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Press Release

Brennan Center Responds to New York State Public Financing Commission Vote and Draft Recommendations

The commission on public financing proposes small donor match program for state-level campaigns.

November 25, 2019

The New York Public Financing Commission voted 7–2 in favor of recommendations that will define a public financing system for state political campaigns. These recommendations will become law unless changed by legislation before December 22.

Lawrence Norden, director of Election Reform at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, said:

“With the recommendations approved today, the New York State Public Financing Commission has put together a solid foundation for a strong, state-level public financing system, the single most important reform any state can take in response to the Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United decision. The commission’s program, if adopted, will bring more New Yorkers into the state’s democracy, as donors and as candidates.

“Small donations of $250 or less would receive a meaningful multiple match, enabling candidates to opt to run on the support of regular New Yorkers rather than large donors. State residents would see their small donations matched 6 to 1 for qualifying statewide office candidates. District residents’ donations would receive a tiered match when donating to qualifying candidates running to represent the district in the legislature: 12 to 1 for the first $50, 9 to 1 for the next $100, and 8 to 1 for the final $100.

“Unfortunately, the recommendations approved today stray into areas that are unrelated to the commission’s purpose and public financing. The commissioners’ plan would impose new, onerous, and unnecessary restrictions on parties’ access to the ballot. That’s undemocratic and raises significant constitutional concerns. The legislature should return to Albany and make sure that this destructive part of the commission’s plan does not become law.

“As with New York City’s 30 year-old public financing program, the Brennan Center hopes and expects that this system will evolve and improve over time. The commission’s plan would substantially reduce the maximum amounts that individual donors can give to a state-level candidates, but they would remain among the highest in the nation. We hope they will be further reduced. The Public Campaign Finance Board that would oversee the new program would be housed within the State Board of Elections. It will be critical for state leaders to appoint fair, qualified experts who are committed to building and enforcing an effective system.

“We urge the legislature and the governor’s office to commit to working on improving the system.”