New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Extending Newly Adopted Campaign Finance Reforms to Special Elections Including Public Advocate Proposed by Council Member Ben Kallos

Extending Newly Adopted Campaign Finance Reforms to Special Elections Including Public Advocate Proposed by Council Member Ben Kallos

Public Funds Eligibility Thresholds Halved for Citywide Special Elections

New York, NY - As the special election for Public Advocate in New York City draws near to be called in January, with a cascade of special, primary and general elections to follow, Council Member Kallos has authored legislation applying the new campaign finance reforms overwhelmingly adopted by 80% of the voters who voted on ballot question 1 on November 6 to the special election now and municipal elections that follow through 2021. In addition, the legislation would also lower the threshold for citywide candidates to qualify for public matching funds. The legislation has been introduced pre-considered T2018-3404 and already scheduled for a hearing in the Committee on Governmental Operations at 10AM on December 12, 2018.

“Over a million voters demanded fewer big dollars in New York City elections,” said Council Member Ben Kallos who has not solicited and actually refused big dollars from New York City real estate developers. “We must start with the next Public Advocate, who could be the first city-wide candidate without the influence of big dollars from real estate developers elected instead on small dollars.”

The legislation would extend the first ballot question on campaign finance reform from applying only in 2021 to providing that same option for special elections and the elections that follow (which already halve existing limits) in the interim:

  • Lowered contribution limits from $2,550 citywide to $1,000, $1,975 for borough president to $750, and from $1,425 for city council to $500.
  • Increased public matching of every small dollar of $175 and under with 6 public tax dollars to 8 public dollars and small dollars of $250 and under for citywide with 8 public dollars.
  • Increased public grant from 55% to 75% of the spending limit.

Unlike, question 1, lowered contribution limits and increased matching would be retroactively applied to candidates that select this option.

In addition to applying ballot question 1 to the special election the legislation goes further by lowering the minimum funds raised threshold to qualify for a public grant by half, just as other limits are halved. The threshold for Mayor is halved from $250,000 to $125,000 and for Public Advocate and Comptroller from $125,000 to $62,500. Only the first $250 of an individual New York City resident’s contribution is applied toward meeting dollar amount threshold. Participating candidates would still need to collect the same number of contributions of 1,000 for Mayor and 500 for Public Advocate and Comptroller.

A candidate for Public Advocate that opted into the new campaign finance system would only need to raise $250 from 1,708 to see $427,031 matched 8 to 1 for a full $3.4 million public grant for 75% of the spending limits leaving only leaving 15% remaining to raise.

Campaign finance reform got more votes than either the Mayor or the Public Advocate. The council members should be empowering regular New Yorkers starting now, today, not making them wait years for what they clearly voted for,” said Morris Pearl, founder of Patriotic Millionaires.

“Reinvent Albany supports putting the improvements to the city's campaign finance system voters overwhelmingly supported on Election Day into effect immediately,” said Alex Camarda, Senior Policy Advisor for Reinvent Albany. “The special election for public advocate provides a great opportunity to do so because the office is designed to be a voice for the public, and the reforms approved on Election Day further elevate the voice of everyday New Yorkers.”

“An overwhelming majority of New Yorkers are ready to prioritize the power of diverse communities over the influence of corporate dollars. We applaud Councilmember Ben Kallos for pushing the City to adopt fair election practices, as we move towards electing candidates who are fueled by the people they aspire to represent,” said Murad Awawdeh, Vice President of Advocacy, New York Immigration Coalition.

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