Weekly Wonder: You can buy three houses in Boston with the donations received by City Council candidates

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By Devyani Chhetri
BU News Service

BOSTON —  Election campaigning can be expensive. In Boston’s 2019 City Council elections, the 13 candidates who won on Nov. 5 spent a total of around $1.7 million since the beginning of the year, according to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance data.

With donations worth $1.87 million spread among 13 elected candidates, one could buy three houses in Boston at the median price of $640,000 with the donations. 

Councilor-At-Large incumbent candidate Michael F. Flaherty received the most donations and also spent the most, followed in both categories by another Councilor-At-Large incumbent candidate, Michelle Wu. While Flaherty amassed donations worth $326,248, Wu received $287,135.

Wu, who received the most votes in this election cycle, also had the highest number of contributions. She received around 1,400 contributions and was followed by District 8 candidate (now councilor-elect) Priscilla “Kenzie” Bok who received 1,006. 

The candidates received donations from 8,786 sources most of which were listed as coming from individuals. Most of these donations were spent on printing and campaign consultancy where five out of 13 candidates used the services of the same printing company. 

The OCPF places a $1000 contribution limit of donations from individuals; 8% of donations were single transactions of $1,000. Flaherty received the highest number of $1,000 donations. 

Many expense reports showed instances where candidates returned donations. One name, Giuseppe Arcari, president of Tavern in the Square, popped up in the reports of two candidates, Frank Baker and Edward Flynn. He had submitted a $1,000 contribution to each candidate, but records show that they were returned, marked as “excessive contributions refunds.”

Arcari has donated $4,500 in total to Frank Baker and $5000 to Edward Flynn since 2017. 

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