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Assembly hopefuls get cash from afar

Ethel Chen (clockwise from top l.), Yen Chou, Phil Gim, Sunny Hahn, Ron Kim, Myungsuk Lee and Martha Flores-Vazquez are running for the downtown Flushing state Assembly seat.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Campaign war chests in the race for the downtown Flushing state Assembly seat appear to be largely filled by donations from outside the district or loans, according to the latest disclosure reports.

Among the Democratic contenders, retired librarian Ethel Chen raised more cash from individual donors than her six opponents by raking in $35,600, though her rival Yen Chou collected $42,000 overall with the help of a $20,000 loan, and newspaper owner Myungsuk Lee boasted $36,700 with a loan of $24,000, according to reports filed with the state Board of Elections covering only the period of time between July 12 and Aug. 9.

Out of Chen’s 122 donors, more than half of them listed an address outside the district, which only covers downtown Flushing.

Many of the donors to the candidates did, however, live close by to the district.

Ron Kim, the former aide to two New York state governors and chosen candidate of the Queens Democratic Party, had a total of $11,890 from 48 donors, but only four of them listed addresses inside the district.

Chou raised $17,450 from individual contributions, but again from only four listed addresses in the district, while Lee raked in $11,460 from 35 donors, two-thirds of whom did not reside in the district, according to the reports.

Martha Flores-Vazquez raised a fraction of her Democratic competitors’ funds at $2,500, with only two of the eight donors listed as in the district and three of the donations totaling $1,500 coming from family members.

On the Republican side, businessman Phil Gim raised $3,800 from 32 donors, but only seven lived in the district.

Sunny Hahn’s disclosure reports did not appear in the state’s database.

Kim had the largest percentage of donors from outside the district, but he also employed a tactic not used by his opponents.

Kim made several payments to a California-based company called Piryx Inc., according to the disclosure report, which allows candidates from races all over the country to raise money online.

But collecting cash from outside the confines of the district is not uncommon in New York. According to a database maintained by the National Institute for Money in State Politics, candidates for races in Flushing historically have turned outside the district, which in this case is only about 4 square miles in area.

In fact, many of the donations in the current filing came from the greater Flushing area, though those donors will not be represented by whoever wins.

Going back to the 2008 and 2010 Assembly races, candidates typically collected about half their money from outside the district, according to the institute’s database, which tracked about 80 percent of the candidates’ donations.

On the expenditure side, Myungsuk Lee hired Cottage Consulting, which is run by former Republican Councilman Dennis Gallagher; Yen Chou hired Multi-Media, which is run by Queens Tribune publisher Michael Nussbaum; and Ron Kim is using The Parkside Group, the go-to consulting firm for the Queens Democratic Party, although the company did not show up in the expenditure list.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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