New Analysis by Brennan Center and Campaign Finance Institute Finds Striking Differences between the Donors to City and State Elections
Contact: Madeline Friedman, Brennan Center, 646–292–8357
Michael J. Malbin, Campaign Finance Institute, 202–969–8890, ext. 221
NEW YORK & WASHINGTON, DC—A new report jointly released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law and the Campaign Finance Institute of Washington DC offers powerful evidence that New York City’s public financing system has contributed to a fundamental change in the relationship between candidates and their donors. With the program in place, there has been a dramatic increase in the number and diversity of the city’s residents who participate in the process.
New York State is considering a system of public campaign financing for state elections similar to New York City’s small donor matching fund program, based in part on the assumption that it would bring greater fairness and diversity to state elections. The results of this new study support that claim.
Entitled “Donor Diversity through Public Matching Funds,” the report is based on a fine-grained and original analysis of the New York City census block groups in which the city and state election donors reside. The results show that small donors to 2009 City Council candidates came from a much broader array of city neighborhoods than the city’s small donors to 2010 State Assembly candidates. By looking at how the same neighborhoods behaved over two sets of elections, the study was able to control for the potential donor pool’s underlying demographics and politics. The study compared the City Council to the Assembly because the two office’s constituencies are roughly the same size.
(The full report, Donor Diversity through Public Matching Funds can be viewed on or downloaded from the web sites of the Brennan Center and the Campaign Finance Institute.)
Some of the most revealing statistics from the report include:
- Participation from across the city: Almost 90 percent of the city’s census block groups were home to someone — and often, many people — who gave $175 or less to a City Council candidate in 2009. In contrast, two-thirds of the census block groups housed no small donors at all to candidates who ran for the State Assembly in 2010.
- Participation from socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods:The neighborhoods in which City Council small donors reside were more representative of New York City as a whole. They have lower incomes, higher poverty rates, and higher concentrations of minority residents than the neighborhoods where State Assembly small donors reside. All of these differences were statistically significant.
- More participation from minority communities: Twenty-four times more small donors from the poor and predominately black Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and the surrounding communities gave money to candidates for the City Council than for the State Assembly. For Chinatown the advantage was 23 to 1. In the heavily Latino neighborhoods of Upper Manhattan and South Bronx, it was 12 to 1.
- Greater impact of donations from neighborhoods of color: The poor neighborhoods of color we analyzed were also financially more important to City Council candidates than to State Assembly candidates. In financial terms, the donors from Bedford-Stuyvesant and surrounding neighborhoods were more than 11 times as important for City Council candidates as they were than for candidates running for State Assembly. For Chinatown, the figure was 7 to 1.
The study’s co-authors are Elisabeth Genn, Counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program; Sundeep Iyer, Principal Quantitative Analyst at the Brennan Center; Michael J. Malbin, Executive Director of the Campaign Finance Institute and Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany (SUNY); and Brendan Glavin, Data and Systems Manager at the Campaign Finance Institute.
The report’s co-authors conclude: “The city’s public financing system gives candidates an incentive to reach out to a broader and more diverse array of constituents to fund their campaigns. In so doing, the city’s public financing system appears to have achieved one of its key goals — strengthening the connections between public officials and their constituents.”
For more information or to request an interview with the report’s authors, contact Madeline Friedman, Brennan Center, 646–292–8357 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Michael J. Malbin, Campaign Finance Institute, 202–969–8890, ext. 221 or email@example.com.