The new campaign finance rules approved by voters at the polls last month don’t take effect until 2021 -- but City Councilman Ben Kallos has introduced legislation that would allow candidates in the upcoming special election for public advocate to opt in to the new system.
“Almost every single candidate running for public advocate is already an elected official, and only one can win. And I just don’t want that many existing elected officials taking that much money,” Kallos told the News.
An architect of the new system passed as Question 1 on the ballot last November -- which set up a new campaign finance system that slashes contribution limits while increasing the amount of public matching funds a candidate can receive -- Kallos is looking to create similar changes for candidates running in special elections and other races that will crop up between now and 2021.
The marquee race among those is the upcoming special election for public advocate, which will be called in early January after Public Advocate Letitia James becomes attorney general.
“I would like the next public advocate to win on this system and show it is a good system,” Kallos said.
Like the system set up under Question 1, it would be optional -- candidates could also exist under the current matching funds system (where they can accept larger private contributions but will get less in matching funds), or they can opt out entirely and accept no public funds.
Special elections already have lower limits for contributions and spending, given their shorter time frames. Kallos’s bill would adjust those limits by the same ratio used in Question 1 to cut contribution and spending limits in general elections.
Currently, a candidate seeking citywide office in a special election can accept up to $2,550; under the Kallos bill, it would be $1,000. Borough president candidates can receive $1,975 in a special; the bill would cut that to $750. Council candidates can raise $1,425 in a special; the bill would drop that to $500.
It would increase the public match in the same way as Question 1, from a 6-to-1 match for small contributions to an 8-to-1 match.
The bill would also cut in half the threshold required to qualify for matching funds in a special election -- which is currently the same as in a general.
“There was a mistake of history which I will call it,” he said. “The contributions limits are halved and the spending limit is halved, but the threshold of the amount of money you need to raise is not halved,” Kallos said