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Apr 25, 2014 3:47 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Despite Limited Donations, Demos Outpaces Zeldin, Bishop In Campaign Spending

Apr 29, 2014 4:21 PM

Despite being renounced by his local party leadership and drastically out-fundraised by his opponents, congressional-hopeful George Demos has shown no sign of relenting in his pursuit of Tim Bishop for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In February, the Suffolk County Republican Committee snubbed Mr. Demos, electing to instead nominate State Senator Lee Zeldin, an attorney from Shirley, to run against Mr. Bishop this fall. But despite local GOP leaders urging him to drop out of the race, Mr. Demos has remained active, thanks in large part to personal loans to his campaign totaling $2 million, setting up a likely primary match-up with Mr. Zeldin on Tuesday, June 24.

“The response to our campaign has been fantastic,” said Kevin Tschirhart, a spokesman for Mr. Demos, during a recent interview. “Voters are rejecting Albany politician Lee Zeldin and his policies that helped bring Obamacare to New York State.”

A former prosecutor for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission who lives in Stony Brook, Mr. Demos spent $815,686.22 between January 1 and March 31—more than Mr. Bishop and Mr. Zeldin have spent collectively thus far in the campaign cycle—despite raising just over $35,000 in donations during that same time, according to his campaign’s quarterly report filed on April 15 with the Federal Election Commission.

The vast majority of Mr. Demos’s campaign spending this year has gone toward advertising, totaling more than $560,000 in media buys and advertising, along with another $106,000 in direct mail campaigns. Together, they account for more than 80 percent of the Friends of George Demos committee’s first-quarter expenditures.

“We’re letting the voters know that Lee Zeldin voted to fund Obamacare, and advertising is the best way to let people know,” Mr. Tschirhart said. “This is a guy who claims to be one of us, but turns around twice to vote to support Obamacare.”

The Demos campaign has connected the allegation to Mr. Zeldin’s two votes, as a state senator, in favor of the past two state budgets, which included line items that funded provisions of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

“The U.S. Congress funded Obamacare, not the New York State Legislature,” Mr. Zeldin countered. “We were accounting for federal funds that would be spent on Obamacare, whether we wanted them to or not.”

Mr. Zeldin pulled in $261,060.58 during the first quarter, more than seven times what his primary election challenger has raised. And while Mr. Demos spent a small fortune on messaging, Mr. Zeldin only dropped $28,825 on advertising, media consulting and direct mail, as well as $8,617.47 toward social media consultants.

Most of Mr. Zeldin’s money was invested in consultants and general operating costs. In total, the Zeldin for Congress committee spent $157,629.60 last quarter, according to federal records.

But that lack of messaging might be hurting Mr. Zeldin. His overall donations dropped off from the previous quarter, when he raised $342,111.28. But he explained the drop-off as being more indicative of an inflated first filing, the result of a backlog of donors whom his campaign lined up prior to his declaring his candidacy in October.

“A lot of those first-quarter commitments were expected before we even announced,” said Mr. Zeldin, who ran against and lost to Mr. Bishop in 2008. “Our focus this last quarter was to meet as many new people as possible who would be able to give some support up front, but also support us through the remainder of the campaign.”

But Mr. Bishop, a Democrat from Southampton who is seeking reelection for the sixth time, said the drop-off could be a sign of trouble for Mr. Zeldin, considering the barrage of attack ads Mr. Demos has launched against him so far this year.

“He’s in a very, very tough primary, and his fundraising support didn’t respond,” Mr. Bishop said. “That’s not a good sign.”

Mr. Zeldin said his campaign is rolling out a new TV commercial on Fox News, and advertising will become more of a focus for his campaign during the final two months before the primary election.

The U.S. Jobs Council, a Washington, D.C.-based Super Political Action Committee, funded an attack on Mr. Demos earlier this month, accusing him of using political ties with Nancy Pelosi, the current minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, to finance his campaign. The ad links Mr. Demos to the former Democratic Speaker of the House by way of his father-in-law, Angelo Tsakopoulos, a successful land developer in Sacramento, California, and prominent Democratic donor.

