Today New York State lawmakers passed a bill that substantially changes key aspects of New York’s voluntary small-dollar public campaign financing program. The legislation includes a proposal to replace the program’s match on small donations of $5-$250 with a match on the first $250 of contributions up to the maximum limit. That means that contributions of up to $18,000 for statewide races, $10,000 for senate, and $6,000 for assembly would be matched with public funds.
Joanna Zdanys, senior counsel in the Elections and Government Program of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, had the following comment:
“Today, politicians in Albany put self-interest before the public interest. The small donor public campaign finance program that they enacted in 2020 is the nation’s strongest response to the toxic influence of big money in our politics. This bill severely undercuts the program’s purpose and promise.
“This innovative program was designed to give everyday New Yorkers a greater voice in their government by matching only truly small contributions. It aims to counter a status quo under which the wealthiest donors have an outsized role in funding campaigns. As enacted, the program would have given small donor constituents far more clout and incentivized candidates to spend more time engaging with them. But with the bill passed today, lawmakers put their interest in amplifying large donations before the public’s interest in countering the influence of big donors.
“The program enacted in 2020 is overwhelmingly popular with New York voters, who say big money has too much political sway. It was the result of years of public debate and careful policy making. The details were settled, and the program has already launched. The bill the Legislature passed today was a last-minute rush job cobbled together behind closed doors, with no opportunity for public input.
“Today is not the last word. A strong public financing program is essential if New Yorkers are going to have the diverse, inclusive democracy they call for and deserve. We’ll keep fighting for it.”
New York’s small donor public financing program was enacted in 2020 to “ensure a government that is accountable to all of the voters of the state regardless of wealth or position.” Last month, state lawmakers included $39.5 million for the program for Fiscal Year 2024. It works by providing candidates who choose to opt in with a multiple match on contributions of $250 or less from the constituents they seek to serve. Analyses show that the program is the country’s strongest response to Citizens United and stands to transform the role everyday New Yorkers play in funding elections.