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More than $7.7 million was spent in the 21st Congressional District race, FEC reports


Federal Election Commission reports show a total of $7,706,115 was spent trying to win New York’s 21st Congressional District.

That figure includes more than $2.6 million spent by outside groups looking to unseat the incumbent.

Total spending by outside interest groups nearly equaled the amount spent by the candidates, Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, and Republican Matthew A. Doheny, Watertown.

Mr. Owens, who successfully defended his seat Nov. 6 by winning 50 percent of the vote, raised a total of $1,964,299 and spent $1,904,339, leaving him with $46,205 on hand.

A solid 55 percent of that money came from contributions made to his campaign by political action committees.

Compare that with Mr. Owens’s challenger, who won 48 percent of the vote. In total, Mr. Doheny raised $1,964,690 and spent $1,953,727.

According to, a website operated by a group focused on government transparency, the largest share of money fueling the Doheny campaign was made up of Mr. Doheny’s personal funds.

A full 48 percent, $950,000, of Mr. Doheny’s war chest was self-financed.

Repeated attempts to reach Mr. Doheny were unsuccessful.

Mr. Owens said the decision by Mr. Doheny to fund personally the lion’s share of his campaign doesn’t say much about the nature of the contest.

“I don’t take anything from it,” Mr. Owens said. “It’s just how he chose to run his campaign.”

Of those groups supporting Mr. Owens, the single largest contributors were leadership political action committees composed of other politicians. In total they donated $105,250 to the Owens campaign, according to

Law firms, public sector unions, retirees and investors trailed close behind in their support for the Democrat.

Combined, Mr. Owens and Mr. Doheny spent $3,858,066.

According to the Sunlight Foundation, another government watchdog, outside interest groups nearly matched that figure, spending $3,848,049 on the race.

While the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent a total of $1,159,806 opposing Mr. Doheny, five organizations spent a total of $2,680,115 attempting to dislodge Mr. Owens.

United in their opposition to Mr. Owens were Americans for Tax Reform, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Individual Freedom and the American Action Network.

Mr. Owens said what put him over the top Nov. 6 was his stance as a moderate – a position he admits makes him something of a rarity in today’s Congress.

“I tend to vote about 35 percent of the time with my friends on the other side of the aisle,” Mr. Owens said. “I think that people basically understand that there is a need for that approach in Congress.”

Contributions of less than $200 made up 5 percent or less for both campaigns.

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