|RELEASE: Reinvent Albany, League of Women Voters, Fair Elections for NY condemn last minute introduction of bill to undo small donor campaign funding law passed in 2019.
|For Immediate Release
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Contact: John Kaehny, 917-388-9087
Vote “No” on Shameful Bill that Does Huge Damage to New York’s Historic Small Donor Matching Law
Leave the small donor law intact and in effect for the 2024 election cycle
We urge the Legislature to vote NO on A7760/S7564. This shameful bill inflicts huge damage on New York’s historic small donor matching law and is completely counter to the law’s goal of giving the average New Yorker a stronger voice in our democracy.
Big donors have dominated New York State elections for decades, fostering a culture of pay-to-play and a parade of state elected leaders leaving office after betraying the public trust.
New York State’s 2019 small donor matching law is far from perfect – compared to the New York City public campaign finance system, it is far too lax. But it is a big step in the right direction, was thoroughly debated in public at well-attended hearings, and was exhaustively discussed by the Legislature. This bill makes huge changes to the program at the very end of session, without sufficient time for the public to fully understand them.
We join the editorial boards of the Daily News and Buffalo News and the dozens of groups in the Fair Elections for New York Coalition in urging the Legislature to leave the small donor law intact and in effect for the 2024 election cycle as planned.
Here is our summary of the most destructive changes this bill will inflict on New York’s long-awaited public small donor matching law:
Removes the $250 cap on matchable donations, so that the first $250 of donation(s) of any size up to the maximum are matched with public funds.
This is a huge step backwards. Current state law says if you give more than $250 in total contributions in one election cycle, you get no public match – zero. If this destructive bill passes, the CEO of a company with state contracts could make a $10,000 campaign contribution to a State Senator and the public would provide another $2,300 in matching funds.
The $250 cap was highly debated in 2019 and agreed to as a political compromise in which public match advocates grudgingly accepted the Legislature’s proposal for much higher contribution limits than under the NYC law.
Raises the number of in-district donors and the total donation amount needed to qualify for matching funds far above the current law. This would make it much harder for opponents to qualify for the public match, resulting in significantly less competitive elections. To qualify for the program, Assembly candidates will need to raise $10,000 from 145 in-district residents, up from $6,000 from 75 in-district residents. Senate candidates will need to raise $24,000 from 350 in-district residents, up from $12,000 and 150 in-district residents.
Below and linked is a chart showing what destructive changes are being proposed and comparing the proposed bill to NYS and NYC’s campaign finance laws:
Public Matching Proposal Makes Other Complicated Changes Without Sufficient Time to Vet Them
The bill adds a large number of other changes that will take time to unpack and understand how they will affect the efficacy of the program with only days remaining in the legislative session:
Having unspent public funds from the primary election reduces the amount of public funds candidates can receive in the general election.
Clarifies that to have their donation matched, donors must live in the candidate’s district at the time of the donation.
Specifies schedule of public fund payment dates:
Primary Election – December 15th of year prior to election, and for the election year, January 15th, February 15th, March 15th, April 5th and three additional payments before the Primary;
General Election – July 15th and a minimum of three payments within 90 days of the General Election.
Makes candidates ineligible for public funds if they have outstanding fines from the state matching system or other matching systems like the NYC program.
Clarifies that primary election participants are not required to participate in the program during the general election.
Sets criteria for competitive elections by law instead of allowing the Public Campaign Finance Board to set them by regulation. If the election is not competitive, candidates can only receive one-quarter of the public funds payments. The elections are competitive if at least one of the following conditions are met:
Margin of victory for general elections in the last eight years was 20 points or less for the seat
Opposing candidate has received endorsement of current or former statewide official, or current or federal elected official representing all or a portion of the district
Opposing candidate has received three or more endorsements from other current or former state or local officials representing all or a portion of the district
In the past 10 years, the candidate’s spouse, domestic partner or family member held elective office in all or a portion of the district
The opposing candidate has received state public matching funds for the covered election
An individual is self-funding and has given or loaned themselves $24,000 for Senate or $10,000 for Assembly
The opposing candidate previously held elective office
Political communications must include a disclosure that the candidate is a “New York State Public Campaign Finance Program Participant.”
The PCFB is required to develop and administer a training program for individuals to become certified compliance officers for the program.
Unspent funds must be returned only if the amount of qualified campaign expenditures is less than the amount of public funds remaining. A “surplus” must be returned if the surplus is more than the difference between the public matching funds received and the total qualified campaign expenditures.
Names of candidates audited by the Public Campaign Finance Board will not be disclosed unless there is a finding of wrongdoing.
Severability clause is expanded to the full article (was previously limited to particular subdivisions).
For Immediate Release
Contact: Erica Smitka, Legislative Director
June 7, 2023
Public Campaign Finance Program Must Not be Weakened
League Appalled at Efforts to Undermine System
The League is appalled at efforts from legislators to push last minute changes on New York’s Public Campaign Finance Program. New Yorkers have long been frustrated by the deplorable condition of our state’s campaign finance system and the outsized power of wealthy interests in Albany. The Public Campaign Finance Program, passed in 2020, was a step towards addressing the impact of wealthy interests in New York politics. Changes proposed in a recently released bill (A07760/S07564), would drastically alter the intended goal of the program, to empower small donors to have a bigger voice in New York politics. The proposed changes seek to undermine the very foundation of the program. Furthermore, attempting to pass this legislation at the end of session without input from the public contradicts the Legislature’s commitment to a transparent and accessible process. The League of Women Voters of New York State urges legislators to vote no on this bill.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STATEMENT FROM FAIR ELECTIONS FOR NEW YORK COALITION ON PROPOSED LEGISLATIVE CHANGES TO NYS PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCING PROGRAM
NEW YORK (June 5, 2023) — The Fair Elections for New York coalition released the following statement in response to S7564/A7760, which includes modifications to the Public Campaign Finance Program:
"Our coalition firmly believes that New York’s Public Campaign Finance Program represents a vital step towards granting everyday New Yorkers a more influential voice in their democracy. The changes put forward in this legislation, particularly changes to the matching formula, undermine that core objective. Public campaign finance should empower small donors, not provide an extra boost to the contributions of large donors.
The legislature and governor showed leadership on combating the pervasive influence of big money in politics by funding the Public Campaign Finance Program in the state budget. These proposed changes severely roll back the progress we celebrated just a month ago. We will educate the public and work with candidates to unlock the potential that still exists within this law to empower small donors and amplify the voices of everyday New Yorkers. However, should this last-minute, backroom deal move forward, we will immediately begin our fight to restore New York’s Public Campaign Finance Program to the model for creating a fairer election system that it was originally intended to be.”
About Fair Elections for New York
Fair Elections for New York is a coalition of 200+ organizations that believe New Yorkers deserve a responsive, accountable government. To tackle the crises we face in housing, living wage jobs, criminal justice, affordable health care, transportation, climate, fair taxes, and more, we must protect and expand our democracy to ensure it is responsive to the majority of people, not just the wealthy and well-connected.