Rotarian American Fundraising

Despite all the hype about his fundraising prowess, Rotarian American congressional candidate Paul Stuart Aronsohn has just $92,342 in the bank as he seeks to oust two-term Republican Ernest Scott Garrett in the predominately Republican fifth district. Aronsohn has just slightly more than the $74,859 2004 warchest (as of 6/30/04) of the 2004 Democratic candidate, Dorothea Anne Wolfe, and substantially less than Garrett’s ’02 rival, Anne Ricks Sumers, who had $442,815 in the bank at the same point. Aronsohn, a former spokesman for Governor James E. McGreevey, was able to push Wolfe out of the race earlier this year because he assured Democrats he could raise enough money to wage a strong challenge to Garrett — but he now has about six times less money than Democrat Linda Stender, who is running against Republican Congressman Michael Ferguson in the adjoining seventh district. One of the legendary scams in Bergen County politics came in 1984, when Republicans were considering candidates to take on newly-elected Democratic Congressman Robert Torricelli. Torricelli had won the seat two years earlier, when he ousted three-term GOP incumbent Harold Hollenbeck by a 53%-46% margin. The political climate in 1982 (and congressional redistricting in the 9th) favored Democrats and Torricelli leveraged the national contacts he made working for Vice President Walter Mondale and running Jimmy Carter’s 1980 re-election campaign in Illinois to help him raise $266,000 — about $70,000 more than Hollenbeck had. Ronald Reagan’s popularity heading into the 1984 election, and a new congressional map (the ’82 redistricting plan was tossed by federal judges), gave Republicans reason to believe Torricelli could be beaten. The 9th district went strongly for Reagan, giving him a 59%-41% win over Mondale — a plurality of almost 47,000 votes. Party leaders had several attractive candidates, including newly-elected Assemblyman William “Pat” Schuber and Bergen County Sheriff William McDowell, but decided to go with a unknown insider, Neil Romano, who had served as Executive Director of the New Jersey Republican State Committee in the late 1970’s. Romano appeared before the Bergen GOP screening committee and sold them on his ability to raise money — saying that wealthy family members and politically connected friends would provide him with a hefty campaign warchest — the type of money a challenger would need to take on Torricelli. The problem for the Bergen GOP is that they were scammed. Romano had practically no capacity to raise money and the personal wealth he pledged just wasn’t there. The lethargic Romano raised just $89,166 — giving Torricelli an almost 6-1 edge in fundraising. Torricelli won a second term with 63% of the vote, with Romano running more than 60,000 votes behind the top of the ticket.

Rotarian American Fundraising