Anda di halaman 1dari 96

Testimony of

Chisun Lee, Senior Counsel, Democracy Program, and


Joanna Zdanys, Counsel, Democracy Program
Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
Submitted to the New York Public Campaign Financing Commission
September 10, 2019

The Brennan Center is a nonpartisan law institute that for nearly 25 years has studied, litigated,
and drafted legislative solutions regarding money in politics, among other issues of democracy
and justice. We appreciate the opportunity to testify in support of this Commission’s historic
work to design a program of small donor public financing for New York state.
A system of small donor public financing that provides a multiple match on small contributions
is the most powerful solution available to counter the corrosive influence of big money in
politics in the age of unlimited spending by a wealthy few. Such a system can help
fundamentally transform a political process in New York that is currently dominated by wealthy
donors and undermines the public trust.
I. The Moment for Reform
This Commission has a rare opportunity to help restore New Yorkers’ faith in democracy by
creating a strong system of small donor public financing. If this Commission delivers such a
system, it will be held up as a national model of campaign finance reform. A system that falls
short will be viewed as a frustration of this Commission’s purpose and a missed opportunity to
deliver reform at a time of great momentum for combatting the outsized role of wealth in
politics. In just the last few years cities and counties across the country, including Suffolk
County and Washington, D.C., and its surrounding counties, have enacted public financing as a
response to the big-money excesses of unlimited spending in our elections. 1 Other jurisdictions

1
See Martin Austermuhle, Bowser Signs Bill Creating Public Financing Program For Political Campaigns—And
Will Fund It, WAMU (Mar. 13, 2018), https://wamu.org/story/18/03/13/bowser-signs-bill-creating-public-financing-
program-political-campaigns-will-fund/; Rachel Chason, Prince George’s Approves Matching Funds for Local
Candidates—Starting in 2026, WASH. POST (Oct. 24, 2018), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-
politics/prince-georges-approves-public-finance-system-for-local-candidates/2018/10/24/47f7b75a-d738-11e8-a10f-
with long-standing public financing programs, like New York City and Los Angeles, have taken
steps to strengthen them. 2 And the U.S. House of Representatives, including the entire New
York Democratic delegation, passed public financing as part of their historic pro-democracy
package known as H.R. 1, the For the People Act. 3
This Commission’s work could enable New York to be the first state since Citizens United to
empower ordinary citizens with a program that will match and multiply small contributions in
elections for all statewide and state legislative offices. It comes not a moment too soon. The
dominance of wealthy donors and special interests is especially acute in our state, leading
constituents to believe that their government does not serve them. 4
Case in point: in the 2018 elections, small donations made up less than 5 percent of the money
raised by New York state candidates – far less than the 19 percent of money raised from small
donors by federal candidates, which is already a low figure. 5 The biggest 100 donors to New
York candidates gave more than all the roughly 137,000 small donors combined – and this does
not even include giving from LLCs and corporations. 6 The majority of contributions to New
York candidates came from donors who gave more than $10,000 each. 7 Notably, out-of-state
donors outweighed New York’s small donors: non-New Yorkers gave this state’s candidates
nearly three times as much as all small-donor New Yorkers combined, almost all in gifts of

b51546b10756_story.html; Andrew Michaels, Howard County Council Passes Small Donor Public Finance System
to Begin in 2022 Election Cycle, BALTIMORE SUN (June 6, 2017),
https://www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/howard/columbia/ph-ho-cf-council-campaign-funding-0608-20170606-
story.html; David M. Schwartz, Suffolk Legislature OKs Public Financing of County Campaigns, NEWSDAY (Dec.
19, 2017), https://www.newsday.com/long-island/politics/suffolk-public-financing-1.15523881; Bill Turque,
Montgomery Council Approves Plan for Public Finance of Local Campaigns, WASH. POST (Sept. 30, 2014),
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/montgomery-council-approves-plan-for-public-finance-of-local-
campaigns/2014/09/30/b3e2b15c-482d-11e4-b72e-d60a9229cc10_story.html.
2
New York City voters passed a ballot initiative in 2018 to strengthen the public financing system, voting over 80
percent in favor to lower contribution limits, increase the match available, and make public matching funds available
earlier in the year. See 2018 Charter Revision Commission Ballot Questions, N.Y.C. CHARTER REVISION COMM’N,
https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/charter/downloads/pdf/2018_charter_revision_commission_ballot_proposals_1_pdf.P
DF (last visited Sept. 5, 2019); New York Election Results, N.Y. TIMES,
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/06/us/elections/results-new-york-elections.html (last updated May 15,
2019) (showing that Ballot Proposal 1 passed with 80.3% in favor). The Los Angeles City Council voted last year to
increase the city’s match to provide a $6-to-$1 match on small contributions. See
L.A., CAL., CODE § 49.7.27 (2019).
3
For the People Act of 2019, H.R. 1, 116th Cong. §§ 502–547 (2019); see also Tim Lau, House Passes Historic
Democracy Bill, BRENNAN CTR. FOR JUSTICE (Mar. 8, 2019), https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/house-passes-
historic-democracy-reform-bill.
4
BRENNAN CTR. FOR JUSTICE, THE CASE FOR SMALL DONOR PUBLIC FINANCING IN NEW YORK STATE 3 (2019),
https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/CaseforPublicFinancingNY_0.pdf (attached hereto as
Exhibit A) (hereinafter The Case for Small Donor Public Financing in New York State).
5
Chisun Lee & Nirali Vyas, Analysis: New York’s Big Donor Problem & Why Small Donor Public Financing is an
Effective Solution for Constituents and Candidates, BRENNAN CTR. FOR JUSTICE (Jan. 28, 2019),
https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/nypf. That analysis defined “small donation” as $175 or less. See id. n.2.
6
The top 100 donors that live in New York state contributed $7,525,311, and an estimated 137,000 small donors
contributed $5,807,914. See id. n.2.
7
Id.

Page 2
$1,000 or more. 8 It is no surprise, then, that New York consistently falls at the bottom of
rankings of states on participation by small donors. 9
But research shows that public financing provides a way forward for returning balance and
providing a greater voice for ordinary New Yorkers. In a recent study, the Campaign Finance
Institute found that, had the small donor matching system proposed in this year’s Executive
Budget been in place, Assembly candidates would have raised more than four times as much
money from small donors as they did under the current system, making small donors the single
largest source of campaign funds. 10 Senate candidates would have raised six times as much
money from small donors. 11 Implementing the program in the Executive Budget proposal could
have dramatically increased the 2018 candidates’ fundraising from small donors, from 5 percent
to 30 percent of campaign funds. 12
The Brennan Center’s research shows yet another benefit of small donor public financing: it
serves to strengthen the ties between candidates and the constituents they hope to serve. In a
recent study, we compared fundraising data for publicly financed New York City Council
candidates in the 2017 elections with that of their privately financed City Council and 2018 State
Assembly counterparts seeking to represent almost exactly the same constituents. 13 We found
that the median publicly financed City Council candidates received contributions from more
donors within their districts, received more of their total campaign funds from district residents,
and raised a larger portion of their funds from small donors than their privately financed
counterparts in City Council and State Assembly. 14 The median publicly financed City Council
candidate received campaign support from 23 percent more in-district donors and raised 30

8
Id.
9
See Michael J. Malbin, Peter W. Brusoe & Brendan Glavin, Small Donors, Big Democracy: New York City’s
Matching Funds as a Model for the Nation and States, 11 ELECTION L.J. 3, 14 (2012),
http://www.cfinst.org/pdf/state/nyc-as-a-model_elj_as-published_march2012.pdf. See also Sources of Funds in
2012 State Legislative and Gubernatorial Elections, CAMPAIGN FIN. INST.,
http://www.cfinst.org/pdf/state/tables/States_12_table2.pdf; Sources of Funds in 2014 State Legislative and
Gubernatorial Elections, CAMPAIGN FIN. INST., http://www.cfinst.org/pdf/state/tables/States_14_table2.pdf.
10
Michael J. Malbin & Brendan Glavin, Small Donor Matching Funds for New York State Elections: A Policy
Analysis of the Potential Impact and Cost, CAMPAIGN FIN. INST. 6–7 (Feb. 2019),
http://www.cfinst.org/pdf/State/NY/Policy-Analysis_Public-Financing-in-NY-State_Feb2019_wAppendix.pdf
(hereinafter Small Donor Matching Funds for New York State Elections); The Case for Small Donor Public
Financing in New York State, at 9.
11
Small Donor Matching Funds for New York State Elections, at 6-7; The Case for Small Donor Public Financing
in New York State, at 9.
12
To reflect the provisions in Governor Cuomo’s campaign finance reform package, these figures factored in a
“small donation” amount of $175, lower contribution limits, and a ban on direct corporate contributions. See The
Case for Small Donor Public Financing in New York State, at 9.
13
Our analysis focused on geographically analogous candidates facing similar levels of competition and comparable
fundraising needs. Nirali Vyas, Chisun Lee, & Joanna Zdanys, 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, BRENNAN CTR. FOR JUSTICE (Sept. 9, 2019), https://www.brennancenter.org/publication/constituent-
engagement-effect-small-donor-public-financing (attached hereto as Exhibit B) (hereinafter The Constituent Effect
of Small Donor Public Financing). The analysis controlled for variables including degree of opposition, incumbency
and type of office sought (city or state). See id. at 2.
14
The Constituent Effect of Small Donor Public Financing, at 2.

Page 3
percent more of their total campaign funds from in-district donors than did their privately-funded
State Assembly and City Council counterparts in the same neighborhoods. 15
Small donor public financing also serves to expand the racial and economic diversity of the
donor pool, which helps to address the problem that big donors in New York elections
underrepresent the geographic, socioeconomic, and racial diversity of the state. 16 We found that
in the 2018 New York State elections, two-thirds of big donors who gave $10,000 or more came
from just three affluent counties: New York, Nassau, and Westchester. 17 Those big donors
typically lived in neighborhoods that were whiter and wealthier and had more college-educated
and employed people than the neighborhoods where small donors lived, according to census
data. 18 But as our 2012 joint study with the Campaign Finance Institute found, small donors to
publicly financed candidates “came from a much broader array of city neighborhoods than”
donors to state legislative candidates representing the same communities, who do not run under a
public financing system. 19 Simply put, public financing encourages participation by donors from
communities that do not traditionally contribute to campaigns in large numbers.
These benefits come at a reasonably modest cost to New Yorkers. An aggressive estimate by the
Campaign Finance Institute estimated that the public financing program in this year’s Executive
Budget, including administration and enforcement, would have cost under $60 million per year,
well within the parameters of the budget allotted for the program this Commission will create. 20
The relatively minimal cost of the public financing program would more than pay for itself in
more efficient and accountable government, as the Moreland Commission observed in its
endorsement of the reform. 21
II. Core Features of a Small Donor Public Financing Program
Small donor public financing is not a vague, unexplored concept, and this Commission need not
start its work from scratch. This reform has been known, proposed in substantially similar
legislation by each Chamber 22 and the Executive, 23 and carefully studied, for years. New York
City has run a successful system for decades. We have provided model legislation as a starting

15
Id. at 4.
16
The Case for Small Donor Public Financing in New York State, at 3.
17
Chisun Lee & Nirali Vyas, Analysis: New York’s Big Donor Problem & Why Small Donor Public Financing is an
Effective Solution for Constituents and Candidates, BRENNAN CTR. FOR JUSTICE (Jan. 28, 2019),
https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/nypf.
18
Id.
19
ELISABETH GENN ET AL., BRENNAN CTR. FOR JUSTICE & CAMPAIGN FIN. INST., DONOR DIVERSITY THROUGH
PUBLIC MATCHING FUNDS, 4 (2012),
http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/publications/DonorDiversityReport_WEB.PDF.
20
Small Donor Matching Funds for New York State Elections, at 12.
21
COMM’N TO INVESTIGATE PUBLIC CORRUPTION, STATE OF N.Y., Preliminary Report 47 (2013),
https://publiccorruption.moreland.ny.gov/sites/default/files/moreland_report_final.pdf.
22
See, e.g., Fair Elections Act, S.B. 7593, 2017 Leg., 240th Sess. (N.Y. 2018); 2016 Fair Elections Act, A.B. 9281,
2015 Leg., 238th Sess. (N.Y. 2016).
23
STATE OF N.Y., FY 2020 New York State Executive Budget: Good Government and Ethics Reform Article VII
Legislation 6 ( 2019), https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy20/exec/artvii/gger-artvii.pdf.

