Towns’s haul: Canarsie Rep. is a fundraising fiend

Update (Feb. 9, 7:00 a.m.): New information clarifies and adds more about Hakeem Jeffries’s fundraising from lobbying groups.

Veteran Rep. Ed Towns (D–Fort Greene) raised almost a quarter of a million dollars in the last three months of 2011 — building an impressive war chest that proves that the 76-year-old lawmaker isn’t retiring and will fight for his job.

Towns pulled in $233,472 after boasting a bank account of just $11,240 last fall — a figure so low that some political observers thought the longtime legislator would hang up his hat and let state Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene) and Councilman Charles Barron (D–Canarsie) duke it out for his seat.

Towns still has $162,407 to spend, but he lags behind Jeffries, who has $235,962 left to spend, making him one of just two congressional challengers nationwide to have more cash on hand than the incumbent.

Barron, an underdog candidate who ran a close race against Towns in 2006 despite being outspent, has only $15,860 on hand.

Towns’ people say he’s just getting started.

“The Congressman is committed to running, he’s going to raise the money, and we expect to do better than we did the last quarter,” said Towns campaign spokesman Al Wiltshire. “We are aggressively raising money, we will raise whatever it takes.”

But Towns’ biggest rival says he’s looking for money in all the wrong places.

A Jeffries spokeswoman called out Towns for collecting $112,228 more from political action committees than from individual donors.

So far, Towns has raised $226,441 from individuals and $338,669 from lobbying committees.

The Jeffries campaign is quick to point out that Towns has netted about $132,000 from telecommunications companies since 2007, and last year sponsored a bill that would make it easier for telemarketers to call people on their cellphones. The bill died in Congress.

“The Congressman has done a lot of good for the district but we believe that it is time to move this district into a positive and new direction,” said Jeffries spokeswoman Lupe Todd.

Jeffries, for his part, has not refused cash from lobbying committees, but has only brought in $1,700 from three groups in the last quarter, a total of five since beginning his campaign. Two of the groups were pushing for the Marijuana Reform Act, which addresses police stop-and-frisk search practices.

Towns said that Jeffries’s charges amount to “negative campaigning.”

“Now all of a sudden Hakeem is running and Ed is a bad guy?” said Wiltshire. “That’s Jeffries decision to run the way he’s running. Our intention is to run a clean campaign.”

Reach reporter Aaron Short at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2547.