Small Dollars Public Matching Incentivized Over Big Dollars in Legislation Introduced by NYC Council Member Ben Kallos

03/22/2016
Candidates Could Run for Office in NYC Entirely on Small Dollar Contributions of $250 or Less

New York, NY – Candidates for public office in New York City would no longer need big dollar contributions in order to run for office under new legislation, Int. 1130, introduced by Council Members Ben Kallos, Fernando Cabrera and Brad Lander. The legislation would increase the amount that is matched with public dollars at 6 to 1 from $175 to $250 and would increase the public match from 55% to 85% of the total spending cap.
 
In the 2013 mayoral race, maximum contributions of $4,950 accounted for less than 5% of all contributions. These big dollar contributions accounted for nearly than half of funds raised ($23.9 million out of the total $48.9 million).
 
Under the current system, mayoral candidates receive 3,650 contributions of $175 or more from New York City residents in order to receive a full public match of $3.8 million, leaving a funding gap of $2.5 million to get to the spending limit of $7 million. Since these contributions are not matched with public funds the system encourages candidates to seek non-matching big dollar maximum contributions, including from outside New York City, in order to fill the gap with as few contributions as possible.
 
By raising the public match to 85% of the total spending, cap and raising the amount a single contribution eligible for public matching can total to $250 dollars, a campaign could reach the total spending cap solely on small dollar contributions and public dollars without needing big dollar contributions which often come from special interests. 
 
“Big dollar contributions and those who can give them should not have more power than other voters,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “For the first time, a candidate running for office could focus on average residents who give small donations and not the large contributions that come on behalf of special interests. In order for elections to be decided by the people, they must be financed by them as well.”

“New York City's model campaign finance system already encourages those running for office to focus on smaller donations from regular voters, but we can do even more to prevent big dollar contributors from drowning out the voices of other voters,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “By eliminating the gap between the public match and the total spending amount, we can limit the role that big dollar contributions, which all too often come from special interest groups, play in our local elections. Thanks to Council Member Kallos for introducing this bill to make sure big money doesn’t silence the voice of voting New Yorkers.”

“Campaign finance reform is badly needed in New York City, where special interests continue to shape political agendas far more than they should. I am proud to be co-sponsoring legislation with my colleague, Council Member Ben Kallos, to make it more feasible for candidates for elected office to completely fund their campaigns with grassroots, public contributions.” –Council Member Fernando Cabrera
 
  

 Current $175 Contributions Necessary for Public MatchAmount Remaining After 55% Public MatchProposed $250 Contributions Necessary for Public MatchAmount Remaining After 85% Public Match
City Council95$65,217104$0
Mayoral3,650$2,497,2253,982$0

 City Council candidates would go from 95 contributions of $175 for a full public match and $65,217 in additional fundraising to 104 contributions of $250 for a full public match and no additional fundraising. Mayoral candidates would go from 3,650 contributions of $175 or more for a full public match and $2,497,225 in additional fundraising to 3,982 contributions of $250 for a full public match and no additional fundraising. In 2013, the Campaign Finance Board paid out $38.2 million the highest amount since 2001, which under this program could see increase of only $20.8 million in a cycle with a similarly high number of candidates.

 

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