Page 4
point for the Commission’s work. 24 Though the specifics of proposals and programs vary in
some details, there are core principles that New York State’s program must reflect to be
successful. This Commission may prefer details or approaches that differ from existing models.
While we do not necessarily oppose alternatives to our recommendations, we urge you to
proceed with care. This Commission should consult experts throughout its decision-making
process to ensure that the details it considers do not undermine the primary goals of the system
or the Commission’s statutory mandate.
1. Provide a multiple match on small donations
The system – which must be voluntary – should provide a multiple match on small contributions
to candidates who choose to participate. Public financing laws typically state the number of
dollars that a candidate will receive in public funds for every dollar of private funds raised, up to
a specified amount. We recommend at least a $6-to-$1 match on the first $200 of an eligible
contribution. 25 With that ratio in place, an eligible $10 contribution would be matched with $60
in matching funds, becoming worth $70 to the candidate.
We recommend matching contributions from New York State residents only. 26 To truly
incentivize candidates to focus on fundraising from and engaging with their own constituents,
this Commission should also consider providing an even higher match ratio for in-district
contributors in legislative races. By increasing the value of small donors’ modest contributions,
a multiple match on contributions can encourage candidates to spend more time engaging with
their own constituents. And a sufficiently high match ratio on small contributions incentivizes
candidates to seek contributions from more donors in total and more small donors, instead of a
concentrated few.
Changes to New York City’s program, which began in 1988 with a $1-to-$1 match on
contributions up to $1,000, are instructive. The City saw increased small donor participation
each time it refined the program to increase its match ratio and decrease the matchable amount. 27

24
See BRENNAN CTR. FOR JUSTICE, Model Public Financing Bill (attached hereto as Exhibit C) (hereinafter
“Brennan Center Model Bill”).
25
See id. at 29–30 (adding N.Y. ELEC. LAW § 14-212(2) to § 20). Many prominent programs set the matchable
amount somewhere between $175 and $250. See, e.g., What’s New in the Campaign Finance Program, N.Y.C.
CAMPAIGN FIN. BOARD, https://www.nyccfb.info/program/what-s-new-in-the-campaign-finance-program-2/ (last
accessed Sept. 6, 2019) (matching up to $250 per contributor to candidates for the offices of Mayor, Public
Advocate, and Comptroller, and up to $175 per contributor for candidates running for City Council or Borough
President) (hereinafter What’s New in the Campaign Finance Program); SUFFOLK COUNTY, N.Y. Code § C42-1
(defining “matchable contribution” as a contribution or contributions of no more than $250 in the aggregate).
26
See Brennan Center Model Bill, at 24 (adding N.Y. ELEC. LAW § 14-202(9) to § 20).
27
Michael J. Malbin & Michael Parrot, Would Revising Los Angeles’ Campaign Matching Fund System Make a
Difference? CAMPAIGN FIN. INST. 7 (Sept. 7, 2016), http://www.cfinst.org/pdf/books-
reports/LosAngeles_PublicFundingReport_2016.pdf. New York City’s program was originally enacted in 1988. It
offered a $1-to-$1 match on contributions of $1,000 or less until a series of increases to the matching ratio began
with a $4-to-$1 match first enacted in the 1999 special election, followed by a $6-to-$1 match in 2009. In 2018,
voters overwhelmingly approved amendments to the City Charter that now provide an $8-to-$1 match.

Page 5
It now features an $8-to-$1 match on the first $175 of a contribution for City Council candidates
and the same match on the first $250 for citywide candidates. 28
Other jurisdictions are following New York City’s example. Los Angeles increased its match
from $4-to-$1 to $6-to-$1 earlier this year. 29 And at the time of this writing, the San Francisco
Board of Supervisors is considering a proposal to raise its match ratio from $2-to-$1 on
contributions up to $500 to $6-to-$1 on contributions up to $150. 30
Participating candidates must be able to receive matching funds in both the primary and general
elections, given that the primary is often the critical race in New York elections. This approach
also provides consistency by requiring candidates to adhere to the same set of rules throughout
the election cycle.
2. Implement reasonable qualifying thresholds
To ensure that funds are not wasted on frivolous or uncompetitive campaigns, candidates seeking
to join the program should first be required to demonstrate a viable base of support by collecting
a minimum threshold amount of money from a minimum number of small donors. Yet,
thresholds should not be so inaccessible that candidates are disincentivized from joining the
program.
We provide proposed thresholds in our model bill, which are adapted from New York City’s
program and recommendations by Professor Michael Malbin. Other models exist in previous
legislation, but it is worth noting that, according to an analysis by the Campaign Finance
Institute, fewer than one third of 2018 candidates would have qualified for public financing
under the thresholds in the Governor’s most recent budget proposal. 31 Although it is reasonable
to anticipate that candidates seeking public financing will be incentivized to change their
fundraising behaviors, we recommend that the qualifying thresholds be somewhat lower than
those provided in the Governor’s bill.
3. Provide reasonable limits on public funds
Public financing should be capped at a reasonable amount that both protects the public fisc and
gives candidates enough support to run competitive campaigns. To reflect the realities of
campaigning in a world of unlimited independent expenditures, candidates should be allowed to
continue to raise and spend without limit, subject to the contribution limits that apply to publicly
financed candidates and other program requirements. Public financing should be a floor that
boosts candidates, not a ceiling that limits them.

28
See What’s New in the Campaign Finance Program (describing changes to the program in 2018 and 2019,
including an increased match ratio).
29
See L.A., CAL., CODE § 49.7.27 (2019) (providing a $6-to-$1 match).
30
See Letter from Victor Young, Clerk, Rules Comm. to Ethics Comm’n (June 12, 2019),
https://sfgov.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=7305601&GUID=72EA4DF5-7F98-4F45-AEEE-77563848A24D
(Attaching ordinance amending the Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code to increase the matching ratio for
campaign contributions raised by candidates in the City’s public financing program and the amount of public funds
available for those candidates).
31
Small Donor Matching Funds for New York State Elections, at 14.

Page 6
We have heard concerns that the public financing limits in recent proposals are too high. It is
worth remembering that the limits on public financing are not necessarily equivalent to amount
that a candidate will receive in matching funds – unlike in block grant systems, where a
candidate receives a set amount of public funds once he or she qualifies. 32 Every payment of
public funds that a candidate receives is tied to actual fundraising – a candidate will not receive
matching funds unless he or she first does the work of earning constituent support and raising
matchable contributions.
To further protect public dollars, candidates should be required to repay any unspent matching
funds after the election, to add to the reserve for publicly financed candidates for future election
cycles. This Commission might also consider implementing provisions, like those in New York
City’s program, that prevent “sure winner” candidates – those who do not face serious opposition
– from receiving the full amount of funds for which they qualify if they do not first demonstrate
the need for the full statutory allowance of public funds. 33
4. Provide payments early and often enough to be useful to candidates.
We have heard concerns from legislators about the need for public funds in the critical early days
of a race. Recent New York State proposals have provided public funds after a candidate has
filed his or her designating petition to appear on the ballot. 34 That timeline deprives candidates
of matching funds at a time when financial resources are essential to getting a campaign off the
ground. Recognizing this need, New York City’s law was recently amended to allow payments
as early as December in the calendar year before the election year. 35 We endorse this approach,
provided that the candidate be required to repay any public funds received if he or she fails to
secure a place on the ballot or actively campaign.
We have also heard concerns about receiving public payments quickly enough to stand up to
last-minute opposition spending close to election day. To address these realities, legislation
should make clear the minimum timeline for receiving payments, including a schedule of
payments and the required turnaround time of funds after a candidate makes a request. It should
also include mechanisms for providing candidates with more frequent payments under some
circumstances. Our model bill provides examples for how to accomplish this. 36

32
See, e.g., CONN. GEN. STAT. § 9-705 (setting forth the grant amounts that qualifying candidates may receive).
33
See N.Y.C., N.Y., CODE § 3-705(7)(a) (providing that a participating candidate will not receive more than one
quarter of the maximum funds payment unless the candidate meets one of a list of criteria demonstrating need for
the full amount of public funds).
34
FY 2020 New York State Executive Budget, at 40 (adding N.Y. STATE FINANCE LAW § 92-t(6) to § 9 and
providing that no public funds be paid for a primary election until thirty days after designating petitions are filed);
Fair Elections Act, S.B. 7593, 2017 Leg., 240th Sess. § 15 (N.Y. 2018) (adding N.Y. ELEC. LAW § 14-228)
(providing that no funds be paid in a primary election any earlier than two weeks after the deadline to file
designating petitions).
35
See What’s New in the Campaign Finance Program.
36
See Brennan Center Model Bill, at 25-26 (adding N.Y. ELEC. LAW § 14-204(2)(a), providing minimum schedule
of campaign finance disclosure reports for participating candidates, and N.Y. ELEC. LAW § 14-204(2)(d), allowing
candidates to file reports weekly for expedited payments); id. at 30 (adding N.Y. ELEC. LAW § 14-212(4), requiring
payment to candidate within four business days after receipt of required paperwork).

Page 7
5. Reduce contribution limits for all statewide and legislative candidates
New York’s contribution limits are so high that, according to the Moreland Commission to
Investigate Public Corruption, “they can scarcely be called limits at all.” 37 Any comprehensive
campaign finance proposal for New York State should reduce contribution limits for all
candidates, regardless of whether they seek public financing.
Lowering contribution limits for privately financed candidates is a long-overdue reform that is
undoubtedly within this Commission’s purview. This Commission must “determine and identify
all details and components reasonably related to administration of a public financing program.” 38
Reforming the ecosystem in which the public financing program operates is essential to the
program’s very existence. Publicly financed candidates will not raise and spend money in a
vacuum; they will do so alongside competitors who currently can raise enormous sums of money
from large donors – as much as $69,700 to a candidate for statewide office, $19,300 to a state
Senate candidate, and $9,400 to a state Assembly candidate in an election cycle. 39 Leaving these
limits undisturbed for traditionally funded candidates will hamstring the public financing system
by disincentivizing candidates from opting in.
Publicly financed candidates should be held to lower contribution limits than their privately
financed counterparts, to further the program’s goal of focusing on everyday constituents and
voters rather than deep-pocketed donors. But the disparity should not be so great as to deter
candidates from entering the system.
In addition, it would be sensible to prohibit contributions from corporations and LLCs, as New
York City has done. 40 Doing so, in combination with a multiplied match, would greatly enhance
the goal of incentivizing candidates to turn toward small donors for support. 41
6. Ensure effective oversight and administration
A successful public financing program requires fair and efficient oversight designed to avoid
deadlock and delay. Lessons learned from other programs provide the principles by which this
Commission should structure oversight of the program.
a. Structure the agency to avoid deadlock
The oversight body should be structured to ensure that decisions are made swiftly and efficiently.
We recommend that an odd-numbered body oversee the system. Many prominent public

37
COMM’N TO INVESTIGATE PUBLIC CORRUPTION, at 35.
38
FY 2020 Budget Bill, S.1509C, Part XXX, § 2 (N.Y. 2019).
39
N.Y. STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, Contribution Limits,
https://www.elections.ny.gov/cfcontributionlimits.html#Limits (last accessed Aug. 30, 2019).
40
N.Y.C., N.Y., CODE § 3-703(1)(l) (prohibiting candidates from accepting contributions from corporations, LLCs,
and partnerships); N.Y.C. CAMPAIGN FIN. BOARD, Limits & Thresholds: 2021 Citywide Elections,
http://www.nyccfb.info/candidate-services/limits-thresholds/2021/ (last accessed Sept. 9, 2019) (“All candidates are
prohibited from accepting contributions from corporations, LLCs, and partnerships.”).
41
See The Case for Small Donor Public Financing in New York State, at 9 (demonstrating how $6-to-$1 match, in
combination with a ban on corporate contributions, would have significantly increased the proportional importance
of small donors in the 2018 New York state election cycle).

