New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Gotham Gazette

Gotham Gazette City Council Hears Bill to Expand Public Match in Campaign Finance Program by Samar Khurshid

City Council Hears Bill to Expand Public Match in Campaign Finance Program

That charter change was quickly implemented through local law, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, for all special elections before the 2021 general election, thus applying to multiple races this year.

Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, has also proposed increasing the public funds cap to roughly 89% of the spending limit, effectively allowing candidates to run their campaigns entirely on small contributions and the subsequent public match, and diluting the effect of wealthier, larger donors. And he hopes to put that reform into effect for the 2021 city election cycle, which will feature a massive number of local races, from citywide and borough wide posts through the City Council.

“I think this is a gamechanger,” Kallos said at Monday’s hearing, citing the recent citywide public advocate special election as proof that increasing the public funds match reduced big donations. He pointed to the latest campaign finance disclosures from all the campaigns, which showed that contributions of $250 or less made up 61% of all contributions, up from 26.3% of all contributions in the 2013 public advocate race, according to his office’s analysis of the numbers.

Gotham Gazette Council Member Kallos Pushes Next Increase in Matching Funds Available Through Public Campaign Finance System by Samar Khurshid

Council Member Kallos Pushes Next Increase in Matching Funds Available Through Public Campaign Finance System

New York City Council Member Ben Kallos is moving forward with a bill to increase the amount of public funds a candidate running for elected office can receive from the city’s campaign finance program, in order to further reduce the influence of big money donors in local political campaigns.

New York City’s voluntary campaign finance program matches small dollar donations in order to afford candidates without deep pockets or wealthy donors a more level playing field in elections. In November, voters approved a ballot question that increased the matching ratio from 6-to-1 for the first $175 of a contribution to 8-to-1 for the first $250 for citywide offices ($175 for all other offices), and increased the maximum amount of public funds that could be paid out from 55% of the spending limit for an office to 75%.

The changes also reduced individual contribution limits across the board and gave candidates running in the 2021 city elections the choice to opt in to the new rules, which otherwise go into mandatory effect beginning 2022.

Gotham Gazette Report: Under New Law, Small Donors Drove Public Advocate Special Election Campaigns by Samar Khurshid

Report: Under New Law, Small Donors Drove Public Advocate Special Election Campaigns

According to CFB’s own analysis released the day after the election, the most common contribution amount was $10, down from $100 in previous public advocate elections. “The matching funds give candidates the incentives to raise money the right way, by going to the New York City voters they want to represent in government, not to big-money donors or special interests,” said Amy Loprest, CFB executive director, in a statement on February 27. “If we want a government that is closer and more responsive to the people, it has to start with how candidates fund their campaigns.”

Gotham Gazette After Reform Commitments, City Council Democrats Appoint Three New Commissioners to Board of Elections by Samar Khurshid

After Reform Commitments, City Council Democrats Appoint Three New Commissioners to Board of Elections

The New York City Council’s Democratic conference held on Thursday what officials said was its first ever public vote to appoint three new commissioners to the New York City Board of Elections.

Gotham Gazette Everything You Need to Know About the Special Election for Public Advocate by Samar Khurshid

Everything You Need to Know About the Special Election for Public Advocate

Next month, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to cast a ballot for a new public advocate in the first-ever special election for a citywide office. The current vacancy was created when the most recent officeholder, Letitia James, was officially sworn in as the state’s attorney general, a position she won in the November general election.

Gotham Gazette Agenda 2019: High Hopes for Long-Awaited Reforms by Samar Khurshid

Agenda 2019: High Hopes for Long-Awaited Reforms

“Albany should look to all the things we’ve gotten done in the City Council over the past five years,” said City Council Member Ben Kallos, who previously chaired the governmental operations committee and helped lead the reform effort, “and it starts with no outside income, no more lulus, campaign finance reform...I believe that those three things would help clean up a lot of the corruption in Albany.”

To the dismay of good government groups and activists, however, the governor and Legislature have repeatedly wrestled over ethics reform with little to show for it. Cuomo infamously came to power promising that he would clean up Albany but later shut down the Moreland Commission that he had set up to fulfil that very pledge in the face of a resistant Legislature that kept seeing its members hauled off to jail. The compromise Cuomo struck with the Legislature created the state-run Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which many have criticized for being an inefficient agency with too-close ties to the governor and legislative leaders, who appoint its members.

Gotham Gazette Next Steps for 3 City Charter Revisions Passed Election Day by Samar Khurshid

Next Steps for 3 City Charter Revisions Passed Election Day

City Council Member Ben Kallos, who unsuccessfully attempted to increase the public funds cap to 85 percent through legislation, was glad to see voters pass the improvements to the system. In a phone interview, he implied that concerns about the cost of the new system were overblown, and said that enhancing the system is key to eliminating real and perceived conflicts of interest.

 

Gotham Gazette New York City Shouldn’t Regulate Ride-Hailing Apps - It Should Compete With Them by Devin Balkind

New York City Shouldn’t Regulate Ride-Hailing Apps - It Should Compete With Them

The idea of establishing a “ride sharing” (or “e-hail”) standard isn’t new. It has been discussed and proposed by a number of people in New York City’s tech community for years, including Ben Kallos, a tech-aware City Council member who proposed it in a 2014 bill, and by Chris Whong, now the lead developer of NYC Planning Labs, who proposed it in a 2013 blog post.

 

Gotham Gazette Prominent Elected Officials Oppose De Blasio Charter Revision Proposals by Samar Khurshid

Prominent Elected Officials Oppose De Blasio Charter Revision Proposals

Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, also a Democrat, is backing all the proposals as well. Kallos has been a staunch campaign finance reform advocate and the first question would partially achieve what he has in the past tried to do through legislation, to expand the amount of public funds given to candidates running for office. “Democracy in New York City will finally get better,” he said in a September 6 statement, if the first question is passed, “reducing contribution limits and making small dollars more valuable by matching more of them with a greater multiplier.”

Gotham Gazette Elected Officials Present Broad Proposals to 2019 Charter Revision Commission by Samar Khurshid

Elected Officials Present Broad Proposals to 2019 Charter Revision Commission

The charter revision commission created through New York City Council legislation concluded its first round of public hearings last month, receiving dozens of suggestions about improving the functions and structure of city government. Unlike the commission established by Mayor Bill de Blasio, which has three proposals on this November’s ballot, the Council-created commission is set to propose changes to the city’s central governing document via the 2019 election.