Common wisdom says that if a political consultant wants steady money, they should turn to corporate clients. But as the economic crisis looms over New York City, some consultants are finding that the opposite is true: Politics is still where it’s at.The New York Times ran an article yesterday that collects interviews with a number of campaigners suggesting that this year should be a good one for political consultants.That 2008 was a record-setting fundraising year is old news, but the hot question has been whether or not that trend will continue once memories of the presidential election have faded. It’s hard to predict, but the Times cites anecdotes has a few anecdotes suggesting there will be plenty of business in NYC politics this year. As of March 12, there were already 216 candidates on file—an unprecedented number, according to an election board spokesman in the article—and $14 million had already been spent on campaigning. Some candidates have already outraised previous winners.
Councilman Eric N. Gioia of Queens, who is running for public advocate, has raised more than $2.3 million so far, mostly in $10 increments, his campaign manager, Eli Richlin, said. That is almost $1 million more than the total raised by the two-term incumbent Betsy Gotbaum for the 2005 race, according to campaign finance records.In the comptroller’s race, which is shaping up to be this year’s most competitive, the leading fund-raiser is Councilman John C. Liu of Queens, who has raised $3.1 million, records show. By contrast, in 2005, Mr. Thompson, the incumbent, collected $2.3 million in private donations to finance his re-election bid.
Those numbers are impressive because, despite the increased political activity, it remains a difficult environment for fundraisers. The article notes that once-lavish fundraising dinners have been downgraded to cash bars and finger foods. I’ve talked with a number of fundraisers and most admit to a small but inevitable decline in giving, though just how steep the decline will be is unclear. Stay tuned for tips about fundraising in the recession in the April edition of Politics.