Page 8
financing programs – including those of New York City, Connecticut, Maine, and Los Angeles –
are overseen by a board consisting of five members. 42 Ensuring that there is a tiebreaker present
for all matters will help avoid the kind of deadlock that has plagued agencies like the Federal
Election Commission and the State Board of Elections. The members should serve staggered
terms to ensure that their terms do not all expire simultaneously. This is a common feature of
campaign oversight agencies, including the New York City Campaign Finance Board and the
Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission. 43
In addition, the board should be structured to avoid political polarization. To that end, for a five-
member board, no more than two members of the same political party should serve
simultaneously, and at least one member should not be affiliated with any political party.
Connecticut’s State Election Enforcement Commission takes this approach. 44
b. Oversee all aspects of campaign finance law
The oversight body should oversee both publicly and traditionally financed candidates and have
authority over all aspects of the state’s campaign finance law. This approach streamlines
operations and promotes even-handed enforcement. Understanding that public financing
interacts with many other campaign finance laws, many of the most prominent public financing
systems house campaign finance oversight within the same body for both publicly and privately
financed candidates. 45
c. Empower the agency to provide clarity on the law
Not every detail of the public financing program will be decided through legislation. The
oversight body should be empowered to issue advisory opinions and promulgate rules and
regulations that provide guidance to candidates and help them comply with the law.

42
See N.Y.C., N.Y., CODE § 3-708(1) (“There shall be a campaign finance board consisting of five members.”);
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-7a(a) (“There is established a State Elections Enforcement Commission to consist of five
members[.]”); 1 M.R.S.A. § 1002(1-A) (the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices
“consists of 5 members”); L.A., Cal., Charter, Art. VII, § 700(a) (“The [Los Angeles City Ethics] Commission shall
have five members[.]”).
43
See N.Y.C., N.Y., CODE § 3-708(1) (providing initial terms of different lengths for the first five members of the
Campaign Finance Board, followed by subsequent terms of five years each, resulting in staggered five-year terms);
CONN. GEN. STAT. § 9-7a(a)(1)-(2) (providing that the five members of Connecticut’s State Elections Enforcement
Commission serve staggered three-year terms).
44
See CONN. GEN. STAT. § 9-7a(a) (providing for a five-member board “not more than two of whom shall be
members of the same political party and at least one of whom shall not be affiliated with any political party”).
45
See, e.g., Maine Comm’n on Governmental Ethics & Election Practices, About Us,
https://www.maine.gov/ethics/about (last accessed Sept. 7, 2019) (“The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics
and Election Practices is an independent state agency that administers Maine’s campaign finance laws, the Maine
Clean Election Act, and the lobbyist disclosure law.”); Conn. State Elections Enforcement Comm’n, About
Commission, https://seec.ct.gov/Portal/Publications/about (last accessed Sept. 9, 2019 ) (among other things, the
State Elections Enforcement Commission has the authority to investigate violations of the election law, inspect
campaign finance records, collect campaign finance records for state elections, and administer the state’s public
financing system); N.Y.C., N.Y., CODE § 3-718 (enumerating obligations of non-publicly financed candidates to the
Campaign Finance Board); L.A., Cal., Charter § 702 (outlining duties and responsibilities of the Los Angeles Ethics
Commission).

Page 9
d. Provide educational and compliance assistance
A candidate should not have to have a lawyer – or be one – to use the program. One of the most
essential responsibilities of the agency will be ensuring that candidates have the educational
resources and assistance they need to successfully comply with the program’s requirements.
Legislation should provide for adequate staff to support candidates. These resources not only
benefit candidates, but also create efficiencies down the line by avoiding mistakes that might
lead to compliance violations and enforcement proceedings.
e. Investigatory and enforcement powers
To enable the oversight board to effectively oversee and enforce the campaign finance laws,
legislation should give the members of the board certain investigatory powers. These should
include the authority to conduct hearings, administer oaths or affirmations, subpoena witnesses
and compel their attendance, examine witnesses under oath, and compel the production of
documents and other evidence. But the board should also be empowered to bring candidates into
compliance with the campaign finance laws short of initiating an enforcement action, including
through conversations with campaigns. 46
f. Provide for fair, proportional penalties
Legislation should clearly provide the maximum penalties for violations of the relevant law and
regulations. In addition, the board should be empowered to promulgate and publish guidelines
for civil penalties for common infractions and violations and include examples aggravating and
mitigating circumstances. 47 Doing so will help to tailor penalties appropriately and promote
consistency in enforcement.
g. Conduct robust but fair post-election audits
The board should conduct audits of both participating and non-participating candidates, 48 to
ensure the integrity of the program and protect the public fisc. But an overly strict approach to
auditing can be unduly burdensome. We recommend following Connecticut’s approach of
auditing all statewide candidates and up to half of legislative candidates. 49 Legislative
candidates should be selected by district through a weighted lottery that makes it more likely that
a district will be audited if it was not selected in recent election cycles, but without reducing the

46
Connecticut’s State Elections Enforcement Commission, for example, is empowered “to attempt to secure
voluntary compliance, by informal methods of conference, conciliation and persuasion[.]” CONN. GEN. STAT. § 9-
7b(a)(6).
47
See N.Y.C., N.Y., CODE § 3-711(1) (“The board shall publish a schedule of civil penalties for common infractions
and violations, including examples of aggravating and mitigating circumstances that may be taken into account by
the board in assessing such penalties. This schedule shall reflect that infractions are less serious failures to comply
with the provisions of this chapter.”).
48
Connecticut and New York City’s campaign finance oversight bodies audit both participating and
nonparticipating candidates. See CONN. GEN. STAT. § 9-7b(a)(5)(B) (describing Connecticut’s post-election audit
process); N.Y.C., N.Y., Rules, Tit. 52, § 4-05(a) (“The Board shall conduct desk and field audits of participants,
limited participants, and non-participants, regardless whether the candidates receive public funds.”).
49
See CONN. GEN. STAT. § 9-7b(a)(5)(B) (describing audit selection process).

Page 10
chance of being audited to zero, to prevent gamesmanship. 50 To avoid surprise and delay,
candidates should be provided advance notice of an audit, and the audit should be required to be
completed within a fair timeline. 51
***
We thank the Commission for the opportunity to testify and look forward to answering any
questions it may have. The Brennan Center is ready to assist in finalizing this historic and long-
awaited reform to restore New York’s democracy. Thank you.

50
Connecticut takes this approach. See CONN. GEN. STAT. § 9-7b(a)(5)(B).
51
See CONN. GEN. STAT. § 9-7b(a)(5)(C) (requiring the State Elections Enforcement Commission to provide notice
to a candidate subject to audit no later than May 31 in the year following the election).

Page 11
EXHIBIT A
The Case for
Small Donor
Public Financing in
New York State

Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law


Table of Contents

What Is Small Donor Public Financing? 1

Introduction 2

New York’s Big Donor–Dominated Politics 3

The Small Donor Solution 4

The Benefits 8

Conclusion 11

Endnotes 12
What Is Small Donor
Public Financing?

Small donor public financing is the most powerful, proven solution available to counter
the overwhelming influence of wealth on our political process in the aftermath of
the Citizens United decision, which gave the green light to unlimited special interest
spending. It is built on six components:

 A
 $6-to-$1 match of small donations. For each small contribution by an in-state
resident, a candidate for a state office would receive six times that amount in public
money. A contribution of $10 would then be worth $70. This would boost the voices of
regular New Yorkers.

 Q
 ualifying thresholds. To ensure that funds are not wasted on frivolous or
uncompetitive candidates, public financing participants would have to first
demonstrate reasonable levels of support by collecting a minimum number of small
donations from constituents.

 R
 educed contribution limits. New York’s contribution limits are currently sky high.
Individuals can give as much as $69,700 to a candidate for statewide office, $19,300
to a state Senate candidate, and $9,400 to a state Assembly candidate in an election
cycle.1 That’s much higher than federal contribution limits or those in most states.
Candidates participating in small donor public financing would be required to agree
to lower limits, to further the program’s goal of focusing fundraising on everyday
constituents and voters rather than deep-pocketed donors.

 A
 cap on public funds, but no limits on total fundraising or spending. Participating
candidates would be able to compete in the face of unlimited independent spending
after Citizens United. They would be allowed to raise private funds even after hitting the
public funding cap, subject to individual contribution limits, and to spend without limit
if they need to do so.

 Transparency and oversight. To protect New York’s investment of public funds, the
program would require public disclosure by participating candidates of fundraising
and spending and enforce compliance rules effectively. Drawing on experience in
Connecticut, it would establish effective oversight while making compliance easy and
inexpensive.

 Adequate and reliable funding. If the program had been in place in 2018, even an
aggressive projection of the cost to New York — assuming that every candidate opted
in — would have come to less than 1/10 of one percent of the state budget for funding
and administration, or less than a penny per day per New Yorker.2

T H E C A S E F O R S M A L L D O N O R P U B L I C F I N A N C I N G I N N E W Y O R K S TAT E | 1
Introduction: The Moment

