A City Council bill could drive a wooden stake through the heart of “zombie” campaign committees and redistribute unused war chests to taxpayers.
Candidates for city office who participate in the campaign finance system — where they can get taxpayer cash to match certain private contributions — would have to give all leftover funds to the public once elections are over under a bill set to be introduced Thursday by Councilman Ben Kallos.
Pols who get public matching funds already have to give back any of that taxpayer money remaining when an election concludes.
The new bill goes much further — requiring candidates give taxpayers all unused campaign contributions that they raised for a specific office and election cycle when that particular race is over, according to a copy of the bill provided by the councilman’s office.
This would stop incumbents and candidates from rolling over extra dough raised for one election to another campaign committee for their next race — and prevent them from amassing sizable war chests.
“Let’s kill all the zombies, give war chests back to the tax payers, so incumbents are forced to do their jobs, and elections get more competitive,” Kallos (D-Manhattan) said. “Incumbents shouldn’t need a war chest, the best protection comes from working hard and doing your job.”
The measure faces an uphill battle – since lawmakers can all benefit from the current system.
If the legislation had been in effect after the 2009 elections, roughly $2.6 million of unused campaign cash would’ve been stripped from candidates and given to taxpayers, according to an analysis of campaign finance data by Kallos. There would have been about $2 million leftover and funneled to the public after both the 2013 and 2017 elections.
Many ex-politicians still sit on Scrooge McDuck-sized pile of donations years after leaving public office.
Former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who left the position in 2013, still has $213,169 in the bank. Former Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who left the same year, is sitting on $126,316.03 in donations.
Federal campaign finance law has a similar rule to the Kallos proposal. By July 3, candidates who have not held elected office for 25 years must report whether they intend to shut their fundraising committees down.