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(NYT) — It seemed to be the defining narrative of the 2009 elections in New York City: a billionaire mayor pouring $108 million of his own money into a re-election bid and undermining the fairness of the city’s publicly funded campaign finance system.

But the most detailed examination of that election to date tells a very different story beyond the mayor’s race: a record-shattering surge in small donations from individuals, propelling an unusually large number of challengers to victory over incumbents.

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