N
ew York State has a chance to take a bold step to financing is the most powerful solution available to
strengthen democracy: enacting small donor public counter the influence of wealth on our political process.
financing. This system has worked for decades in
New York City. Expanded to state elections, it would be New York State needs this transformative change. For too
the biggest single response in the nation to the decision long, Albany has fostered a “pay-to-play political culture
in Citizens United. And it would meet a surging public [that] is greased by a campaign finance system in which
demand for change. large donors set the legislative agenda,” as the Moreland
Commission to Investigate Public Corruption put it in
Countering big money in elections would help transform 2013.12 In 2018 big donors almost completely dominated
New York politics. It would free legislators to better New York’s state elections. The top 100 donors gave more
represent their constituents. It would bolster the diversity to candidates than all of the estimated 137,000 small
of donors, officeholders, and candidates. It would curb donors combined.13 Small donations made up 5 percent
corruption. It would respond to the explosion of civic of all money given to New York State candidates — a far
engagement seen in the 2018 election and boost it further. smaller share than the 19 percent in small donations at the
And it would enhance public confidence.3 federal level in 2018.14 Between a system that enables huge
donations to dominate, and processes that make it too
Reshaping the way campaigns are financed is widely hard to vote, it is little wonder that New York suffers one
popular; all across the country, the public has demanded of the lowest civic engagement records in the country.15
reform.4 The very first bill introduced in the new U.S.
House of Representatives — H.R. 1 — would enact small
donor public financing nationwide.5 With opposition
from the Senate majority leader, that package will likely Now, with a new Democratic majority in the Senate for
not become law this year.6 But with a governor and a new the first time in a decade, it is time for change . . . . .
majority in the state legislature that have expressed support [W]e must set up a public finance system in which the
for progressive change, New York has the chance to lead. state would give six dollars for each dollar donated by
a member of our community . . . . Throughout our lives,
How does small donor public financing work? despite all our efforts to organize and push for laws
Constituents who give small amounts to participating that would benefit us, the voices of our community have
candidates will see their contributions matched by public not been heard sufficiently in Albany. Now we have the
money.7 The system is voluntary: Candidates opt in by opportunity to transform our state’s democracy. We
raising enough small initial donations to qualify, and they cannot lose."i
accept conditions including lower contribution limits.8 – Assemblymember Maritza Davila,
Op-Ed, El Diario, December 19, 2018
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s current proposal would
provide a $6-to-$1 match on each private contribution of
up to $175. Under this formula, a constituent donation This is the year to enact small donor public financing.
of $10 would be worth $70 to a participating candidate, Governor Cuomo’s current proposal closely resembles bills
and $175 would be worth $1,225. The Assembly passed a recently carried by now-Senate Majority Leader Andrea
similar bill several years ago, and leaders of both legislative Stewart-Cousins and by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie,
houses have proposed comparable plans in the past.9 presenting a genuine chance for change. A broad and
diverse coalition of more than 200 groups has joined to
The system reviewed in this report is based on New York press lawmakers to finally enact this powerful democracy
City’s program, considered to be the nation’s best. The reform that they have supported in name for years. The
city’s system has transformed the political participation of coalition includes major unions; environmental, racial
non-wealthy residents both as donors and as candidates. justice, and reproductive rights groups; politically active
The vast majority of candidates who run for district community organizations; and business and civic leaders.16
or citywide office participate in the program.10 In the
past few years alone, eight local governments including By taking this step, New York would lead the nation.
Washington, D.C., and Suffolk County, New York, It would be the first to enact a robust small donor
have adopted similar reforms.11 Following the 2010 matching program statewide. Passage would send a
Citizens United decision, which enabled unlimited special message to the nation that even in the age of Citizens
interest spending, and with a Supreme Court today that United, transformative change to take back democracy for
is unlikely to reverse course soon, small donor public everyday people is still possible.

2 | BR E N N A N C E N T E R F O R J U S T I C E
New York’s Big Donor–Dominated Politics
Since Citizens United, a small group of wealthy campaign finance system amplifies the voices of only a
megadonors have come to dominate U.S. election few New Yorkers. Big New York donors underrepresent
financing.17 The problem is especially acute in New York the geographic, socioec‍onomic, and racial diversity of the
State. Not only do big donors have a disproportionate state. In the 2018 New York State elections:24
impact on the political system, but small donors play
virtually no role at all. It’s a sharply tilted political system  Two-thirds of big donors (who gave $10,000 or
that gives a tiny number of big donors big power. more) came from just three affluent counties: New
York, Nassau, and Westchester.

 Big donors typically lived in neighborhoods that


were whiter and wealthier and had more college-
Like many others running this year, I worked hard to raise educated and employed people than neighborhoods
the majority of my donations from small donors. But where small donors lived.
the temptation to make shortcuts and take the $18,000
windfalls is very strong. A system of matching funds for  Donors from out of state gave nearly three times
small, local donations turns campaign fundraising into a more than all small-donor New Yorkers combined.
positive exercise in participatory democracy.”ii Close to 90 percent of that out-of-state money came
– Sen. Rachel May, Op-Ed, Syracuse Post-Standard, February 1, 2019 in donations of $1,000 or more.

Today’s big-money politics, of course, tilts policy. Tax


policy, environmental policy, real estate regulation, and
Today New York State has unusually lax campaign finance more are shaped by the contours of the political money
rules. Individuals can give as much as $69,700 to a system. A massive study of federal policies over two
candidate for statewide office, $19,300 to a state Senate decades found that the class of “economic elites” in the
candidate, and $9,400 to a state Assembly candidate in an United States has “substantial” impact on government
election cycle.18 (The federal cap on individual donations decisions, while “average citizens have little or no
is $5,600 per election cycle.)19 independent influence.”25

As a result, big donors almost completely dominated the So, too, in New York. The Moreland Commission found
2018 New York State elections, with small donors pushed that “access to elected officials comes at a price, and that
to the sidelines: the fight over legislation is often between entities with
vast financial resources at their disposal.”26 It concluded,
 The top 100 donors gave more to candidates than all “When political power and access is so closely and
of the estimated 137,000 small donors combined.20 disproportionately tied to large donations, the majority of
(This does not even include the millions of dollars New Yorkers are shut out of the political process.”27
contributed by LLCs and corporations, which would
skew the data even further to the wealthiest donors.) Events of recent years have created a wide public
perception of corruption in New York State. Governor
 Small donations amounted to only 5 percent of all Cuomo established the Moreland Commission in 2013
funds raised by candidates in New York State in the “in response to an epidemic of public corruption that has
2018 election cycle. This was the smallest source of infected this State.”28 The group of more than two dozen
funding to candidates.21 ethics scholars, prosecutors, defense attorneys, federal
officials, and other civic leaders reported:
 The majority of funds to candidates came from
people or entities who gave more than $10,000.22 In recent years, too many local and state elected officials,
staff members, and party leaders have been indicted
The most recent available studies by the nonpartisan and convicted for offenses running the gamut of shame:
Campaign Finance Institute show that New York bribery, embezzlement, self-dealing, and fraud....One out
consistently ranks among the worst states in the country of every eleven legislators to leave office since 1999 has
when it comes to small donor participation.23 done so under the cloud of ethical or criminal violations,
and multiple sitting officials are facing indictments on
At a time when diversity is rising as a social value, the public corruption charges.29

T H E C A S E F O R S M A L L D O N O R P U B L I C F I N A N C I N G I N N E W Y O R K S TAT E | 3
In the past decade, 19 New York State legislators have
been convicted on federal corruption charges, giving
As we continue our own work to empower women, . . New York one of the worst records in the nation.31,32 A
. . we urge the New York state government to act . . . . 2015 analysis by FiveThir‍‍‍‍tyEight found that from 1976 to
Implementing a voluntary public campaign financing 2010, New York had more public officials convicted on
system for all legislative and statewide races in New federal corruption charges than any other state.33
York into law is within our reach. The governor and the
Legislature must move this proposal past the finish New Yorkers want better for their state. A 2018 poll
line. New York deserve nothing less.”iii found that 85 percent of New Yorkers think government
– Senate Majority Leader (then Senate Democratic Leader) corruption is either a “very serious” or a “somewhat
Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Attorney General (then New York City serious” problem.34 And recent polls consistently
Public Advocate) Letitia James, Op-Ed, Journal News and LoHud,
March 22, 2014. show that large numbers of New Yorkers want state
officeholders to reduce the influence of money in politics
and end corruption.35 Stronger campaign finance laws
would help yield higher voter engagement. Public anger
The Commission also cited numerous instances where about corruption helps dampen participation. The sense
moneyed interests were accused of offering quid pro quo that only big donors have a say gives voters less reason to
exchanges of donations for favors.30 turn out and engage politically in other ways.

The Small Donor Solution


A small donor public financing system offers the best City’s small donor public financing program and the
chance to improve politics in New York. It is based on — state’s private financing system confirm this. Attorney
and enhances — the successful system used in New York General Letitia James, for instance, explained to the press
City and recently enacted in Suffolk County, and it has that in running for statewide office, she needed to raise
the following features. funds from the biggest donors to compete, in contrast to
the way she could turn to constituents for support when
she ran under the city’s system.37

We may not be able to shut off the spigot of money into The Campaign Finance Institute found that New York
the system, but by providing public financing we can City’s small donor public financing program “brought
increase public participation and ensure that deserving more low-dollar donors into the system,” leading to
candidates, not only rich and well-connected ones, have a “substantial increase not only in the proportional
an opportunity to run and compete for elected office.”iv role of small donors but in their absolute numbers
– Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Op-Ed, Huffington Post, May 6, 2014. per candidate.”38 In essence the reform, by increasing
the value of small donors’ modest contributions, can
transform candidates into agents of civic participation
who bring more — and new — constituents into the
1. $6-to-$1 Match of Small Donations political process.
Governor Cuomo’s current small donor public financing
proposal would provide $6 in public funds for every $1 of The table on page 5 makes plain the multiplier effect of a
a donation from a New York resident up to $175, similar $6-to-$1 match on contributions up to $175 from New
to New York City’s longtime model.36 Previous bills in the Yorkers. Adjusting the matchable amount to $250, as in
Senate and Assembly have also provided a $6-to-$1 match, last year’s State Senate bill, does not change the essential
though the matchable amount has varied, up to $250. mechanisms of the program.

A multiple match on small donations, especially combined To ensure that small donor public financing meets its
with lower contribution limits (discussed below), provides intended purpose — to encourage candidates to seek
a strong incentive for candidates to spend more time reasonable support from constituents rather than huge
raising money from and talking to their own constituents. checks from wealthy interests or out-of-state donors —
certain restrictions should apply to contributions that are
Officeholders who have campaigned in both New York matched. For instance, as mentioned above, contributions

4 | BR E N N A N C E N T E R F O R J U S T I C E
Table 1: The value of New Yorkers’ small donations after a $6-to-$1 match, compared
with other donations under Governor Cuomo’s proposal.

Total Value of Contribution


Contributor Contribution Amount Match Amount
to Candidate

New Yorker $10 $60 $70

New Yorker $50 $300 $350

New Yorker $175 $1,050 $1,225

Out-of-State Donor $250 $0 $250

Corporations/LLC/PAC $1,000 $0 $1,000

should be matched only up to a modest amount — Candidates should not have to skip the benefits of public
$175 or $250, as New York bills have specified. And financing because they fear they will not be able to run a
only donations from human beings — who could give competitive campaign.
to multiple candidates — residing in New York State
should be matched. The governor’s current bill and recent Participating candidates would be free to continue to raise
proposals of the Legislature all contain such restrictions funds privately, subject to individual contribution limits,
on matchable contributions. once they maxed out on public funding. To limit the total
expense of a public financing system, Governor Cuomo’s
2. Reduced Contribution Limits bill, as with all recent proposals, sets a maximum in
New York State’s contribution limits are unusually high. available matching funds for each type of office.41
Individuals can give as much as $69,700 to a candidate for
statewide office, $19,300 to a state Senate candidate, and
$9,400 to a state Assembly candidate in an election cycle.39
These limits are so high that, according to the Moreland
[T]he matching funds program . . . . has helped us
Commission, “they can scarcely be called limits at all.”40
transform how we serve our constituents. [In New
York City], I have no choice but to listen to and engage
Any comprehensive campaign finance proposal for Albany
the [constituents] in an overall discussion about what
should decrease contribution limits for all candidates.
direction the city should go. I think the campaign finance
Candidates who wish to participate in small donor
program has a lot to do with that. And I really think that
public financing should, in exchange for receiving public
how we do it in New York should serve as a model for
matching funds, be held to still lower contribution
the rest of the country.”v
limits. The reduced contribution limits for participating
—City Councilmember Eric Ulrich, in “Breaking Down Barriers: The
candidates, coupled with a multiple match on small
Faces of Small Donor Public Financing,” 2016.
donations, would further encourage these candidates to
focus their fundraising efforts on constituents who cannot
afford to write the large checks that current limits allow.
4. Qualifying Thresholds
3. A Cap on Public Funds, but No Limits on Total To ensure that funds are not wasted on frivolous or
Fundraising or Spending by Candidates Who uncompetitive campaigns, candidates seeking to join a
Participate in Public Financing small donor public financing program should first have
Unlike some other plans, proposals in Albany for small to demonstrate a viable base of support by collecting
donor public financing, including the governor’s current a minimum number of small donations in New York.
bill, have not set limits on how much participating Governor Cuomo’s bill includes a qualifying threshold of
candidates would be able to spend. The Brennan Center $650,000 in small donations for gubernatorial candidates,
supports this choice, which acknowledges the perception made up of at least 6,500 small contributions (between
and occasional reality in the post–Citizens United era $10 and $175) from New York residents. Similarly,
that campaigns will have to contend with high spending candidates for state Senate would have to raise $20,000,
by independent expenditure groups such as super PACs. including at least 200 small contributions, and candidates

T H E C A S E F O R S M A L L D O N O R P U B L I C F I N A N C I N G I N N E W Y O R K S TAT E | 5
Table 2: Limits on matching funds under Governor Cuomo’s proposal.

