Nancy on Norwalk has been dutifully reporting Mayor Rilling’s fundraising results based on filings with the State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC). How about we look a little deeper?
Three campaign finance filings by “Friends of Rilling” are available. The SEEC filings cover the period from November 2020 through June 2021. Here are some notable observations:
Lots of money. The Rilling campaign raised a total of $135,800 from 377 contributors. An impressive haul for a Norwalk mayoralty race. Political candidates are either skilled at raising funds or they are not. Harry Rilling clearly is. At this pace, the Rilling campaign may be on track to raising the largest war-chest ever for Norwalk Mayor.
Out-of-towners predominate. Of the 377 contributors, 198 (53%) came from out-of-towners. Only 179 (47%) listed Norwalk addresses. The gap is even wider in dollar terms: $91,000 (67%) came from out-of-towners. Only $44,800 (33%) listed a Norwalk address. Normally you’d think candidates raise funds mostly from the voters they hope to represent.
Lobbyists. Twenty two individuals checked the lobbyist, spouse, or dependent child of a lobbyist box on their contribution forms, for a total of $4,725.
Political Action Committees (PACS). Eleven separate entities made contributions for a total of $7,750.
Corporate entities. Forty three companies purchased advertising in program booklets for a total of $10,650.
Shop Rite. Sixteen individuals, all associated with Grade A Shop Rite, all living in Stamford (!) all donated the same amount — $1,000 each. There’s speculation about what Shop Rite might be expecting. Could it be the former Elinco site on Main Avenue? Who knows? But Candidate Rilling in 2013 spoke against a big-box BJ’s on that site. Where does Mayor Rilling stand in 2021?
The 161 local Norwalk contributors (as opposed to the 198 out of towners) may seem like a lot, but it’s not. Even state representative campaigns must attract at least 150 in-town contributors to qualify for state financing, and such candidates typically do a lot better than that. Makes one wonder how hard the Rilling campaign has worked in seeking Norwalk contributions.
Conclusion. Friends of Rilling fundraising has been focused mostly on big-ticket out-of-town contributors — contributors who appear to favor continuing high-rise condo or rental projects in Norwalk. It appears that the Friends of Rilling activity is adhering to SEEC laws/regulations, so legality is not the issue. But for those who would like to retain Norwalk’s character as a town mostly of single-family neighborhoods rather than a high-rise metropolis, the pattern of contributions would seem to signal two more years of overdevelopment.
Harry will never be bothered by this. With his two fat government pensions as former police chief and now mayor, he’ll head off to a cushy retirement in Florida.