What is going on with Michelle Madigan’s campaign donation and expenses reports?
The New York State Board of Elections (BOE) requires that candidates running for primaries file a Campaign Finance Disclosure Report thirty-two days prior to election. Such a report was recently filed by Michele Madigan, incumbent Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner. While these reports are usually pretty dull stuff, Ms. Madigan’s appears to reveal some fascinating relationships. One in particular highlights something that could be considered questionable.
On March 8th, Matthew Jones, a long-time Saratoga resident, as well as a prominent and powerful Republican attorney, held a fundraiser for Ms. Madigan, a Democrat, at his home at 2 Victoria Lane in the city. What was interesting was the overwhelming number of Republicans who attended the event. Based on the donation reports from that day, Ms. Madigan received almost $8,400 from individuals, businesses, and political action committees.
No doubt Mr. Jones’ strong Republican affiliations helped the turnout. His father, in fact, had once served as Republican mayor of the city. Mr. Jones represents Saratoga Hospital, the Saratoga Springs City Center, and other high-profile local business clients, which brings him in regular contact with the Finance Commissioner and other City Council members.
Mr. Jones, himself, was generous in terms of supporting the event. Ms. Madigan’s disclosure report indicates that Mr. Jones gave a ‘donation-in-kind’ of $1,000 for the event on March 8th. The report notes the description after his name, Matthew J. Jones, and his address, 2 Victoria Lane, Saratoga Springs, NY, as “hosting a fundraiser”. While many house parties are given in this town for political candidates, it is unusual for them to cost more than $500-$750. So, while the cost for the fundraiser is perhaps a little high, and the fact that a largely Republican attendance donated to Ms. Madigan’s campaign, the disclosure of this donation raises no legal questions.
A perplexing issue, however, is raised by Ms. Madigan’s expenses disclosure, which also must be filed to comply with the very strict BOE reporting rules. At the very bottom of her expense list, is check #592 made out for $4,346.12. There is no payee name noted, which is a serious violation of the BOE reporting rules. There is, however, a payee address: 2 Victoria Lane, Saratoga Springs, NY. The purpose states ‘fundraiser’. Does that mean that in addition to Mr. Jones’ $1,000 personal costs, the party cost another $4,346, for a total of $5,346 – in order to raise $8,390? Unlikely. The rules require that the purpose state ‘REIMB’ for reimbursement, and the vendors for food, drinks, etc., be listed. So, it is clearly not a reimbursement to Mr. Jones. It should also be noted this payment was made two months after the March fundraiser and is by far her single largest campaign expense to date.
The citizens of Saratoga Springs need to consider what this report suggests. Is Michele Madigan somehow beholden to Matt Jones? What is the real purpose of sending over half of the event’s donations to 2 Victoria Lane? Leaving out the payee on check #592 hides required information from the public. Why would she do this? To a reasonable person this seems to be a payment to a private individual, from campaign funds, with whom, in her position as Commissioner, she has worked, and will be working, on sensitive city projects. The intersection with City Center parking and Hospital expansion is troubling.
Ms. Madigan’s well-known reflexive denials of any personal culpability will no doubt quickly appear. She may claim this is simply a software issue. The BOE software has remained stable for years and is bullet-proof. Expense entries are made into required fields – missing information only happens when it is not entered. Ms. Madigan has used this reporting software repeatedly over the years with no apparent problem.
In a memo sent and acknowledged, concerned citizens have brought this issue to the attention of the New York State BOE. Senior Enforcement Attorneys are now involved. That does not ensure visibility to Saratoga citizens, however. Saratoga citizens have the right to know that campaign monies are used in compliance with campaign finance law. These donation and expense facts deserve both visibility and explanation.
We have made PDF copies of both donations and expenditures from January – June, 2019 for Ms. Madigan; they were printed on June 9, 2019:
For contributions: Madigan complete donation, 20190609
For expenses: Madigan complete expense, 20190609
You can do your own search of any candidate’s donations and expenses at: https://www.elections.ny.gov/contribandexpend.html