Matching Funds Matching Funds


Office Total Matching Funds Cap
Cap – Primary Cap – General

$18 million (including


$10 million (shared with $10 million shared with
Governor $8 million
lieutenant governor) lieutenant governor in
general election)

$14 million (including $10


$10 million (shared with
Lieutenant Governor $4 million million shared with gover-
governor)
nor in general election)

Attorney General $4 million $4 million $8 million

Comptroller $4 million $4 million $8 million

Senate $375,000 $375,000 $750,000

Assembly $175,000 $175,000 $350,000

for State Assembly would have to collect $10,000, The New York City program’s thresholds may provide
including at least 100 small contributions.42 guidance for determining the qualifying levels for state
elections. To receive the city’s match in the 2021 elections,
mayoral candidates must raise $250,000 from at least 1,000
small-dollar contributors residing in New York City. City
Council candidates must raise $5,000 from at least 75 small-
Imagine if you could spend a little less time [making
dollar contributors residing in their districts.45
fundraising calls], and a little more time in someone’s
living room, listening to concerns that they have,
5. Transparency and Oversight
hearing the ideas that they may have. You can become
A successful public financing program requires fair
a much more engaged and responsive candidate and
and efficient oversight, with ample support services so
hopefully elected official.”vi
that candidates can participate without having to hire
— Sen. José M. Serrano, in “Breaking Down Barriers: The Faces of sophisticated compliance staff. This oversight should
Small Donor Public Financing,” 2016.
include standard internal processes to identify and resolve
minor reporting or administrative issues, to ensure that
only sufficiently serious issues receive a formal compliance
According to an analysis by the Campaign Finance review, and to make sure that all candidates are treated
Institute, only 17 percent of gubernatorial candidates equally. Also necessary is public disclosure of participants’
in 2018 would have qualified for funding. In the state compliance with requirements such as individual
Senate and Assembly, only 29 percent and 28 percent contribution limits, to preserve the integrity of the
of candidates, respectively, would have qualified.43 Yet program and the public’s trust.
candidates can change those results, the analysis observes,
by changing their fundraising strategies. Indeed, the point This proposal improves on the New York City system
of small donor public financing “is to give [candidates] a and its enforcement methods. Many legislators in New
good reason to look for small donors from their districts.” York State are familiar with the Campaign Finance Board,
That said, the thresholds should not be so inaccessible the agency charged with oversight of New York City’s
that candidates do not even try to take advantage of public financing system. Lessons learned from candidates’
matching funds. The CFI report concludes that “the experience with the CFB have been incorporated into
sponsors would be well advised to revise the qualification current public financing proposals in New York State.
requirements as they perfect a new bill.”44 Connecticut has a statewide public financing program
that also provides important insight for how New York

6 | BR E N N A N C E N T E R F O R J U S T I C E
can achieve transparency and robust compliance in its
public financing program without unduly burdening
candidates. Connecticut’s State Elections Enforcement Opponents of matching programs like NYC’s will use
Commission (SEEC) has developed a reputation among twisted logic to try to convince you that taxpayers
candidates for being supportive and committed to shouldn’t have to pay for candidates’ campaigns. They
minimizing undue administrative burdens, and its public want you to believe that you can have something for
financing program has only grown in popularity, with a free — elected officials who will represent what you
record 335 candidates receiving funds in 2018.46 need, even though they are paid for by wealthy donors
whose interests are the opposite of yours. The truth
One significant decision Connecticut’s SEEC made to is, if we don’t pay for our elected officials’ campaigns
reduce the burden of compliance on candidates was to directly, we will most certainly pay indirectly, through
restrict postelection audits to no more than 50 percent of higher rents, higher health costs, and higher prices on
all legislative campaigns, selected by lottery (weighted by everything else big donors have to sell. So which would
recency of any past audit), although all statewide office you choose?”vii
campaigns do get audited.47 Even though this lottery – Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, Op-Ed,
method is less burdensome to candidates than New York The Journal News/lohud.com, February 4, 2019.
City’s approach of auditing 100 percent of campaigns,
the SEEC reports that its system has been effective
at enforcing compliance. Governor Cuomo’s current $38.6 million in disbursements and $20.9 million in
proposal contains an audit procedure like Connecticut’s.48 administrative costs.49 The $59.5 million total amounts to
less than 0.1 percent of the state’s $175 billion budget, or
6. Ensuring an Adequate Funding Stream less than a penny a day per New Yorker.
To serve the democracy-enhancing interests of New York
State and the need of participating candidates for sufficient The bill designates funding for the public financing
funds to compete, the small donor public financing program from a $40 tax check-off ($80 for joint filers),
program must receive adequate and reliable funding. the abandoned property fund, contributions from
individuals and organizations, transfers from other
The Campaign Finance Institute analyzed what it would funds or sources when authorized by law, and backup
cost to sustain the program proposed in Governor funding from the general fund.50 But as the Moreland
Cuomo’s current bill. Its most aggressive estimate — Commission noted, once small donor public financing
which assumes that every statewide and legislative begins to take effect and reduces government favors for
candidate in 2018 would opt in and that a far greater powerful donors, “the elimination of just one wasteful tax
number of donors would make matchable contributions expenditure or one unnecessary spending program could
than is currently the case — is an annual cost of cover the full cost of the program.”51

Table 3: Comparison of small donor public financing qualifying thresholds in a proposed program
for New York State and in New York City’s established program.

Governor Cuomo’s Proposed New York City’s 2021


Qualifying Thresholds Qualifying Thresholds

Mayoral candidates:
Gubernatorial candidates:
$250,000 from 1,000 small donors ($175
Executive Office $650,000 from 6,500 small donors
or less, or $250 or less, depending
(between $10 and $175)
on program option chosen)

State Senate State Assembly


candidates: candidates: City Council candidates: $5,000 from
Legislative Office
$20,000 from 200 $10,000 from 100 75 small donors
small donors small donors

T H E C A S E F O R S M A L L D O N O R P U B L I C F I N A N C I N G I N N E W Y O R K S TAT E | 7
Public Financing in the Era of Super PACs
Would small donor public financing matter in the age of super PACs and dark money? Yes. In fact, it is the
only reform that can counter the corrosive impact that such groups have had on our politics, altering a
dynamic that has given an increasingly large voice to a tiny number of big donors at the expense of regular
constituents.

Importantly, none of the current proposals caps what participating candidates can raise or spend. So if
a candidate faces super PAC spending, she can continue to raise money from private donors to counter
independent expenditures even after she has reached the maximum public cap.

This reform does not pretend to take all private money out of the political system. The Supreme Court
would not allow such a reform in any case. But it gives candidates a chance to forge a campaign fueled by
constituents while retaining the ability to fight outside money without having to resort to dark money.

Already, New York State has taken key steps that limit the ability of super PACs to have undue influence
on candidates. It was the first state to enact accountability measures for online ads; it has also demanded
increased disclosure and banned coordination between candidates and super PACs. A small donor public
financing system would complement these changes, allowing candidates to focus on small donors,
amplifying the voice of everyday constituents, bringing greater diversity, and inspiring a much-needed
renewal of public faith in government.

The Benefits
1. Increasing the Voice of Small Donors small donors in future elections would be even greater.
Public financing would increase the importance of small In a recent study, the Campaign Finance Institute noted
donors. Applying the $6-to-$1 match to donations from that while it is impossible to know how many more small
New Yorkers in 2018 state contests, as well as other donors would participate if the state adopted a public
aspects of Governor Cuomo’s public financing proposal, financing program, a threefold increase in small donors
we find a dramatic increase in the proportion of money is reasonable to expect. Figure 3 (on page 9) shows the
candidates would have raised from small donors (see impact that such an increase in small donations would
Figures 1, 2, and 3 on page 9). have had on the share of funds from small donors in 2018.

Experience in New York City and elsewhere shows that The Campaign Finance Institute further broke down
adopting a small donor public financing system can lead what this kind of increase in small donor giving would
to candidates engaging more of their constituents when have meant in 2018:52
fundraising, and voters responding by adding their voices
with more small donations. If this were to happen in New  Assembly candidates would have raised more than
York State (as we expect), the percentage of funds from four times as much from small donors, making
small donors the single largest source of Assembly
campaign funds.

 Senate candidates would have raised six times as


[Public financing] gives members of the public the ability much from small donors.
to feel much more vested in the elections process, . .
. . that they’re not powerless against the high money  Small donors would have been the biggest source of
interest, but that they too, through the matching funding for a majority of legislative candidates.
funds program, can be very significant in supporting
candidates who they believe represent the issues that  Nearly every Assembly candidate and 91 percent
they care about.”viii of Senate candidates would have raised at least as
— Sen. José M. Serrano, in “Breaking Down Barriers: The Faces of much as they actually did, if not more, if they had
Small Donor Public Financing,” 2016.”
participated in a small donor public financing system.

8 | BR E N N A N C E N T E R F O R J U S T I C E
2. Allowing Candidates to Focus on Their Figure 1: Small donation share of all contributions to candidates
in 2018 New York State elections under the status quo.
Constituents Instead of on Big Donors
One whispered concern among lawmakers about adopting
small donor public financing is their assumption that  mall
S
donations by
it will serve to displace incumbents. But as longtime 5% individuals
users of the New York City program have noted, and as 11% ($175 and
below)
independent studies have confirmed, the chief impact of
 onations by
D
the reform is to enable all candidates to shift their focus individuals
(between $176
from deep-pocketed donors to constituents — not to and $2,000)
advantage any type of candidate over another.53  onations by
D
26% individuals
58% (above
$2,000)

Donations by
entities (PACs,
We need a small-donor public financing system that unions, and
allows grassroots candidates to compete against a corporations)

corporate-driven financing system that now exists.


