Today in the Suffolk County Legislature, lawmakers voted to override County Executive Steve Bellone’s veto of IR 1416, announced last week. The legislation eliminates the Suffolk County Fair Elections Matching Fund Program and the Campaign Finance Board responsible for its administration. The legislature had passed the law in June. The program would have offered a multiple match of public funds on small contributions from local residents to participating candidates.
Ian Vandewalker, senior counsel in the Elections and Government Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, had the following reaction:
“We strongly oppose today’s vote by the Suffolk County Legislature to repeal the county’s landmark public financing law. This vote in favor of IR 1416 is a vote against our democracy.
“The legislature’s decision sends Suffolk County backwards in time. When the legislature passed the public financing law in 2017, the county became a leader on campaign finance reform. This program would have refocused campaign fundraising on everyday people instead of deep-pocketed special interests. Today’s vote erased that progress, as well the Campaign Finance Board’s hard work to implement the program.
“This decision robs the people of Suffolk County of the results delivered by public campaign financing programs. Similar systems elsewhere in the country help candidates run for office with the backing of their communities, increase opportunities for constituent engagement on the campaign trail, and bring more people from all walks of life into the political process. Public financing is the most effective tool we have to fight the undue influence of big donors in the wake of Citizens United and is needed in Suffolk County. With support for public financing of elections growing nationwide, we hope this is not the end of the story for the county’s Fair Elections Matching Funds Program.”