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When the well runs dry

After the two week feeding frenzy over Photogate, the press is settling down somewhat and looking at Virginia Fields dire funding mess (although looking at her record as Borough President seems still far off).

It comes down to this: without money you're sinking fast.

Last week, Fields's Washington, D.C. fundraiser saw the headliner, Donna Brazile, back off with a lame excuse.

Yesterday, less than 10 contributers reportedly showed up at the Laugh Factory. We can only imagine there was more commiseration than mirth.

Perhaps Fields should just give it up and wait for Charlie Rangel to retire. Insider scuttlebut suggested that was her first option after a job with a Kerry administration evaporated. But now after suffering through Photogate, PaddyWagongate and who knows what might be in the offing, Virginia Fields is nothing more than damaged goods. What's worse than her miserable candidacy is watching it die a slow death.

Would it be that her demise came from a thorough scrutiny of her horrible record as Borough President, but politics (and the press) never seem to look very deep.

Today's reports (click on the link below for the articles):

Newsday: A funding problem for Fields?
She's running out of cash fast, spending twice as much as she has raised, with only $312,000 on hand, making it impossible to mount a credible operation. Even with expected matching funds, she pales in comparison to the other Democratic challengers.

New York Sun: Fields Campaign Needs Fund-Raising Base and Lacks a Defining Issue
Fields campaign can hardly maintain its footing despite the earlier surge. So it may be impossible for a candidate with no vision ... Even forcing a runoff seems out of the picture. Keith Wright: "I can guarantee there's a strategy..." which immediately relegates him to the 'what's he-smoking' category.

New York Times: Fields Camp, Trailing in Cash, Says Workers Have Been Paid

Appears the Fields campaign is dederring payments to ease cash-flow problems and create a false appearance of funding stability. According to the campaign, the workers just all happened to ask for their payments late ... all at the same time.

Daily News: Ex-aide: Fields' funds drying up
Mercurio says "Fields' campaign delayed paying employees to pump up her war chest on public filings ... The fund-raising was incompetent, toxic." So says Joe.

A funding problem for Fields?
by Glenn Thrush
July 18, 2005

Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields is running out of cash fast, burning through more than twice as much money as her mayoral campaign collected since May.

With less than 60 days before the Democratic primary, Fields has only about $312,000 on hand -- which could effectively prevent her from running TV ads or mounting a big direct mail operation, political watchers said.

"She will not be a presence on television until she raises much more money very quickly," said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran Democratic consultant who isn't allied with any mayoral campaign this year. "She can still mount a reasonable field operation but she can't really do direct mail."

Fields' campaign manager Chung Seto said the borough president expects to get $1.4 million in matching funds from the board before the Sept. 13 primary, cash she'll use to hit the airwaves.

"We will continue to raise money," Seto added. "Virginia has always won races where she's been told she has little resources."

The Fields campaign raised only about $184,000 in the last two months, while spending more than $400,000 on staff salaries, polling, fund-raising and other expenses.

About $99,000 of her spending went to San Francisco-based Winning Directions, the firm that produced a now-infamous flier featuring a pair of Asian-Americans who were digitally inserted into a photo of the candidate.

The campaign's top consultant, Joseph Mercurio, was fired over the mailing, but maintains Fields signed off on its release.

All three of Fields' rivals in the Democratic mayoral race out-raised her during the same period and all have far more cash on hand, according to board records. City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) has about $2.8 million and Queens Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn-Queens) has about $1.7 million.

As of May, former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer had around $2.5 million.

The New York Sun
by Hadi Fa Rahani
July 19, 2005

Just three months ago, the Manhattan borough president, C. Virginia Fields, was surging in the public opinion polls and had won an endorsement from one of the city's most influential black leaders, Rep. Charles Rangel.

Now, however, her campaign is struggling to regain its footing after an embarrassing doctored photograph scandal, the firing of its top campaign adviser, a string of bad press, and a fund-raising operation lagging behind all of its rivals.

With $1.6 million in contributions and more than $1.3 million spent, Ms. Fields has raised less money and burned through her cash at a faster clip than the three other candidates running in the Democratic primary.

Political analysts have said it could be difficult for Ms. Fields, the only black candidate and woman in the race, to make up for lost fund-raising ground and to overcome her campaign's internal troubles. Her campaign spokeswoman, Kirsten Powers, said the campaign will have "enough money to do what we need to do."

Yet if Ms. Fields doesn't increase her existing pool of "matchable money," she could be short of the cash she needs to launch an aggressive television advertising campaign and to send out direct mail in the weeks leading up to the primary. Though campaign officials were tight-lipped about their strategy, there is no doubt the Fields camp will have to come up with new, innovative techniques for reaching voters if the funds don't materialize.

Political analysts said the fund-raising woes could be compounded by the fact the borough president has not articulated a discernable vision of how she would change things in the city if she won.

"The Fields campaign right now, and this is less true of the other major campaigns, does not have a defining issue," a political science professor at Baruch College, David Birdsell, said.

"As a result, what's left is the candidate,"he said."To a certain extent,this is a classic New York identity political campaign. Whether that will be enough to force a runoff, we don't know right now. If the electorate votes down racially and ethnically divided lines, she has a shot."

