Melissa Mark-Viverito pulled off a unanimous vote when she became the speaker of the City Council earlier this month, and she conducted an unprecedented and calculated fundraising campaign to get there that didn't come cheap. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
Melissa Mark-Viverito got creative during her candidacy for City Council speaker.
She raised $100,000 for her bid. It paid for staffers and meals to court council members, and for a political conference in Puerto Rico.
It was an unprecedented move that sources say was never done before in a race for Council speaker, creating a political action committee with the state Board of Elections, not with the city. It allowed the speaker to raise more and spend more on her run.
Between the general election and January 10, she raised about $100,000 and spent more than $70,000.
For comparison's sake, in the two months leading up to her election as speaker in 2006, Christine Quinn spent about $3,000, according to campaign finance filings.
"It's very unique. It's very different," said Alex Camarda of Citizens Union. "It's not something that we've seen before."
The speaker was collecting contributions as high as $3,850. That's not the contribution limit for the City Council, but for a borough-wide office.
"That raises the question as to why wouldn't this be declared as a city account for that office," Camarda said. "Of course, if that had been done, it's less likely that she would have been able to create it in the first place."
In a statement, Susan Lerner, the leader of Common Cause New York said, "The Speaker should be working to bring the state's lax campaign finance laws in line with the city system, not exploiting them for political advantage."
The speaker also wrote checks to groups that were working behind the scenes lobbying for Mark-Viverito's candidacy. They were marked as donations. $8,500 was handed to the Working Families Party. Another $10,000 was given to the labor-backed group New York Communities for Change.
When NY1 asked the Mark-Viverito campaign about the account, a spokesman said that before it was created, the campaign sought guidance from both the city Campaign Finance Board and the state Board of Elections. They said that they followed all of the city's campaign finance laws.