Small donor matching makes it easier for elected
officials to represent the values of the people of New Figure 2: Small donation share if Governor Cuomo’s $6-to-$1
public financing proposal had applied in the 2018 New York
York by encouraging candidates to spend their time
State elections.
talking to regular voters. If we do not change how
elections are financed in New York, we will never be
able to truly win for tenants.”ix  mall
S
donations by
— Sen. Zellnor Myrie, Op-Ed, New York Daily News, January 14, 2019 individuals
23% ($175 and
30% below)

 onations by
D
individuals
Small donor public financing enables people to win and (between $176
and $2,000)
stay in office by being more representative of constituents
than of wealthy donors.54 Attorney General Letitia James 17%  onations by
D
individuals
said in a 2015 interview, when she was New York City’s (above
$2,000)
Public Advocate, that she “would not be in this position
but for campaign finance reform and the support of 30% Donations by
entities (PACs,
working-class people.”55 In a speech last year, she said unions)*
that participating in small donor public financing meant
that “I’m free from the stranglehold of ...big donors
demanding meetings and policy changes. Every New
Figure 3: Small donation share (with increased small donor
Yorker ...know[s] they can come to my door, and their participation) if Governor Cuomo’s $6-to-$1 public financing
voices will be heard. Because every elected official in proposal had applied in the 2018 New York State elections.
this country needs the freedom to represent the interest
of Americans. And it is through public financing that
 mall
S
we will get one step closer to ensuring that our elected donations by
representatives are representatives of our electorate.”56 8% individuals
($175 and
below)
This benefit applies to officeholders as well as candidates. 17%
 onations by
D
In Albany, a small donor public financing system would individuals
45% (between $176
enable elected officials to spend more time and energy and $2,000)
on their constituents. The Moreland Commission noted,  onations by
D
“Instead of having to shape their official actions to the individuals
(above
values and concerns of large donors, elected officials and $2,000)
candidates will be able to focus on ordinary citizens.”57 30%
Donations by
entities (PACs,
unions)*
Increasing the relative importance of small donors
also increases the diversity of viewpoints influencing *The Governor’s campaign finance reform package also bans corporations from
officeholders who court contributors. In the 2018 New making direct contributions.

T H E C A S E F O R S M A L L D O N O R P U B L I C F I N A N C I N G I N N E W Y O R K S TAT E | 9
within our communities — not just from the rich who
can send large checks....Throughout our lives, despite
Matching funds from campaign finance gives all our efforts to organize and push for laws that would
candidates a chance to involve community members benefit us, the voices of our community have not
and get people excited about the campaign. Especially been heard sufficiently in Albany. Now we have the
at a time when I did not have political support from opportunity to transform our state’s democracy. We
traditional political organizations or elected officials, it cannot lose.61
was a grassroots movement and campaign financing
really helped me.”x 3. Changing the Perception of Cronyism and
– City Councilmember Margaret Chin, in the “Breaking Down Barriers: Corruption in Albany
The Faces of Small Donor Public Financing,” 2016. To address “an epidemic of public corruption that has
infected this State,” the Moreland Commission in 2013
urged “[f ]undamental reform” to the state’s campaign
finance system “that promotes public trust and democracy,
York State elections, small donors lived in neighborhoods changes our pay-to-pay political culture, and empowers
that were far more representative of the real makeup of ordinary New Yorkers.” 62 Its top recommendation:
New York than big donors’ neighborhoods in terms of enacting small donor public financing. The reform would
race, income, and education level.58 Small donors also work against the state’s culture of big-money cronyism by
hailed from every county in the state.59 “leveraging the power of ordinary individuals and reducing
the influence of large donors and special interest money.”63
The prospect of amplifying the power of constituents like
hers in Bushwick, Brooklyn, prompted Assemblymember The success of small donor public financing in New York
Maritza Davila and community board member Gladys City shows how transformative this reform could be for
Puglla to make a powerful case for enacting statewide the state. Downstate, just three decades ago, cronyism
small donor public financing. In an op-ed in El Diario and bribery ran rampant through City Hall. Campaign
last December, they argued that Davila’s constituents need finance reform, centered on public financing, was a major
more resources for public schools, affordable housing, part of the city’s response. Although occasional donor-
and immigrant protection. The state’s inability to produce related scandals still arise, systemic corruption among
results, they said, “in large part, is due to a system that the city’s elected officials has by all accounts decreased
allows the rich and large corporations to give massive substantially. In the past decade, while New York State
contributions to protect their interests, without giving an racked up a troubling record of 19 federal corruption
opportunity to working class and low-income people to convictions of legislators, New York City saw only four.64
raise their voices.”60 Further, they argued: As a 2018 New York magazine article put it, “it would be
hard to find a cleaner, more dynamic, more progressive,
Now, with a new Democratic majority in the Senate and less corrupt big city in America.”65
for the first time in a decade, it is time for change....
[We must transform our democracy....[W]e must set Beyond reducing outright corruption, the Moreland
up a public finance system in which the state would Commission noted, small donor public financing would
give six dollars for each dollar donated by a member of reduce the financial wastefulness of governance based on
our community....which would benefit the candidate cronyism. It wrote that “the Commission believes that
and assure that the candidate is looking for help from reducing the role of big donors in financing campaigns
will reduce in turn the pressures donors place on our
elected officials to provide targeted tax breaks for special
interests and to spend public funds on pork barrel projects
of doubtful public value.”66 Once small donor public
African-Americans, Latinos and women on average financing begins to take effect at the state level, “the
have less disposable income to contribute to political elimination of just one wasteful tax expenditure or one
campaigns. [Small donor public financing] reduces unnecessary spending program could cover the full cost of
the disparity in political participation based on wealth, the program.”67
and empowers groups who, historically, have been
disproportionately less powerful in the political process.”xi Newspapers that have covered state corruption scandals
– Former Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, “Small for years have called on Albany to use its new governing
Donor Matching Funds: The NYC Election Experience,” 2010.” majority to enact small donor public financing as a part
of comprehensive campaign finance reform. Lawmakers

10 | BR E N N A N C E N T E R F O R J U S T I C E
must “approve public financing of statewide elections
along the lines of New York City to help take special-
interest money out of elections or at least reduce its [With public financing] I’m free from the stranglehold of.
importance,” wrote the editorial board of Long Island’s . .big donors demanding meetings and policy changes.
The Island Now.68 “The short but urgent list includes Every New Yorker . . . know[s] they can come to my
campaign finance reforms that reduce the influence of big door, and their voices will be heard . . . . [E]very elected
money in politics,” wrote the Albany Times Union’s editors, official in this country needs the freedom to represent
who go on to suggest “a fair, honest and affordable system the interest of Americans. And it is through public
of publicly-funded elections.”69 The Times Herald–Record financing that we will get one step closer to ensuring
urged legislators “to reduce the temptation and corruption that our elected representatives are representatives of
that money has on elections following the example of our electorate.”xii
New York City which is moving toward more public — New York Attorney General (then Public Advocate) Letitia James,
funding of elections.”70 Newsday called public financing speech at Unrig the System Summit, February 2018.
“probably the best solution” to the corrosive influence
of big money on the state’s politics.71 The New York
Times, which has long urged the legislature to adopt this
transformative change, has called it “the most crucial
reform of all.”72

Conclusion: Excelsior
Albany’s new governing majority took office this executive director of New York Communities for Change,
January with the promise of a new day. They would not “It doesn’t matter who’s in power. Where the power goes,
do business as usual. They would move long-awaited the money follows.”73 A new day for Albany could all too
progressive reforms swiftly to passage. The people of New quickly become business as usual, they warned.
York could count on them.
A champion of tenants’ rights in his Brooklyn district,
So far, the governor and legislature have been true to their Myrie noted how quickly real estate developers had
word. Early voting passed quickly. So did the Gender switched their support in the final days of the election
Expression Non-Discrimination Act, the Reproductive from their traditional Republican advocates to the Senate
Health Act, and the DREAM Act. These are significant Democrats who were clearly about to prevail. “If we do
and even bold actions. But along with them has come the not change how elections are financed in New York, we
quiet message that not everything worthy can happen this will never be able to truly win for tenants,” he and Westin
year. Some changes may take patience. Lawmakers may wrote. “We need a small-donor public financing system
not be ready for some of the biggest ones. that....makes it easier for elected officials to represent the
values of the people of New York.”74
The urgency of achieving small donor public financing
for New York State cannot be overstated. That’s because, This year Albany has the rare chance to restore faith in
as Senate Elections Committee Chair Zellnor Myrie democracy for all New Yorkers. That faith will reverberate
wrote in the Daily News in January with Jonathan Westin, across the nation. It is a chance too precious to let slip away.

T H E C A S E F O R S M A L L D O N O R P U B L I C F I N A N C I N G I N N E W Y O R K S TAT E | 11
Endnotes 6 Mitch McConnell, “Mitch McConnell: Behold the
Democrat Politician Protection Act,” Washington
1 New York State Board of Elections, “Contribution Post, January 17, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.
Limits,” accessed February 15, 2019, https://www. com/opinions/call-hr-1-what-it-is-the-democrat-
elections.ny.gov/cfcontributionlimits.html#Limits. politician-protection-act/2019/01/17/dcc957be-
19cb-11e9-9ebf-c5fed1b7a081_story.html?utm_ter-
2 Michael J. Malbin and Brendan Glavin, “Small-Do- m=.7c60583df784.
nor Matching Funds for New York State Elections:
A Policy Analysis of the Potential Impact and Cost,” 7 Brent Ferguson, State Options for Reform, Brennan
Campaign Finance Institute, February 2019, 12, Center for Justice, 2015, 1, https://www.brennan-
http://www.cfinst.org/pdf/State/NY/Policy-Analysis_ center.org/sites/default/files/publications/State_Op-
Public-Financing-in-NY-State_Feb2019_wAppendix. tions_for_Reform_FINAL.pdf.
pdf.
8 Ibid.
3 
See Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Cor-
ruption, “Preliminary Report,” State of New York, 9 Office of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, “Assem-
December 2, 2013, 41, 47, https://publiccorruption. bly Passes 2013 Fair Elections Act,” May 7, 2013,
moreland.ny.gov/sites/default/files/moreland_re- https://assembly.state.ny.us/Press/20130507/. In
port_final.pdf (observing the increased influence 2016, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie spon-
of everyday people and greater trust in government sored the 2016 Fair Elections Act (A09281); see
under public financing); DeNora Getachew and Ava https://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&-
Mehta, Breaking Down Barriers: The Faces of Small leg_video=&bn=A09281&term=2015&Summa-
Donor Public Financing, Brennan Center for Justice, ry=Y&Actions=Y&Text=Y. Similarly, Andrea Stew-
June 9, 2016, https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/ art-Cousins, now the State Senate majority leader,
default/files/publications/Faces_of_Public_Financ- has sponsored versions of the Fair Elections Act in
ing.pdf (offering candidate testimonies on how pub- the 2013–2014 (S4705C), 2015–2016 (S3502), and
lic financing allows them to focus on constituents); 2017–2018 sessions (S7593). See 2014 Fair Elec-
Spencer A. Overton, “The Participation Interest,” tions Act, S.B. 4705C, 2013 Leg., 236th Sess. (N.Y.
Georgetown Law Journal 100, 2012: 1279, https:// 2013); Fair Elections Act, S.B. 3502, 2015 Leg.,
scholarship.law.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?arti- 238th Sess. (N.Y. 2015); Fair Elections Act, S.B.
cle=1167&context=faculty_publications (observing 7593, 2017 Leg., 240th Sess. (N.Y. 2018).
that “financial participation” can lead to other forms
of civic engagement). 10 In the most recent city elections, in 2017, 218 of
the 325 candidates running for office participated
4 Tim Lau, “A Bid to Counter Big Money in Politics in the city’s matching funds program. See “Candi-
Is Gaining Steam,” Brennan Center for Justice, date List: 2017 Citywide Elections,” New York City
January 15, 2019, https://www.brennancenter.org/ Campaign Finance Board, last updated January 22,
blog/bid-counter-big-money-politics-gaining-steam. 2019, https://www.nyccfb.info/follow-the-money/
See also Bradley Jones, “Most Americans Want to candidates/2017.
Limit Campaign Spending, Say Big Donors Have
Greater Political Influence,” Pew Research Center, 11 The following jurisdictions have passed small donor
May 8, 2018, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact- public financing laws since 2010: Montgomery
tank/2018/05/08/most-americans-want-to-limit- County, Maryland (see Bill Turque, “Montgom-
campaign-spending-say-big-donors-have-greater-po- ery Council approves plan for public finance of
litical-influence/; “The Democracy Project Report,” local campaigns,” Washington Post, September 30,
Democracy Project, June 26, 2018, https://www. 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/
democracyprojectreport.org/report. md-politics/montgomery-council-approves-plan-
for-public-finance-of-local-campaigns/2014/09/30/
5 Mike DeBonis, “House Democrats to Unveil Politi- b3e2b15c-482d-11e4-b72e-d60a9229cc10_story.
cal Reform Legislation as ‘H.R.1,’ ” Washington Post, html?utm_term=.5abdd95ccbe5); Portland, Oregon
November 30, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost. (see Ian Vandewalker, “Portland Enacts Small Donor
com/politics/2018/11/30/house-democrats-un- Public Financing,” Brennan Center for Justice,
veil-political-reform-legislation-hr/?utm_ter- December 16, 2016, https://www.brennancenter.
m=.039837851c82. org/blog/portland-enacts-small-donor-public-fi-

