Cunningham Comes Up Empty In Public Matching Funds

Brian Cunningham

While challenger Pia Raymond’s recent public financing haul of $74,533 put her in a position to mount a serious challenge to incumbent City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene in the upcoming Sept. 12 Democratic Primary for the 40th City Council District, her other challengers on the ballot were not as fortunate.

Pia Raymond

In particular, challenger Brian Cunningham raised a healthy $41,717 in total and put in for $22,058 in claims that were eligible for a $6-to$1 match in public dollars, but this claim didn’t pass the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) audit.

Public funds are given only if city council candidates can collect at least 75 contributions of $10-$175 from within their district. They also must raise $5,000 in citywide contributions of up to $175 of a resident’s contribution.

A CFB spokesperson refused to comment as to the particular reason that Cunningham’s campaign did not receive public funding. The spokesperson added that any candidates who did not receive matching funds most likely did not reach the required thresholds. Other possible reasons include errors in paper work such as not providing addresses of contributors.

Cunningham said that the CFB was currently verifying the contributions his campaign had submitted. He said he was sure his campaign would be able to receive matching funds by the next and last disbursement of these funds. That date is Sept. 8, just four days before the primary.

“To date, as a non-incumbent candidate we have 623 donors. We’ve raised $45,000 dollars with the average donation being $67 dollars. The incumbent has [raised] $84,000,” said Cunningham. “So when you talk about what that public matching funds does, it equalizes the playing field obviously he has less donors than we do, but has more money than we do because he’s getting bigger checks than we are.”

Cunningham argued that though his campaign had not yet received matching public funds, it was important to ensure an efficient and meticulous process within the Campaign Finance Board system.

“These are taxpayer dollars, this is my money and your money,” said Cunningham. “This is everyone’s money that is being used in campaigns to help elect the right people to city and state government.”

Above all, Cunningham emphasized the importance of voter turnout.

“To me, the real thing is making sure that we continue to have those checks and balances in our public systems, but also making sure that we increase voter turnout,” said Cunningham. “If no one votes, you could have all the money you want and nothing would happen.”

A fourth candidate in the race, Jennifer Berkley, raised $5,382 and has an estimated balance of $850 on hand, according to the CFB website.

The district includes Crown Heights, Prospect Park, Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush, East Flatbush and Ditmas Park.