Updated: Mar 25, 2022
"Dark money insiders", "insider megadonors", "establishment money". These are the terms used by Jeremy Matlow's campaign to villainize his opponent's donor and spin the fact that his campaign lags far behind in political donations.
It's interesting to see a political campaign whose messaging is almost exclusively based on their opponent's ability to fundraise. Even more interesting is the way that they manipulate their own numbers to create the narrative that Matlow's campaign is "people-powered".
For example, take this recent plea from the Matlow campaign. Here, they assert that their average contribution is $327 lower than that of David Bellamy's. Leaving aside the fact that the absurd message seems to be "I don't have as much buy-in as my opponent, so support me", the numbers are deceiving.
It appears that to calculate the average contribution, Matlow's campaign is simply taking the average of each individual contribution.
Further, the campaign, through their personal political blog, falsely compares the number of individual donors to his opponent:
Nevermind that, if you count actual individuals rather than individual donations, the number of individual donors for Matlow is actually 554, the campaign regularly engages in data manipulation to craft a narrative.
Why is this a problem? For two reasons:
1) Because it doesn't account for multiple contributions by one individual.
Matlow has, as part of his campaign, criticized the practice of "bundling" checks by individuals with more than one business entity. Unfortunately, he does not hold himself to the same standard, refusing to acknowledge multiple donations by the same individual.
For example, Jeff VanderMeer has given twice: one check for $750, and another for $250. Using Matlow's calculation, the average would be $500 even though this individual gave $1,000.
Another contributor, Leighanne Boone, gave a total of $1,078.
This gets a little stickier because this is over the legal limit and $78 had to be returned. However, Boone gave this in increments of $200, $50, $400, $400, $1, and $27, for an average of $179.67.
The table on the left, sorted by individual, demonstrates what this looks like.
As you scroll through the table, you see the real story, and how the real numbers are being manipulated.
Reviewing the table, we find that Matlow's own average, after dumping $13,034 into his campaign via donations, loans, and in-kind contributions, is $1,629.
If all of these contributions are lumped together by individual contributor, you get the true average, which comes out to $180. Almost double the average the Matlow campaign advertises.
2) Matlow has asked for $1 contributions, a contribution so absurd that its only purpose can be to lower the average.
Crying out against "special interests," Matlow has pleaded with his supporters to give him $1 donations.
It might be argued that every dollar counts, and that this is a sign of support from those that can't afford to write $1,000 checks. This is true, and before the critics pounce, the point here is not to belittle the amount written, but to question: Why would a campaign go out of their way to request such a small sum? Campaigns cost money to run: Ad purchases, yard signs, manpower, mailers, social media, consultants; all these expenses add up quickly. In fact, it costs money to raise money. According to Matlow's campaign finance disclosures, they have spent a little over $4,000 this election cycle, just on bank fees. If you add the total from all of his supporters who gave $5 or less, it comes out to a hair over $500, not even enough to cover his bank fees. So, why? Because it artificially lowers his average.
For example, Marina Pecorino gave $100, $50, and $1. Her average? $50. Michael Riley gave $1, $87, and $55. His average? $48. Collectively, these two individuals average is $49, but they've given $294.
You can see from the table below, that, if you remove donations of $5 and less, and group the individuals with multiple contributions, Matlow's average is about $200, a far cry from the $73 he touts in his fundraising messages.
You may wonder why Matlow goes to all this trouble to hide his money? Because, for an individual who has contributed over $78k to himself over the last two election cycles, that is the only way he can position himself as outside of the wealthy business class he disparages on a regular basis.
This mathematical manipulation is also an excellent way to spin the fact that Matlow simply does not have as much support as his opponent. By labeling his opponent's donors as "corrupt" and framing them as the "establishment", he hides the fact that many of those with the strongest investment in our community have rejected his candidacy.
We see this, too, in the fact that while he criticizes the use of "out-of-town" political consultants, much of Matlow's political donations come from out of town and out of state.
The fact is, Matlow's opponent has seen record fundraising numbers because those in our community with the greatest investments, those who provide the most jobs, those who have the most to lose if Tallahassee loses momentum, have rejected Matlow's divisive rhetoric and obstructionist policies. This focus on campaign finance is yet another attempt to distract from the fact that, in his 4-year tenure, he has been divisive, abrasive, and has ultimately accomplished nothing.