The Public Campaign Financing and Election Commission issued it report on December 2, and its decisions will become law unless the Legislature acts to change them in the next two weeks. That is exactly what the Legislature should do if New York State is to have an effective system for public financing of state election campaigns.
Polls show that the public is vigorously opposed to the influence of large campaign contributions in our elections. New York is among the worst states in curbing the ability of big donors to control the outcome of state elections. It was hoped the the Commission established by the Legislature would limit the influence of moneyed interests by creating a robust system for public financing of state and local elections in New York. Unfortunately, their report falls well short of the mark.
First of all, the caps on contributions set by the Commission are far too high. For a state Assembly district, an individual donor can pour as much as $18,000 into a single candidate’s campaign. At that rate, big money donations will continue to dominate campaign financing and candidates will continue to be beholden to the special interests that can generate them. Why not limit an individual’s contribution to a particular campaign to the same level as in congressional and presidential elections, $2,800?
Secondly, under the provisions of the Commissions report, matching funds are only available for small contributions that come from donors within a particular legislative district. Contributions to a campaign from small donors who live elsewhere in the state will not be matched. New York City’s successful public campaign financing system qualifies contributions from any city resident for matching funds. That should be the case for the state system as well. Small contributions from any state resident to any state or local campaign should be matched.
The Legislature has the opportunity in the next two weeks to correct these flaws in the Commission’s report. They should not let that opportunity pass.
Croton on Hudson, NY 10520