By Tom Precious
ALBANY – In just his first two years in office, Sen. Mark Grisanti raised the second highest amount of campaign cash of all the 212 legislators in the state Senate and Assembly, a new report has found.
The New York Public Interest Research Group said the Buffalo Republican raised $1.65 million in the 2011/2012 election cycle, just behind the $1.78 million taken in by the Legislature’s top money-raising politician: Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican.
The money raised by Grisanti – who was a major re-election worry for Republicans early on before they carved him favorable new district lines to run on – dwarfed the cash taken in by a who’s who of veteran and far more powerful list of lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, NYPIRG found.
Grisanti ranked third among lawmakers in the category of contributions -- $531,000 in his case – from individual donors as opposed to business, union or political party groups. Of the top five lawmakers in the individual donor category, four of them, including Grisanti, were Senate Republicans who supported the 2011 gay marriage legislation; NYPIRG said more than a dozen of Grisanti’s top donors were supporters of that marriage rights law.
NYPIRG said total fundraising for legislative and party committees over the last two years totaled $85 million, down from $87 million in the previous two-year cycle.
Businesses donated nearly 36 percent of the money, with individual donors accounting for 23 percent; unions accounted for 13 percent of donations, though that money does not include what a labor group might have spent on phone banks or mailings on behalf of a campaign. Other large categories of donations came from other politicians, party campaign accounts or directly from the legislative candidate's own money.
Donations from Albany County, home to an industry of lobbyists and special interest groups, amounted to an average of $2.77 per resident, compared to $1.25 per resident in Erie County, the study found.