Saturday, January 22, 2005

Miller Outspending Most Mayoral Rivals

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller has already poured nearly $1 million into his campaign for mayor, outspending all his Democratic rivals and signaling an early start to what is likely to be one of the most expensive elections in city history.
Mr. Miller has spent more than $931,000 on his campaign since 2002 - about half of that in the last year alone, according to reports filed this week with the Campaign Finance Board.

But Mr. Miller's spending has not helped him advance in the polls, where he remains behind Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and two Democratic candidates: Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx Borough president, and C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan Borough president.

Mr. Miller has sought to play down his efforts, saying he is focusing instead on his work in the Council. "It's months and months and months from an election that I haven't officially announced for, and that people really aren't concerned about," Mr. Miller said at a news conference on Wednesday at City Hall. Yet despite such disclaimers, the recent spending reports filed by Mr. Miller and other likely candidates show that the race has begun in earnest.

The unknown factor is Mayor Bloomberg, who spent more than $73 million of his own money on his 2001 campaign. The mayor, who does not take part in the city's campaign finance program, has not yet been required to disclose his expenses. "We file everything we're required to file when it's due - it hasn't happened yet," said William T. Cunningham, his director of communications.

An analysis of Mr. Miller's campaign expenses shows that the bulk of it, or more than $470,000, has been used to support an extensive fund-raising operation that has already brought in more than $4.2 million in campaign contributions. For instance, Mr. Miller paid more than $200,000 alone to the Esler Group for fund-raising and campaign consulting.

He also spent $40,000 on catering from Noche, a nightclub that is out of business, $17,800 for a 2002 birthday party and fund-raiser at Studio 54, and $15,000 for a similar party in November at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park. Other expenses included more than $80,000 for designing, printing and mailing invitations to his events, $4,000 for flowers, $700 for gift baskets from Harry and David, and $650 for Latin dancers from Studio Zamora.

The Parkside Group, a lobbying group with close ties to Mr. Miller, received nearly $21,000 in graphic design and printing fees for his fund-raisers, and Global Strategy Group, a political consulting and polling organization, was paid $4,700 to cover expenses for holding a fund-raiser for Mr. Miller.

Brian Hardwick, Mr. Miller's campaign manager, said that as their campaign moves forward, more money would be spent on efforts to reach voters like political ads and direct mailings. "We feel very encouraged by the position we're in to start the campaign in 2005," he said. "We have a lot to show for what we've spent." - January 22, 2005