Legislation Expanding New Campaign Finance Laws to Upcoming Special Elections, Including the Public Advocate's Race, Passed by Council
New York, NY – Today the New York City Council voted with a veto-proof majority to pass Int.1288 authored by Council Member Ben Kallos. This legislation mandates that new campaign finance laws overwhelmingly adopted by 80% of the voters on November 6 apply to the upcoming special election for Public Advocate and municipal elections that follow through 2021. In addition, the legislation would also lower the threshold for citywide candidates to qualify for debates and public matching funds.
“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.”
“Meaningful campaign finance reform is key to leveling the playing field for candidates for public office. No qualified candidate should be barred from running for office because they lack personal wealth. Intro 1288 is a major step toward the reform that achieves this goal,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera.”
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 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 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 854 residents to see $213,516 matched 8 to 1 for a full $1.7 million public grant for 75% of the spending limit 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.
Council Member Ben Kallos first introduced Int. 1130 in 2016, as originally written it increased the public matching grant from 55% to 85% of the spending limit and increase the amount of dollars matched from $175 to $250. Kallos secured 32 sponsors and used his Chair of the Committee on Government Operations force a hearing on April 27, 2017, though it had a majority of Council Members as sponsors it did not pass. In 2018, Kallos reintroduced the legislation as Int. 732 with 30 sponsors. When Mayor de Blasio called a Charter Revision Commission on democracy Kallos testified in favor of campaign reforms on May 9, June 19, July 23, and August 9 including reducing contribution limits, increasing matching ratios, and increasing public funds payments all of which were in part or in whole adopted.
Following adoption of the three ballot questions Council Member Ben Kallos advocated in favor of all three. Kallos weighed in favor of Questions 1 and Question 3 in the NYCCFB’s Voter Guide. Actively participated in the Democracy Yes coalition that included recruiting many supporters of Int. 1130 of 2016. Authored opinion editorials one with Patriotic Millionaire Morris Pearl in City and State and another in Medium. Traveled around the borough of Manhattan securing endorsements of all three from the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, as well as Question 1 from the Lexington Democratic Club, Four Freedoms Democratic Club, Downtown Independent Democrats, Uptown Community Democrats, among many others. Kallos even debated other elected officials on all three questions at forums by New Downtown Democrats and Downtown Independent Democrats as well as Community Board 8 Manhattan. As acknowledged at the last debate, by Charter Revision Commission member John Segal, this ballot question 1, he noted advocacy by Kallos for this reform dating back to 2008 when both served on the NYC Bar’s Election Law Committee. Ballot Question 1 even received the endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders and the New York Times.
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 (1,928,280). Almost as many voters supported campaign finance reform as voted for any candidate for Mayor in the 2017 General Election (1,166,313).