidence, Brown alleged that Walton has not followed all campaign finance rules.
“Every single donation that has come to me that must be disclosed has been disclosed and has been itemized,” Brown says. “I think with India, that’s not the case.”
Walton shocked Brown by beating him for the Democratic nomination in a primary last month. Six days later, Brown launched the write-in campaign.
Seamus Gallivan, a spokesperson for Walton, refuted Brown’s claim, saying the campaign has followed all New York State campaign finance regulations.
At issue is tens of thousands of dollars in unitemized monetary contributions to the Walton campaign in the months leading up to the primary. In two pre-primary reports detailing finances between mid-January and mid-June, Walton’s team listed a combined $31,550.35 in unitemized contributions, claiming that total accounts for contributions of $99 or less per contributor. Election law allows single contributions not exceeding $99 to go unitemized.
“That’s true. If that’s the case,” Brown said.
When asked if he was doubting that was the case, Brown responded, “That will be looked at. I think that will be reviewed.”
Although Brown claimed his team believes they have evidence, it was not provided to News 4. Gallivan argues the Walton campaign has received “thousands of small-dollar contributions.”
“We are a grassroots, people-powered campaign and our fundraising reflects that,” Gallivan said in a statement. “Our filing shows a large number of unitemized contributions because we have received thousands of donations of $99 or less.”
Filings from Friends of India Walton do itemize some contributions $99 and under. But Gallivan explained that is because some donors have made multiple contributions that total more than $99, which must be reported.
The filings paint different pictures of the competing campaigns. In the two pre-primary reports, Brown lists a combined 27 contributions from corporations totaling $38,250. Walton had none from corporations.
Of the contributions from individuals and partnerships that are itemized, Most of Walton’s in each of the two reports came from people living in the 14213 zip code, which covers Buffalo’s West Side (57 contributions in the 32-day pre-primary report and 24 contributions in the 11-day pre-primary report). Meanwhile, most of Brown’s individual and partnership contributions in the two reports came from the 14220 zip code (South Buffalo, 43 contributions in the 32-day pre-primary report) and the 14216 zip code (North Buffalo, 15 contributions in the 11-day pre-primary report) respectively.
The next campaign finance reports are due on July 15.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.