Council Member Kallos Pushes Next Increase in Matching Funds Available Through Public Campaign Finance System
New York City Council Member Ben Kallos is moving forward with a bill to increase the amount of public funds a candidate running for elected office can receive from the city’s campaign finance program, in order to further reduce the influence of big money donors in local political campaigns.
New York City’s voluntary campaign finance program matches small dollar donations in order to afford candidates without deep pockets or wealthy donors a more level playing field in elections. In November, voters approved a ballot question that increased the matching ratio from 6-to-1 for the first $175 of a contribution to 8-to-1 for the first $250 for citywide offices ($175 for all other offices), and increased the maximum amount of public funds that could be paid out from 55% of the spending limit for an office to 75%.
The changes also reduced individual contribution limits across the board and gave candidates running in the 2021 city elections the choice to opt in to the new rules, which otherwise go into mandatory effect beginning 2022.
Following the charter change, Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, quickly advanced legislation that Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law to implement those rules for special elections taking place before the 2021 primaries, giving candidates the same option to choose between the old and new rules. In the February special election for public advocate, a majority of the candidates opted in to the new system and larger donations dropped.
Encouraged by those results, Kallos is pushing his new bill, which goes even further and would increase the maximum public funds payment from 75% to 88.8% of the spending limits for the 2021 elections, further encouraging candidates to raise $250 and below from individuals, and effectively leaving no gap for candidates to fill with larger private donations. The 2021 elections will be a massive undertaking with the mayor, comptroller, five borough presidents and about three dozen Council members, including Kallos, term limited out of office. Kallos, who is expected to run for higher office, told Gotham Gazette in an interview that his bill already has 34 sponsors, a super-majority of the 51-seat Council, and is scheduled for a committee hearing on April 15.