To date, more than half of the individual campaign contributions Mr. Demos has reported have come from California, totaling $127,800, with $36,400 of that coming from various members of the Tsakopoulos family. Because of this influx of out-of-state money, the Zeldin camp has accused Mr. Demos of being propped up almost entirely by his family and other Democratic donors in order to siphon support from Mr. Zeldin.

The Demos campaign decried these claims as an act of desperation.

“They’re desperate and they’re saying that because they have nothing else to say,” Mr. Tschirhart said. “Of course, George’s family is supporting him, but George Demos is the one running for Congress, not his aunts, uncles, cousins, father-in-law or wife.”

While the battle for the Republican nomination festered, Mr. Bishop flexed his fundraising muscle by bringing in $300,919.49 in the first quarter, nearly half of which came from various PACs and other candidates’ campaigns. During that time he spent $144,312, more than $65,000 of which went toward consulting fees and almost $20,000 toward hosting fundraisers at several locations, such as 230 Elm in Southampton Village, the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center in Riverhead, and the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan.

Mr. Bishop attributed his fundraising success to a grassroots following that he has developed since first running for Congress in 2002, as well as an overall perception that he has served the district well since taking office. He also dismissed allegations that Mr. Demos, who made a run for his seat in 2012 before pulling out due to his upcoming marriage, was somehow benefiting from Democratic party support.

“That’s ridiculous to think that anyone who wants to help me is going to do so by supporting George Demos,” Mr. Bishop said. “That doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Both Mr. Bishop and Mr. Zeldin said they aren’t afraid of being outspent by Mr. Demos.

Thus far, the Republican and Democratic parties have stayed out of this race, with Mr. Bishop receiving only $1,158 from Democrats, Mr. Zeldin receiving $11,056 from Republicans and Mr. Demos getting no party contributions. But Mr. Bishop anticipates that both parties, as well as outside groups, will get more involved in the race before all is said and done.

“There’s no question that this is a targeted race, so there’s no question that both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Campaign Committee will get involved,” he said. “And I would be very surprised if the outside groups, the so-called 501(c)(4)s or Super PACs, don’t get involved as well.”

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> “The response to our campaign has been fantastic,”
> said Kevin Tschirhart, a spokesman for Mr. Demos....

What would you expect Tschirhart to say? He has no more credibility than any spokesperson, flack-catcher or talking head in an infomercial. Is Demos even going to make it to the Primary, or will he take another powder as he did last time?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Apr 25, 14 4:12 PM
Now isn't that something? Bishop gets caught breaking house ethics rules with his pay-to-play scheme aka "Operation What Piping Plover?", becomes the subject of a house ethics committee investigation, certainly the subject of increased oversight and all of a sudden he trails in fundraising.
By Sandy I Duncan (7), southampton on Apr 26, 14 6:28 AM
If either Mr. Demos or Mr. Zeldin thinks they're going to win a seat in Congress by vowing to repeal Obamacare, they're misguided. The Affordable Care Act is gaining traction all over, and most people want to improve it and keep it. Bashing Obamacare isn't working well for candidates in places that are far more anti-Obama than New York's 1st Congressional District, and it surely won't work here.

This will be a hard-fought election as in past years, reflecting a healthy division of opinion ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Apr 26, 14 11:12 AM
I NEVER agree with TB -- except when he's on to something -- which he seems to be here despite his well-known Democratic proclivities!
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Apr 26, 14 12:04 PM
Even Dems get it right sometimes.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Apr 28, 14 9:46 AM
Obamacare a success? What an ignorant statement when next year 90 million Americans will have their coverage put in jeopardy.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 6, 14 6:25 AM
A reputable study was released yesterday which deems New York as the worst state in the nation in which to retire. This is due to the highest tax rates and the 4th highest cost of living in the country. This is a very poor distinction and any politician that would like to serve this state should address this in their campaign, in my opinion.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on May 6, 14 7:14 AM
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