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Small Donor Matching Funds: The NYC Election Experience

Published: September 17, 2010

This report exam­ines the New York City system and shows that a system based on small dona­tions with a multiple match can change the dynam­ics of money in our polit­ics. Specific­ally, the small donor multiple match system—which is a feature of both Fair Elec­tions and the New York City system—has the poten­tial to trans­form our polit­ics by incentiv­iz­ing and super­char­ging grass­roots fundrais­ing.

Like many public finan­cing systems, the New York City program provides money to candid­ates who accept expendit­ure limits and enhanced disclos­ure. However, the heart of the system, and what sets it apart, is the multiple match—a feature that boosts the impact of small dona­tions by match­ing up to $175 of each contri­bu­tion at a six-to-one ratio. By encour­aging candid­ates to engage with voters early in an elec­tion campaign, fundrais­ing and voter outreach efforts come together. The report includes a number of inter­views with candid­ates who used the system and testify to its bene­fits.