New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Full Public Matching to Get Big Money Out Passes City Council Authored by Council Member Ben Kallos

New York, NY – Today the City Council passed Int. 732-B authored by Council Member Ben Kallos. This legislation expands the new campaign finance laws overwhelmingly adopted by 80% of the voters on November 6, 2018 from only matching 75% of contributions to matching all of them at 89.89%. This follows more than a decade of advocacy by Kallos.
The legislation follows Local Law 1 of 2019, also authored by Kallos, that applied the Ballot Question 1 to the Public Advocates election. The results of the election demonstrated that the new system is work by flipping how campaigns are finance upside down. Big money no longer made up the three-quarters of campaign cash and was replaced by small dollars that now made up almost two-thirds of campaign cash. For the first time a candidate won citywide office with a pledge not to take real estate money.
The evidence shows that increasing to a full match of every small dollar will decrease big money and increase small dollars in elections. In addition, in a system where every small dollar is matched, big money, PAC money, and lobbyist money that is not matched is far less valuable.
“Over a million voters demanded fewer big dollars in New York City elections. We did just that with the Special Election for Public Advocate and flipped how campaigns are financed upside down electing the first city-wide candidate without big money from real estate developers replacing them with small dollars and the voices of everyday New Yorkers.” said Council Member Ben Kallos who has not solicited and actually refused big dollars from New York City real estate developers. “Thank you to Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for proving it could be done, Governmental Operations Chair Cabrera for being the co-prime sponsor and Speaker Corey Johnson for being a sponsor last term and all of them continuing their support through today.”

“As Governmental Operations Committee chair I proudly signed on as a co-prime sponsor to Intro 732-B.  We know this is what New Yorkers want- major reform of campaign finance so ordinary voters can decide elections, not big money donors.  With full public funds payments for publicly funded opponents and aligning our campaign finance laws with the US Constitution, this legislation makes tremendous strides to expand democracy political participation and empower ordinary people,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera.

"I was pleased to be a prime co-sponsor of Council Member Kallos' bill enabling candidates to achieve 'full public match' when he first introduced it back in 2016," said  Council Member Brad Lander. "Expanding the public matching program empowers everyday New Yorkers to have a larger voice in our democracy." 

“Last November, New Yorkers voted to strengthen the City’s campaign finance system. This bill offers candidates an even better opportunity to run with small dollar contributions, lessening the influence of big money in politics. Thank you to Council Member Kallos for his work to make our elections cleaner, fairer and open to all,” said Council Member Ben Kallos.
Corey Johnson was one of many candidates who promised to back this reform during a Speaker’s candidate forum hosted by Citizens Union.

Int. 732-B proposed the following:

  • Full Public Match – increases match from 75% to 89.89% to match every dollar, indexed to the public dollars multiplier which was 6 and is now 8.
  • Retroactive Contribution Limits – requires candidates who choose new system to return contributions since 2017 over the new lower limits.
  • Ballot Access – more candidates would make the ballot because they could use campaign funds to pay to defend legal challenges to petitions (funds would not cover challenges to other candidates).
  • Public Funds Available for Publicly Funded Opponents – candidates otherwise only eligible for a partial public funds payment, would be eligible for a full public funds payment if an opponent qualified for public funds.
  • Updates Dates for June Primaries – changes payment dates and conflicts of interest filing deadlines with a first payment December 15, the year before the election.
  • Cleans Up Conflicts – moves language from the Charter placed there by the Charter Revision Commission to update the Administrative Code.
  • Keeps Campaign Finance Constitutional – removes provisions held unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court.

 In 2013, the last competitive citywide election, public funds payments at 55% cost $38.2 million. Assuming similar participation rates in 2021 at 75% would cost $52.1 million. The Campaign Finance Board and Council Member Kallos estimate assuming similar participation rates in 2021 at 89.89% estimate that it would cost $61.5 million.
On January 2, 2019, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed Local Law 1 of 2019 authored by Council Member Kallos to apply new campaign finance laws overwhelmingly adopted by 80% of the voters some 1.1 million on November 6 to the upcoming special election for Public Advocate and municipal elections that follow through 2021.
Local Law 1 of 2019 extended 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 are retroactively applied to candidates that select this option at the request of the Campaign Finance Board.

In addition to applying ballot question 1 to the special election Local Law 1 went further by lowering thresholds for debates and minimum funds raised 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 must still collect the same number of contributions of 1,000 for Mayor and 500 for Public Advocate and Comptroller.
On November 8, 2018, 1,151,775 votes were cast for the campaign finance reforms proposed by ballot question one according to the Board of Elections unofficial election night results. A staggering 80.25% of 1,435,210 votes, a 4 to 1 margin. The numbers show that nearly 75% of all voters who voted for Governor in New York City “flipped” their ballot to the fourth page.

Get involved to make your voice heard.

Get monthly updates with the information you need to make a difference.