STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Vito Fossella’s recent filing with the city Campaign Finance Board (CFB) answers some of the “where’s the money?” questions that were raised after his previous filings showed only $113 of expenditures for a robust primary campaign.
Fossella secured the Republican nomination for Staten Island borough president heading into November’s general election, beating his closest rival, Councilman Steven Matteo, by about 400 votes.
In the weeks before the primary election, Fossella’s CFB filings showed he spent only $113 on credit card processing fees and received $1,500 in-kind contributions from a fundraiser, despite hundreds of maroon signs dotting borough lawns, a billboard near the Outerbridge Crossing and an endorsement letter mailing from former Borough President James Molinaro.
CFB laws state that everything must be reported – whether something was personally paid for, donated monies were used or services were donated, known as in-kind contributions.
At the time a Fossella spokesman, campaign strategist Dave Catalfamo, said the campaign was run out of the candidate’s basement and was a complete volunteer effort, and promised more disclosures were on the way.
“The campaign is awaiting some invoices and subsequent filings will reflect expenditures consistent with CFB guidance,” Catalfamo said at the time.
WHERE DID THE MONEY GO?
Online records show that Fossella recently filed $65,701.69 in expenditures and in-kind contributions with the CFB.
Of the $65,701.69, nearly $14,000 was spent on automated phone calls and text messages.
Registered Staten Island Republicans received automated phone calls on June 21 and June 22 from former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Fossella for borough president and urged voters to vote for the former congressman on primary election day.
Online, a last-minute Facebook ad posted by Newsmax Media Inc. — the conservative news outlet — that promoted a story about Trump’s endorsement cost the company $25,000, THE CITY reported. Because it is a news outlet, the ad does not qualify as an in-kind donation, and does not need to be reported to the Campaign Finance Board.
“Our rules protect the rights of organizations that produce news stories or commentary and do not cover expenditures to publish or promote their work,” Matt Sollars, a CFB spokesperson, told THE CITY.
Mailers accounted for $31,435.29 in Fossella’s disclosures; an additional $523.21 was used for credit card processing fees and $6,964.95 for emails.
A source told the Advance/SILive.com the expenditure reported for campaign mailer accounts for the Molinaro letter that was mailed to Staten Islanders.
Data display cost the Fossella campaign $6,135.13.
Still missing from the expenditure and in-kind contribution report are the fundraisers at The Roadhouse and Italianissmo.
In total, three fundraisers were held — April 29 at The Roadhouse, June 1 at Joyce’s Tavern and June 2 at Italianissimo — all of which were promoted as being paid for by “Vito Fossella for BP.” The Joyce’s Tavern fundraiser is listed as an in-kind contribution.
The source said The Roadhouse and Italianissimo have yet to produce necessary documentation needed for the campaign to file the expenditure with the CFB.
CFB rules state: “For each in-kind contribution, candidates must maintain a written record that provides the date the contribution was made, the name and residential address of the contributor, a detailed description of the goods or services provided, the fair market value of the contribution, and such further information and documentation necessary to show how the fair market value of the contribution was determined.”
There is an in-kind contribution maximum of $1,500 per person or business.
CFB also states, “You must disclose all contributions and expenditures in the disclosure statement due immediately after they are received/incurred in our financial disclosure web-based application, C-SMART. If contributions are not disclosed for the period in which they were received, they will not be eligible for matching funds.”
Fossella did not meet qualifications for matching funds during the last disclosure period. The next disclosure period is from July 12 to Aug. 23 with an Aug. 27 deadline.
The source also said the billboard was not associated with the Fossella campaign. “It was a spontaneous show of support, much like a hand made lawn sign or social media post,” they said.
“Vito is humbled by the incredible support he has received from people all around Staten Island as reflected in his CFB filings, which will continue to be updated as necessary,” Catalfamo said when asked about the recent filings.
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