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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.”