As Shiva Ayyadurai, a Cambridge-based tech entrepreneur and independent candidate for US Senate, frames it, his fund-raising prowess demonstrates his campaign “grows explosively.’’
His proof: His committee raised $4.64 million in contributions to challenge Senator Elizabeth Warren, according to a press release from several weeks ago.
But Ayyadurai — who boasts four MIT degrees and no political background — apparently doesn’t go by the usual standards to measure support.
A closer examination of his filings with the Federal Election Commission show that $4.48 million — or 96.6 percent — of the committee’s donations come from him. And it wasn’t even cash; the donations came in the form of in-kind contributions from the candidate.
By most every conventional measure in politics, he has in fact raised only $153,774 from individual donations as of March 31 — a record that undercuts his claim that his fund-raising can be listed among the reasons for “the enormous strength of this historic grass-roots campaign.”
His own in-kind contributions are digital software systems that he has developed as part of his business. He’s used the system, he said, to build a database that has 2,000 volunteers around the state.
But how does he justify the enormous price — the bulk of his $4.5 million expenditures — that he has paid for those programs? He says he merely set the rate of his in-kind contributions — namely the systems he used to identify supporters from voters lists — to be equal to what his company charges commercial clients.
While they may be commercial rates, the charges were unusually steep for a Massachusetts political campaign.
There’s an in-kind contribution listed for Knowledge Engineering Collaborative Services for $485,000; Candidate I-K: Deep Learning Engine for $380,000; Deep Learning Engine for $760,000; Voter Acquisition Module for $315,900; Analytics dashboard for $520,000; and CRM server for $180,000.
Ayyadurai insists the campaign reports demonstrate how he is bringing his digital background to politics (he claims he invented e-mail, though it has been sharply disputed by others).
“Our campaign is a 21st-century campaign not a medieval one, where politicians, who have never built or invented anything, beg, bamboozle, and extract money from everyday people,’’ he says. “In our case, I, a working engineer, inventor and scientist, am bringing new innovation to campaigning to enable a grass-roots movement.”Frank Phillips can be reached at email@example.com.