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Ward 3′s Campaign Money: Who Gave What and How It Was Spent

The two candidates drew voters and the media to their July 19 debate. And together, they have collected more than $14,000 in campaign contributions. (David Reid photos)

NORTHAMPTON – With one week to go before a special election to fill the vacant Ward 3 City Council seat, the two candidates – retired orthodontist Arnold Levinson and financial consultant Owen Freeman-Daniels – have filed their list of campaign contributors and expenses with the city clerk.

The reports show that Levinson has outpaced Freeman Daniels in both money raised and spent on the race.

According to the campaign finance statements, Levinson raised $9,100 and spent $7,773; Freeman-Daniels raised $5,151 and spent $4,063. At the end of the reporting period, Levinson has $1,326 left in his campaign coffers; Freeman-Daniels’ campaign had $1,088 left in the bank.

Both candidate’s reports, required by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, were filed on Monday, the deadline.

Arnie Levinson.

The two are vying to fill the unexpired term of Angela Plassmann, the freshman Ward 3 councilor who abruptly quit her $5,000-a-year post in April as Building Commissioner Louis Hasbrouck was investigating an illegal house trailer on her property on Fair Street Extension, in the Connecticut River floodplain.

Freeman-Daniels and Levinson debated on July 19, an event that drew about 100, including reporters, current and former ward councilors, and plenty of activists on both sides, including Plassmann. (To see our story on the debate and listen to audio recordings, click here. To see a video of the debate shot by Northampton Community TV, click here.)

Whoever wins the Aug. 3 special election will hold the post until next Jan. 2. An election for a full two-year term to start on that date will be held on Nov. 8, along with the other eight City Council seats, mayor, and several School Committee posts.

Arnie’s List of Contributors

Levinson’s report listed 22 people who contributed a total of $8,950 in increments of more than $50 or more, and $150 raised from donations below $50. Counted in the total was $5,000 that Levinson contributed to his own campaign in the form of a loan, which is also carried as an outstanding liability.

Among Levinson’s major contributors were blogger Adam Cohen and his wife, Jendi Reiter, who gave $500 apiece. Cohen – who was also was the prime financial backer for Plassmann – also spent $1,690 of his own money on website maintenance and updates, beverages for a meet-and-greet event, flyers and other stuff, and was reimbursed by the campaign.

Other top contributors to Levinson’s campaign were: Samuel Calagione Jr. of Montague, Mass., $500; Marilyn Levinson, the candidate’s wife, $500; Frank Werbinski, the candidate’s treasurer, $500; Jonathan Plassmann, the husband of the former Ward 3 city councilor, $300; Frank Christopher of Belchertown, $200; and bus driver Philip Brocklesby of Northampton, $100. Michael Bardsley, the former city councilor and a candidate for mayor this fall, gave Levinson $50.

Owen Freeman-Daniels.

Freeman-Daniels’ report listed 94 contributors, which included everyone who donated any money at all to the campaign.

Among the top contributors to Owen-Daniels’ campaign were: At-large City Councilor Jesse Adams, $250; former Ward 3 city councilor Robert Reckman, $200; Thomas Biggins of Belmont, Mass., $200; Lisa Baskin of Northampton, $200; David Elan of Boston, $200; and Ward 3 residents Wendy and David Newton, a combined $260.

Giving $100 apiece to Freeman-Daniels were former Ward 1 city councilor and at-large council candidate William Dwight and his wife A. Lewis; Marty Nathan and Elliot Fratkin of the city; former at-large city councilor and Realtor Patrick Goggins and his wife Denise, of Northampton; retired businessman Alfred Griggs; and Evan Daniels and his wife Sue Freeman of Goshen, the candidate’s parents.

Other notables on Freeman-Daniels’ list of contributors include: Northampton businessman Alan Verson ($75), Ward 4 City Councilor Pamela Schwartz ($75), Ward 1 City Councilor Maureen Carney ($50), Northampton Housing Authority Executive Director Jon Hite ($50), and former Ward 5 city councilor Alex Ghiselin.

The difference in contributions between the two candidates is stark.

There were 94 contributors to Freeman-Daniel’s campaign, as opposed to Levinson’s 22, a more than fourfold difference.

Not counting Levinson’s $5,000 loan to his own campaign, his average contributor gave $188. Freeman-Daniels’ average contributor gave $54.80.

The top seven contributors to Levinson’s campaign, including himself, account for 85.7 percent of his receipts. Freeman-Daniels’ top seven monetary donations amounted to only 25.4 percent.

Where Did They Spend the Money?

One of the most visible clues about where a campaign spends its money can be seen on the front lawns and windows wherever voters live, and Ward 3 is no exception: lawn signs are almost everywhere.

The two candidates spent about $3,000 on lawn signs, some of which appear on the same front lawns.

Once again, Levinson’s campaign outspent Freeman-Daniels on lawn signs, $1,612 to $1,335.

