Latest FEC reports show fundraising divide for CD1 candidates

Democrat Gabe Amo outpaces Republican Gerry Leonard in cash on-hand, spending, and contributions

By: - October 16, 2023 4:17 pm

As of Sept. 30, 2023, Republican Gerry Leonard, left, had $156,997 on hand in his campaign account while Democrat Gabe Amo reported having $176,080. (Left photo by Janine L. Weisman; right photo by Michael Salerno/Rhode Island Current)

As the campaign for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District enters its final three weeks, Democrat Gabe Amo has the financial edge over Republican opponent Gerry Leonard, according to the latest reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Reports reflecting fundraising and spending from Aug. 17 to Sept. 30 were due Sunday. The day after the reports were submitted, both campaigns announced new television ads that will air through the Nov. 7 election.

As of the end of last month, Amo’s campaign reported having $176,080 on hand, while Leonard had $156,997.

Their stockpiles are close, but that’s the only similarity the two have in their financials. Amo closed out the third quarter with over $280,000 in campaign contributions, compared to the $69,000 reported by Leonard.

More than 25% of Amo’s contributions ($77,050) were made by political action committees (PACs) from across the country, according to his report.

That includes donations from leadership PACs — committees established by federal office holders for the sole purpose of giving to other candidates. 

Former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md) contributed $5,000 through Ameripac: The Fund For A Greater America; Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) Purpose PAC donated $2,000, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I)’s Ocean PAC gave $5,000.  

Amo also boasts individual contributions including $2,000 a piece  from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D- N.Y) and former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. There were no monetary contributions from any of the 11 Democratic primary opponents.

That’s not to say Leonard isn’t getting his share of Congressional support.

The Jamestown Republican received donations from Rep. Ron Estes (R-Kan.) and Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas). 

Leonard, a retired Marine colonel, is also getting help from Rep. Jack Begman (R-Mich.) — a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant general under whom Leonard worked in 2006 and 2008. In addition to his endorsement last month, Bergman provided Leonard’s campaign with $7,000 through his two PACs: The Guardian Fund and Star PAC.

Amo’s campaign also reported $14,000 in donations from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Political Action Committee (AIPAC). Federal rules prohibit PACs from spending more than $5,000 per election, but FEC spokesperson Myles Martin said some groups can collect and forward unlimited funds so long as they act as a conduit for individual donors.

“It appears AIPAC had served as a conduit,” Martin observed. “You see that a lot typically through two major conduit PACs like WinRed and ActBlue.”

Since entering the race in February, Amo has raised more than $900,000, while Leonard has received $141,757 in addition to personally loaning his campaign $50,000.

Amo has not loaned his campaign anything.

Spending sprees

With a bigger war chest comes bigger spending.

Amo spent nearly $260,000 between Aug. 17 and the end of September, according to his report. Leonard’s campaign, meanwhile, spent a little over $23,000 during that same period.

Among Amo’s purchases are $2,510 on text messaging services, $700 on his primary election party at the Guild in Pawtucket, and $5,340 to New York-based Global Strategy Group for a poll his campaign released two weeks before the September election.

Leonard’s expenses include $313 for lodging in Washington D.C. in September, campaign signs and palm cards, and $210 for clam chowder from Warwick-based Iggy’s Seafood for an event at an assisted living facility.

The Republican’s campaign also donated $250 to the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for its ​​Gala de la Hispanidad.

The biggest expense, aside from salaries for campaign staff, was $5,638 toward campaign signs.

Though not in the FEC report, Leonard’s campaign announced plans Monday to spend “six figures” on its first television ad. The humorous 30-second spot features Leonard at a table with a man going over his campaign’s platform and plays off the confusion on how Leonard pronounces his first name (which is “Gary.”)

Amo’s campaign is also hitting the airwaves this week with a “$100,000+ television buy” that will air through the Nov. 7 election.

Similar to his primary campaign ad, Amo touts his experience as a White House aide in the Obama and Biden administrations and his intentions to defend Social Security and abortion rights.

Campaign spokesperson Matt Rauschenbach said in an email Monday the ad “demonstrates the campaign’s strong commitment to informing voters about the importance of getting out to vote and sending a leader to Congress from Rhode Island who will stand up to the dysfunctional, extreme Republican House Caucus, not join their ranks.”

Election Day is Nov. 7. Early voting begins Wednesday, Oct. 18 and runs through Monday, Nov. 6.

The deadline to submit a mail ballot application for the CD1 special election is Tuesday, Oct.17.


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.