12 | BR E N N A N C E N T E R F O R J U S T I C E
nancing); Berkeley, California (see “Public Financ- (all of New York State), Natural Resources Defense
ing Program,” City of Berkeley, accessed February Council, Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action
20, 2019, https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/ Network, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts,
Elections/Public_Financing_Program.aspx); Suffolk Color of Change, Demos, End Citizens United, and
County, New York (see David M. Schwartz, “Suffolk Sierra Club. A full membership list and more details
Legislature OKs public financing of county cam- about Fair Elections for New York can be found at
paigns,” Newsday, December 19, 2017, https://www. https://fairelectionsny.org/about. NY LEAD, a bipar-
newsday.com/long-island/politics/suffolk-public-fi- tisan group of the state’s business, civic, philanthrop-
nancing-1.15523881); Howard County, Maryland ic, and cultural leaders, includes individuals like Alec
(see Andrew Michaels, “Howard County Council Baldwin, Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, Chris Hughes, Chris
passes small donor finance system to begin in 2022 Jackson, Andrew Rasiej, and Jonathan Soros, among
election cycle,” Baltimore Sun, June 6, 2017, https:// others. A full membership list and more details about
www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ NY LEAD can be found at http://nylead.org/who-
columbia/ph-ho-cf-council-campaign-funding-0608- we-are/.
20170606-story.html); Washington, District of
Columbia (see Martin Austermuhle, “Bowser Signs 17 Ian Vandewalker and Lawrence Norden, “Small
Bill Creating Public Financing Program For Political Donors Still Aren’t as Important as Wealthy Ones,”
Campaigns — And Will Fund It,” WAMU, March The Atlantic, October 18, 2016, https://www.the-
13, 2018, https://wamu.org/story/18/03/13/bows- atlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/campaign-fi-
er-signs-bill-creating-public-financing-program-po- nance-fundraising-citizens-united/504425/.
litical-campaigns-will-fund/); Prince George’s
County, Maryland (see Rachel Chason, “Prince 18 
New York State Board of Elections, “Contribution
George’s approves matching funds for local candi- Limits,” accessed February 15, 2019, https://www.
dates — starting in 2026,” Washington Post, October elections.ny.gov/cfcontributionlimits.html#Limits.
24, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/
md-politics/prince-georges-approves-public-finance- 19 Federal Election Commission, “Contribution
system-for-local-candidates/2018/10/24/47f7b75a- Limits,” accessed February 7, 2019, https://www.fec.
d738-11e8-a10f-b51546b10756_story.html?utm_ gov/help-candidates-and-committees/candidate-tak-
term=.398b30cbd735); and Denver, Colorado (see ing-receipts/contribution-limits/.
Hazel Millard, “Another Election Winner — Public
Financing,” Brennan Center for Justice, November 20 Chisun Lee and Nirali Vyas, “Analysis: New York’s
12, 2018, https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/an- Big Donor Problem.”
other-election-winner-%E2%80%94public-financ-
ing). 21 Ibid.

12 Moreland Commission, “Preliminary Report,” 10. 22 Ibid.

13 Chisun Lee and Nirali Vyas, “Analysis: New York’s 23 S ee Michael J. Malbin, Peter W. Brusoe, and Brendan
Big Donor Problem & Why Small Donor Public Fi- Glavin, “Small Donors, Big Democracy: New York
nancing Is an Effective Solution for Constituents and City’s Matching Funds as a Model for the Nation
Candidates,” Brennan Center for Justice, January 28, and States,” Election Law Journal 11, no. 1 (2012):
2019, https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/nypf. 14,http://www.cfinst.org/pdf/state/nyc-as-a-mod-
el_elj_as-published_march2012.pdf; Michael J.
14 Ibid. Malbin, “Sources of Funds in 2012 State Legislative
and Gubernatorial Elections,” Campaign Finance
15 Ibid.; Sean Morales-Doyle and Chisun Lee, “New Institute, October 2014, http://www.cfinst.org/pdf/
York’s Worst-in-the-Country Voting System,” The At- state/tables/States_12_table2.pdf; Michael J. Malbin,
lantic, September 13, 2018, https://www.theatlantic. “Sources of Funds in 2014 State Legislative and Gu-
com/ideas/archive/2018/09/new-yorks-worst-in-the- bernatorial Elections,” Campaign Finance Institute,
country-voting-system/570223/. October 2014, http://www.cfinst.org/pdf/state/ta-
bles/States_14_table2.pdf.
16 The Fair Elections for New York coalition includes
Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, 24 Chisun Lee and Nirali Vyas, “Analysis: New York’s
Communications Workers of America District 1 Big Donor Problem.”

T H E C A S E F O R S M A L L D O N O R P U B L I C F I N A N C I N G I N N E W Y O R K S TAT E | 13
25 Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, “Testing The- siena.edu/2013/06/13/majority-of-voters-think-
ories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, silver-should-step-down-as-speaker/; Jefrey Pollock
and Average Citizens,” Perspectives on Politics 12, and Kieran Mahoney, “NY Friends of Democracy
no. 3 (2014): 572, 575, https://scholar.princeton. Survey: Strong Support for Campaign Finance
edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_ Reform,” Global Strategy Group/Mercury, May 6,
page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics. 2013, https://fairelectionsny.org/cms/wp-content/
doc.pdf. uploads/2013/05/MayPollingMemo.pdf.

26 Moreland Commission, “Preliminary Report,” 34. 36 FY 2020 New York State Executive Budget: Good
Government and Ethics Reform Article VII Legisla-
27 Ibid. tion, Part B, § 14-206(2), (N.Y. 2019), https://www.
budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy20/exec/artvii/gger-art-
28 Ibid., 3. vii.pdf.

29 Ibid., 3-4. 37 Russell Berman, “The Battle to Be Trump’s Javert in


New York,” The Atlantic, August 6, 2018, https://
30 Ibid., 33-34. www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/08/
trump-teachout-attorney-general-new-york/566819/.
31 This number was reached by reviewing relevant press
coverage on corruption convictions of New York 38 Michael J. Malbin, Peter W. Brusoe, and Brendan
State elected officials from 2008 to 2018. Sources in- Glavin, “Small Donors, Big Democracy,” 9.
cluded major New York news outlets such as the New
York Times, New York Daily News, Rochester Democrat 39 
New York State Board of Elections, “Contribution
& Chronicle, and others. Limits,” accessed February 15, 2019, https://www.
elections.ny.gov/cfcontributionlimits.html#Limits.
32 Dan Clark, “Yes, New York Has More Corrupt
Officials Than Any Other State,” PolitiFact, Septem- 40 Moreland Commission, “Preliminary Report,” 35.
ber 19, 2016, https://www.politifact.com/new-york/
statements/2016/sep/19/elaine-phillips/new-york- 41 FY 2020 New York State Executive Budget: Good
has-been-most-corrupt-state-decades/. Government and Ethics Reform Article VII Legisla-
tion, Part B, § 14-205.
33 Harry Enten, “Ranking the States From Most to
Least Corrupt,” FiveThirtyEight, January 23, 2015, 42 Ibid., Part B, § 14-204(2).
https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/ranking-the-
states-from-most-to-least-corrupt/. 43 These percentages are based on how much candidates
had raised by September 1, 2018, which the Cam-
34 Quinnipiac University, “New Yorkers Say Almost paign Finance Institute’s analysis estimates would
4–1 Increase Abortion Rights, Quinnipiac University have been the approximate date by which candidates
Poll Finds; But Few Say Abortion Is Most Important running in a general election would need to meet
in Gov Race,” Quinnipiac University Poll, July 19, qualifying thresholds for public funds. See Michael J.
2018, https://poll.qu.edu/new-york-state/release-de- Malbin and Brendan Glavin, “Small-Donor Match-
tail?ReleaseID=2556. ing Funds for New York State Elections,” 14.

35 
See End Citizens United, “New York CD 11 Survey 44 Ibid.
Results,” September 4-5, 2018, https://endcit-
izensunited.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/ 45 New York City Campaign Finance Board, “Limits
NY11-Results.pdf; Siena College, “Cuomo Begins & Thresholds: 2021 Citywide Elections,” Candidate
’14 in Strong Position; Ratings With Voters Up,” Services, accessed January 22, 2019, https://www.ny-
Siena College Research Institute, January 20, 2014, ccfb.info/candidate-services/limits-thresholds/2021/.
https://scri.siena.edu/2014/01/20/cuomo-begins-
14-in-strong-position-ratings-with-voters-up/; 46 Max Reiss, “Public Campaign Financing Sees
Siena College, “Majority of Voters Think Silver Record Year as Governor Picks Ignored It,” NBC
Should Step Down as Speaker,” Siena College Connecticut, December 12, 2018, https://www.
Research Institute, June 13, 2013, https://scri. nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Public-Campaign-

14 | BR E N N A N C E N T E R F O R J U S T I C E
Financing-Sees-Record-Year-as-Governor-Picks-Ig- 59 Ibid.
nored-It-502623861.html.
60 Maritza Davila and Gladys Puglla, “Necesitamos
47 Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-7b(5)(B) (2017). Transformar la Democracia en Nueva York,” El
Diario, December 19, 2018, https://eldiariony.
48 FY 2020 New York State Executive Budget: Good com/2018/12/19/necesitamos-transformar-la-democ-
Government and Ethics Reform Article VII Legisla- racia-en-nueva-york/.
tion, Part B, § 14-209(1).
61 Ibid.
49 Michael J. Malbin and Brendan Glavin, “Small-Do-
nor Matching Funds for New York State Elections,” 62 Moreland Commission, “Preliminary Report,” 41.
12.
63 Ibid.
50 FY 2020 New York State Executive Budget: Good
Government and Ethics Reform Article VII Legisla- 64 These numbers were reached by reviewing relevant
tion, Part B, § 9. press coverage on corruption convictions of New
York State’s and New York City’s elected officials and
51 Moreland Commission, “Preliminary Report,” 47. their government office staff members from 2008 to
2018. Sources include major New York news outlets
52 Michael J. Malbin and Brendan Glavin, “Small-Do- such as the New York Times, New York Daily News,
nor Matching Funds for New York State Elections,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and others. Even
6-7, for findings that follow. considering federal corruption convictions in terms
of respective rates, New York State has seen a higher
53 
See Elisabeth Genn, Sundeep Iyer, Michael Malbin, rate of conviction: 4.87 percent of unique New York
and Brendan Glavin, Donor Diversity Through Public State legislators convicted, as compared with 3.67
Matching Funds, Brennan Center for Justice, May percent of unique New York City legislators, over the
14, 2012, 13, http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/ same time period.
default/files/legacy/publications/DonorDiversityRe-
port_WEB.PDF; DeNora Getachew and Ava Mehta, 65 David Freedlander, “Not That Long Ago New
Breaking Down Barriers, 27; Michael J. Malbin, Peter York City Really Was Run From a Smoke-Filled
W. Brusoe, and Brendan Glavin, “Small Donors, Big Backroom,” New York magazine, June 2018, http://
Democracy,” 12-13. nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/06/when-new-york-
city-really-was-run-from-a-smoke-filled-room.html.
54 Adam Skaggs and Fred Wertheimer, Empowering
Small Donors in Federal Elections, Brennan Center 66 Moreland Commission, “Preliminary Report,” 47.
for Justice, 2012, 14, http://www.brennancenter.
org/sites/default/files/legacy/publications/Small_do- 67 Ibid.
nor_report_FINAL.pdf.
68 
Island Now Editorial Board, “Editorial: Put Up or
55 Samar Khurshid, “After Making History, James Seeks Shut Up on Cleaning Up Albany,” The Island Now,
Change,” Gotham Gazette, March 22, 2015, http:// November 13, 2018, https://theislandnow.com/opin-
www.gothamgazette.com/government/5631-af- ions-100/editorial-put-up-or-shut-up-on-cleaning-
ter-making-history-james-seeks-change. up-albany/.

