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Shaun Donovan Gets Boosts From Public Funding — and a Rockefeller

Mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan tours the Nehemiah Housing Development in East New York, March 12, 2021.
Mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan
Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

Help is rolling in for mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan — from public matching funds to a Rockefeller who contributed to a PAC supporting his run.

The New York City Campaign Finance Board on Thursday approved nearly $1.5 million worth of public matching funds for his campaign. The decision came just days after Donovan’s father, Michael, poured another $1 million into the New Start NYC political committee that supports the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The board previously deferred the decision on whether to pay those public funds as it looked into whether New Start violated rules preventing coordination between independent committees and campaigns.

“After reviewing statements from Shaun and Michael Donovan, the board has voted to approve a public funds payment to the New Yorkers for Donovan campaign,” said Frederick Schaffer, chair of the city’s Campaign Finance Board. “The campaign will be subject to an ongoing post election audit just like all campaigns in this election.”

Donovan’s campaign manager, Brendan McPhillips, expressed gratitude for the decision and for the “thousands of New Yorkers” who made donations to Donovan’s campaign. “This decision upholds New York City’s unique, progressive campaign finance system as a model for the nation,” McPhillips said in a statement.

But in his remarks at the board meeting, Schaffer suggested the system might need some tweaks.

He noted how the proliferation of single-candidate super PACs, particularly in the mayoral race, challenges the goals of the public campaign financing system.

Schaffer said the board may recommend changes in the law and rules after the election related to “the factors that define independent expenditures on the one hand and coordination between campaign committees and PACs on the other hand.”

Under the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of candidates but are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns.

New Start, New Dollars

New Start NYC has raised $3,107,500 so far, according to reports filed with the state Board of Elections. Of that, $3 million has come from Michael Donovan, chairman of the adtech company Mediaocean.

In addition to Michael Donovan, other contributors to New Start NYC include David and Susan Rockefeller. David Rockefeller Jr. is the son of the late Chase bank head David Rockefeller and nephew of Nelson Rockefeller, the late vice president and former New York governor.

The couple gave $25,000 each to New Start NYC. They also each donated $5,100 — the maximum contribution — to Shaun Donovan’s campaign, records show.

In December, Susan Rockefeller, a conservationist and filmmaker, tweeted her support for Donovan’s campaign, saying he’s “who we need for mayor.”

Other contributors to the PAC include retired advertising executive Allen Rosenshine; philanthropist Christy Mack; GFP Real Estate Chair Jeffrey Gural and a limited liability company called Chateauriffic.

“His father and I are on the board of the Statue of Liberty and he’s obviously qualified,” said Gural, who contributed $2,500 to New Start. “So I did him a favor.”

Gural also donated $400 to Donovan’s campaign, while Rosenshine and Mack each gave $5,100, records show.

In 2015, during his time as director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama Administration, the younger Donovan wrote a blog post about his father becoming a U.S. citizen 52 years after immigrating from Peru.

“As I have personally witnessed through my father’s journey, when given the opportunity and the necessary support, immigrants can realize all that is exceptional about this country,” Donovan wrote.

New Start has spent nearly as much as it’s raised — $3,015,892 so far — mostly on TV ads.

How Campaigns Stack Up

As of last week, Scott Stringer and Eric Adams had received the greatest amounts of public funds so far, with over $5 million each.

Adams’ and Stringer’s chests now amount to $7.8 million and $7.4 million, respectively, excluding just over $1 million worth of spending for each campaign through March 15, according to reports filed with the Campaign Finance Board.

Andrew Yang’s campaign has just over $5 million of cash on hand, followed by Ray McGuire, who is not participating in the public financing system and has $3.6 million on hand.

Of the seven mayoral candidates that have qualified for matching funds, Donovan has received the least. He now has just over $2.1 million of cash on hand, after so far spending nearly $1.5 million. The campaigns of Kathryn Garcia, Maya Wiley and Dianne Morales each have about $2.5 million at the ready.

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