The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing: A Statistical Comparison of City Council (2017) and State Assembly (2018) Fundraising in New York City

September 9, 2019

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This spring New York enacted an historic law committing to establish voluntary public financing for state elections. The governor and legislative leaders appointed nine commissioners to design the system by December 1. The Commission’s goals are to incentivize candidates to seek small donations, reduce pressure on them to solicit large gifts, and encourage qualified candidates to run for office. Its work could fundamentally transform a political process dominated by big checks and infamous for undermining the public’s trust.

This study adds new evidence to a body of research that demonstrates small donor public financing is the most effective, proven policy solution to meet the Commission’s goals.

In addition to known benefits, this study shows that a small donor public financing system, of the kind New York City has offered candidates for city office for decades, incentivizes candidates to engage many more in-district donors for campaign support, and gives these in-district donors (including small donors) significantly greater financial influence, compared to campaigns where candidates do not use small donor public financing.

For media inquiries, contact: Alexandra Ringe; alexandra.ringe@nyu.edu; 646-925-8744.