Levinson also spent about $3,100 on post cards, copies, mailings stamps and related campaign materials, according to his campaign finance report. Another $817 was spent on food, table rentals and other items related to a meet-and-greet event, $200 to rent the World War II Club for his campaign kick-off event, $265 for a campaign banner, $346 on campaign buttons, $175 for “webs site maintenance and updates,” and $150 deposit on an 11 Market Street campaign headquarters (campaign supporter Suzanne Van Dyke contributed another $150 for the headquarters deposit). It was unclear if any money was spent to furnish or supply the campaign office.

According to the report, Levinson shelled out $3,631 himself to rent tables, a gas grill and buy food for the meet-and-greet event.

Freeman-Daniels’ report lists spending on many similar items.

Among his expenditures: $397 for pamphlets, postcards, printing and mailing; $671 for campaign literature, invitations and graphics; $655 for an ice cream social (Steve Herrell), and food (including Joe’s Pizza) and refreshments for Salvo House residents; and $66 for food for a campaign strategy meeting.

In-kind contributions to Freeman-Daniels’ campaign totaled $887 from: Ward resident Jim Nash ($100 for Salvo House party food), Margot Zalkind ($250 for campaign logo, literature and graphic design), Lou Franko ($200 for help creating a campaign website) and Freeman-Daniels himself ($60 for website hosting and domain name registration).

Levinson’s campaign listed no in-kind contributions.

Website Questions and Incorrect Addresses

Freeman-Daniels told Northampton Media he spent at least 12 hours himself putting together his campaign website, in addition to the four or five hours Franko spent on the site. (At the bottom of Freeman-Daniels’ website is a notation: “Copyright © Official Campaign for Owen Freeman-Daniels for Ward 3 – owenforward3.”)

Videographer and blogger Adam Cohen has helped Arnie Levinson get his website up and running.

Oddly, Levinson listed no in-kind contributions at all, and no reference at all about any person or entity that produced his website; but he did list $175 reimbursed to Adam Cohen for  the purpose of “web site maintenance and updates” spent with Dot.Inc Solutions Inc. of Hadley. (There is no copyright or webmaster to be found on Levinson’s site.)

Questioned about whether various services related to Levinson’s website should be listed as either expenses or in-kind contributions to the campaign, City Clerk Wendy Mazza told Northampton Media that they should. But she said she did not know who built Levinson’s website or paid for domain name registration and hosting, or why that information was not declared. Mazza said if questions persist she would seek that information.

There were a few irregularities we found examining the two campaign finance statements.

Of particular note was the address listed for Adam Cohen and wife Jendi Reiter on the receipts portion of the financial statement submitted by Levinson’s campaign treasurer, Frank J. Werbinski. The couple, each of whom contributed $500, lives at 134 North Street in Ward 3, but the listed address was “351 Pleasant St., PMB 222,” a postal box.

Next to his own $500 contribution to the campaign, Werbinksi listed his address as 374 Pleasant St., PMB 122. He lives on Bridge Street in the ward with his wife Sydney Stern.

State campaign finance laws require that anyone contributing $200 or more to a political candidate list their home address.

A different but address-related faux pas was found on Freeman-Daniels’ alphabetical list of contributors.

Angela Plassmann, whose resignation in April forced a special election.

The first name on the list was that of At-large City Councilor Jesse Adams, $250, with his home address listed as 393 River Road in Deerfield, Mass.

When asked by Northampton Media about how a city councilor could list an out-of-town address, Adams said he must have used an old bank check with the home address of his parents, where he had lived a few years ago. Adams lives in downtown Northampton at 187 Main St., above his father’s jewelry store.

The only other oddity noted in the forms were two $300 contributions to Levinson from state Environmental Police Officer Jonathan Plassmann, husband of the former Ward 3 councilor; there was also a reimbursement of $300 to Plassmann listed elsewhere in the report. City Clerk Mazza explained that Mr. Plassmann had given the Levinson campaign $300 in cash, which is not allowed; the campaign wrote him a $300 check, and Plassmann then turned around and wrote the campaign a check for the same amount.

Individuals cannot contribute more than $500 to a candidate in any one calendar year.

Levinson’s report, submitted by Werbinski, was dated April 16 through July 22. Freeman-Daniels’ report, submitted by treasurer Madeline Blanchette, was dated May 1 through July 25.

Any additional fundraising or campaign spending will be listed on subsequent reports required by the state.

© 2011 Northampton Media

David Reid can be reached at dreid@northamptonmedia.com

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2 Responses for “Ward 3′s Campaign Money: Who Gave What and How It Was Spent”

  1. ward3mom says:

    Four households contributed $7400 out of the $9100 that Arnie’s raised; not exactly a grass roots campaign…

  2. tiedyeguy says:

    Any candidate who counts anti-freedom Cohen as not just a financial contributor, but as an individual closely associated with producing it’s propaganda, will surely not get my vote.

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