Ms. Fields, who was raised in Birmingham, Ala., during segregation and made her first push into advocacy during the civil rights movement, where she marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has made plenty of appearances with black leaders and used her upbringing as a selling point in her campaign material.

Most political consultants agree that she will need a high turnout from black voters to hold the Democratic front-runner, Fernando Ferrer, below 40% of the vote in the primary and force a runoff.

"I think her strategy has been to hope and trust that she'll have an affinity with African-American voters and to make a pitch to Latino voters in Manhattan,particularly to wean Dominican voters in Washington Heights from Freddy Ferrer," the director of the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York, John Mollenkopf, said.

Assemblyman Keith Wright, a Democrat who represents northern Manhattan - and is running to replace Ms. Fields as borough president, said he was confident she would surge ahead and pointed out that she has consistently placed second in the polls.

"I've known this woman for over 20 years," Mr. Wright said. "We have walked the streets together, we have campaigned together.You don't underestimate this woman. She gets it done."

Ms. Fields has also donated money from her campaign to local and national women's groups and tapped them as another natural constituency.

So far, that has paid off to some degree. While her opponents are getting more support from men than women, Ms. Fields's numbers are reversed. The keynote speaker at her first major fundraiser was Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor of New Hampshire and national chairwoman pf Senator Kerry's presidential campaign.

"Virginia is herself a trained strategist," Mr. Wright said. "I can guarantee there's a strategy, whether they are sharing it or not is another thing. It's like being in a football huddle. You don't want to tell the other side what your plan is."

Fields Camp, Trailing in Cash, Says Workers Have Been Paid
New York Times
by Randal C. Archibold and Jim Rutenberg
July 20, 2005

For months, the mayoral campaign of C. Virginia Fields has typically paid many of its consultants at the beginning of the month, dutifully registering the payments in its campaign finance filings every two months.

But in the latest filing, the campaign, wrestling with money problems, showed no entries for several consultants, who normally would have been paid a total of at least $24,000. That set off speculation in political circles that the campaign was deferring the payments to ease its short-term financial health.

Not so, insist Fields campaign officials. Everybody who was owed money - including Chung Seto, the campaign manager ($13,350) and William McCaffrey, an adviser ($3,000) - has been paid within the past week, said Kirsten Powers, Ms. Fields's press secretary.

"I have my check sitting right at home," said Ms. Powers, who added she was paid $10,000 on Friday but has not yet cashed it because of a technical problem with her bank.

Ms. Powers said the consultants were paid when they submitted their invoices; the payments did not show up on the campaign finance report, she said, because the consultants happened to have requested payment later in the month than they had in previous months.

Ms. Fields's campaign has been suffering financially.

While she is in second place in the polls among the four Democrats running for the chance to face Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, she recently reported the lowest amount of money raised among them during the latest two-month period, $184,000. The leader, Anthony D. Weiner, a congressman from Brooklyn and Queens who has been third or fourth in most polls, raised $305,000 in the period.

The other Democratic candidates are Gifford Miller, the City Council president, and Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president who has been leading the Democratic field in polls.

Ms. Fields has raised a total of $1.7 million, qualifying for $361,000 in matching funds, but has been spending money as fast as she has raised it, leaving only $311,000 on hand as the campaign goes into the final weeks before the Sept. 13 primary.

As problems continued to plague many of his Democratic opponents, Mr. Bloomberg's campaign received another dose of good news yesterday, in the form of a Quinnipiac University poll showing his approval rating at 60 percent, and at 58 percent even among Democrats. The approval figure was the highest it has been in more than three years, according to Maurice Carroll, director of the university's Polling Institute.

The poll, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, showed Mr. Bloomberg beating Mr. Ferrer by 16 points in a two-way race. The poll also shows him defeating each of the other three - Ms. Fields, Mr. Weiner and Mr. Miller - by 25 or 26 percentage points.

There was some good news for Mr. Miller. The poll showed him closing the gap with Ms. Fields among Democratic voters, with 15 percent support to her 16 percent. Mr. Ferrer remains comfortably in the lead among Democrats, with 33 percent.

Mike McIntire contributed reporting for this article.

Ex-aide: Fields' funds drying up
New York Daily News
by Michael Saul
July 20, 2005

Virginia Fields' money-strapped mayoral campaign has delayed paying employees to pump up her war chest on public filings, her former consultant charged yesterday.

Joseph Mercurio, who has been feuding with Fields since she fired him over a doctored photo used in her campaign flyers, said her fund-raising has lagged from the start.

He told the Daily News that he advised Fields in April to fire fund-raising consultant Leonore Blitz, but Fields refused.

"The fund-raising was incompetent, toxic," said Mercurio.

The Manhattan borough president has raised $1.7 million and spent nearly $1.4 million, leaving her with $311,901 in her campaign war chest.

By contrast, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller leads the Democratic pack with more than $2.9 million cash on hand; former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer has $2.3 million, and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn, Queens) has $1.9 million.

Blitz called Mercurio's barbs outrageous, and Fields' spokeswoman Kirsten Powers denied paychecks were being held up.

"People submit their invoices, and they get paid when they submit their invoices," Powers said, adding the campaign will ultimately have "the money to do what we need to do."