Reinvent Albany Backs Council Bill to Implement Campaign Finance Reforms on 2018 Ballot Immediately for Special Elections, Including Upcoming Race for Public Advocate


Reforms Will Enable Candidates to Raise More Funds from Small Donors

Reinvent Albany supported legislation at a City Council hearing today putting into effect campaign finance reforms passed by voters in November for special elections, including the upcoming race for Public Advocate to fill the pending vacancy created by Tish James’ election to NYS Attorney General.

“This legislation will encourage candidates in the upcoming race for Public Advocate to fundraise from everyday New Yorkers, and be responsive to their concerns rather than big donors and special interests,” said Alex Camarda, Senior Policy Advisor for Reinvent Albany.  “We support putting these reforms into effect for all races as soon as is feasible, including special elections as this bill does.”

Voters overwhelmingly voted YES on Question 1 on Election Day, which lowers campaign contribution limits to $2,000 for candidates opting into the city’s public matching program (and $3,500 for non-participants), matches donations $8 to $1 for the first $175 of any contribution, and enables candidates to raise 75 percent of their campaign money from public funds. 

However, the reforms do not go into effect until 2021, and candidates can still choose to run in 2021 under the old system with a higher contribution limit of up to $5,100 for citywide office, a $6 to $1 match for the first $175 of any contribution, and caps candidates from raising more than 55 percent of their funds in public money.  Contributions are halved for special elections.

Reinvent Albany supports the bill sponsored by Councilmember Ben Kallos because it does what we supported from the beginning, putting in place the voter-approved reforms as quickly as possible.  While this bill only applies to special elections, we support it.

Reinvent Albany believes this bill could be strengthened by also immediately putting into effect the lower contribution limits passed by the voters for candidates who do not participate in the public matching system and run for office in a special election. For the special election forPublic Advocate, non-participants will be able to raise $2,550 per donor rather than the new, lower contribution limit of $1,750 passed by the voters in November but not going into effect until 2022. Maintaining the current contribution limit of $2,550 will discourage candidates from participating in the public matching system.

Reinvent Albany also believes the Council should repeal the option given to candidates in 2021 for primary and general elections to remain in the old system with higher contribution limits, and a lower public match rate and cap.  All candidates running for office should have to follow the voter-approved campaign finance reforms.

Reinvent Albany also supports other campaign finance changes in this bill including halving the contributions and money raised to qualify for the public funds program for citywide office, and lowering the amount candidates have to spend to qualify for the first debate sponsored by the New York City Campaign Finance Board.