56 Letitia James, “Public Financing” (speech, Unrig the 69 


Albany Times Union Editorial Board, “Editorial:
System Summit, New Orleans, Louisiana, February All the Power in New York,” Albany Times Union,
2-4, 2018), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M- November 10, 2018, https://www.timesunion.com/
WxzfB2L_ks. opinion/article/Editorial-All-the-power-in-New-
York-13380635.php.
57 Moreland Commission, “Preliminary Report,” 50.
70 
Times Herald-Record Editorial Board, “Editorial:
58 Chisun Lee and Nirali Vyas, “Analysis: New York’s Dems Have to Make a Difference,” Times Herald-Re-
Big Donor Problem.” cord, November 7, 2018, https://www.recordonline.
com/news/20181107/editorial-dems-have-two-years-

T H E C A S E F O R S M A L L D O N O R P U B L I C F I N A N C I N G I N N E W Y O R K S TAT E | 15
to-make-difference. v DeNora Getachew and Ava Mehta, Breaking Down
Barriers: The Faces of Small Donor Public Financing,
71 
Newsday Editorial Board, “Break Up the Game Brennan Center for Justice, 2016, 34, https://www.
Among Long Island Political Insiders,” Newsday, brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/
March 3, 2018, https://www.newsday.com/opinion/ Faces_of_Public_Financing.pdf.
editorial/gary-melius-oheka-castle-long-island-poli-
tics-1.17047730. vi DeNora Getachew and Ava Mehta, Breaking Down
Barriers: The Faces of Small Donor Public Financing,
72 
New York Times Editorial Board, “New York Reform Brennan Center for Justice, 2016, 29, https://www.
= Public Financing,” New York Times, April 19, 2013, brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/
https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/20/opinion/ Faces_of_Public_Financing.pdf.
new-york-reform-public-financing.html.
vii Alessandra Biaggi, “Deep-pocketed donors hold sway
73 Zellnor Myrie and Jonathan Westin, “Fight for Low- over New York politics, and all of us suffer: Sen. Bi-
er Rents by Fixing Campaign Finance: Moving to a aggi,” The Journal News/lohud.com, February 4, 2019,
System That Prioritizes Small-Dollar Donations Will https://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/contribu-
Weaken the Influence of the Real-Estate Lobby,” tors/2019/02/04/alessandra-biaggi-new-york-cam-
New York Daily News, January 14, 2019, https:// paign-finance-reform/2747978002/.
www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-fight-for-
lower-rents-by-fixing-campaign-finance-20190114- viii DeNora Getachew and Ava Mehta, Breaking Down
story.html. Barriers: The Faces of Small Donor Public Financing,
Brennan Center for Justice, 2016, 29, https://www.
74 Ibid. brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/
Faces_of_Public_Financing.pdf.

Endnotes – Pullquotes ix Zellnor Myrie and Jonathan Westin, “Fight for lower
rents by fixing campaign finance: Moving to a system
i Maritza Davila and Gladys Puglla, “Necesitamos that prioritizes small-dollar donations will weaken
transformar la democracia en Nueva York,” El the influence of the real-estate lobby,” New York Dai-
Diario, December 19, 2018, https://eldiariony. ly News, January 14, 2019, https://www.nydailynews.
com/2018/12/19/necesitamos-transformar-la-democ- com/opinion/ny-oped-fight-for-lower-rents-by-fix-
racia-en-nueva-york/. ing-campaign-finance-20190114-story.html

ii Rachel May, “Sen. May: Let’s get big money x DeNora Getachew and Ava Mehta, Breaking Down
out of NY politics (Commentary),” Syracuse. Barriers: The Faces of Small Donor Public Financing,
com, February 1, 2019, https://www.syracuse. Brennan Center for Justice, 2016, 27, https://www.
com/opinion/2019/02/sen-may-lets-get- brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/
big-money-out-of-ny-politics-commentary. Faces_of_Public_Financing.pdf.
html?outputType=amp&__twitter_impres-
sion=true&fbclid=IwAR2Mjuq4AFu1tpiVUjfM0P- xi Angela Migally and Susan Liss, Small Donor Match-
wueaag_IVIN3cxsTVdY7-NsLsNVKIZYO2JSrw. ing Funds: The NYC Election Experience, Brennan
Center for Justice, 2010, 13, http://www.bren-
iii Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Letitia James, “Cam- nancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/Small%20
paign finance reform benefits women,” The Journal Donor%20Matching%20Funds-The%20NYC%20
News/lohud, March 22, 2014, https://www.lohud. Election%20Experience.pdf.
com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/03/22/cam-
paign-finance-reform-aids-women/6713369/. xii Letitia James, “Public Financing,” (speech, Unrig the
System Summit, New Orleans, Louisiana, February
iv Andrew Cuomo, “Finishing the Job Teddy Roosevelt 2-4, 2018), YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/
Started: Public Financing of Elections,” Huffington watch?v=MWxzfB2L_ks.
Post, May 6, 2014, https://www.huffingtonpost.
com/andrew-cuomo/finishing-the-job-teddy-
r_b_5275864.html.

16 | BR E N N A N C E N T E R F O R J U S T I C E
Endnotes – Pie Charts
Figure 1: During the 2018 election cycle, small donations
to state candidates totaled $6,787,176; overall contribu-
tions to state candidates totaled $136,288,852.

Figure 2: This projection assumes that all state can-


didates participate in the program; for comparison,
candidate participation rates in the most recent elections
in New York City and Connecticut, areas that have
well-established public financing systems, are upwards
of 65%, according to records provided by the New York
City Campaign Finance Board and the Connecticut State
Elections Enforcement Commission. This projection also
assumes that all unitemized donations ($99 and below),
for which residential and identification data is unavail-
able, are made by New York state residents. Additionally,
all individual contributions in this analysis were subjected
to the contributions limits in Cuomo’s most recent public
financing proposal. To calculate total small donations
under a $6-to-$1 public financing system, this analysis
multiplied each small-dollar contribution by 6 to deter-
mine the total amount of public funds candidates would
receive. The analysis then added total small-donor public
funds with total small-donor private funds. Total unitem-
ized contributions to state candidates were $1,596,645;
this total grew to $11,176,516 under a $6-to-$1 public
financing system. Each individual contribution above
$175 receives an additional $1,050 in public funds.

Figure 3: To calculate the number of new donors, this


analysis replicated the methodology in the Campaign
Finance Institute’s most recent analyses of New York
State’s 2018 elections. This analysis assumes that, under a
$6-to-$1 match system, candidates would attract enough
new small donors such that 1.5 percent of the voting-age
population in the state would contribute small donations
($50) in a given election cycle. See Michael J. Malbin and
Brendan Glavin, “Small-Dollar Matching Funds for New
York State Elections,” 4.

T H E C A S E F O R S M A L L D O N O R P U B L I C F I N A N C I N G I N N E W Y O R K S TAT E | 17
For More Information
Please contact these experts at the Brennan Center for Justice:

Lawrence Norden
Chisun Lee
Joanna Zdanys
Ian Vandewalker

This paper was written by Lawrence Norden, Chisun Lee, Nirali Vyas, and Hazel Millard. Michael Waldman, Wendy
Weiser, Alexandra Ringe, and Joanna Zdanys provided critical input. Peter Miller and Kevin Morris contributed data
analysis guidance. Lisa Benenson, Stephen Fee, Alden Wallace, Morgan Goode, Ryan Witcombe, Ashni Mehta, and
Yuliya Bas provided important communications strategy and support. Special thanks to Michael J. Malbin and Brendan
Glavin, director and senior data analyst of the Campaign Finance Institute, a division of the National Institute on Money
in Politics, for providing essential data and insight.

Learn More About Small Donor Public Financing


To learn more about small donor public financing, please visit the Brennan Center’s website:
https://www.brennancenter.org/issues/public-financing.

About the Brennan Center for Justice


The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that works to reform,
revitalize — and when necessary defend — our country’s systems of democracy and justice. At this critical moment, the
Brennan Center is dedicated to protecting the rule of law and the values of constitutional democracy. We focus on voting
rights, campaign finance reform, ending mass incarceration, and preserving our liberties while also maintaining our
national security. Part think tank, part advocacy group, part cutting-edge communications hub, we start with rigorous
research. We craft innovative policies. And we fight for them — in Congress and the states, in the courts, and in the
court of public opinion.

About the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program


The Brennan Center’s Democracy Program works to repair the broken systems of American democracy. We encourage
broad citizen participation by promoting voting and campaign finance reform. We work to secure fair courts and to
advance a First Amendment jurisprudence that puts the rights of citizens — not special interests — at the center of our
democracy. We collaborate with grassroots groups, advocacy organizations, and government officials to eliminate the
obstacles to an effective democracy.

Acknowledgments
The Brennan Center gratefully acknowledges Carnegie Corporation of New York, Change Happens Foundation,
Democracy Alliance Partners, Ford Foundation, Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund, The William and Flora Hewlett
Foundation, The JPB Foundation, The Kohlberg Foundation, The Leo Model Foundation, Mertz Gilmore Foundation,
Open Society Foundations, The Overbrook Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and The WhyNot Initiative for their
generous support of our money in politics work.

© 2019. This paper is covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license. It may be reproduced in
its entirety as long as the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is credited, a link to the Center’s web pages is provided,
and no charge is imposed. The paper may not be reproduced in part or in altered form, or if a fee is charged, without the Center’s
permission. Please let the Center know if you reprint.
EXHIBIT B
research report

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
By Nirali Vyas, Chisun Lee, Joanna Zdanys PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 9, 2019

Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law


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

By Nirali Vyas, Chisun Lee, Joanna Zdanys1

I. Introduction

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.2 Its work could fundamentally transform a political process
dominated by big checks and infamous for undermining the public’s trust.3

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,4 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.
A. Background
New York State candidates depend overwhelmingly on large individual and corporate donors. In
the 2018 election, small donations ($200 or less) amounted to just 5 percent of the funds that
state candidates raised.5 Just 100 people donated more than all 137,000 estimated small
donors combined.6 This imbalance of financial influence breeds perceptions of pay-to-play
government and deters people from running for office if they lack access to wealthy networks.

Research shows that small donor public financing will boost the role of non-wealthy New
Yorkers and bring greater diversity to the state’s donor pool. Governor Cuomo’s recent bill to
provide a $6-to-$1 match on up to $175 could have dramatically increased the 2018 candidates’
fundraising from small donors, from 5 percent to 30 percent of campaign funds.7 And the policy
serves to expand the racial and economic diversity of the donor pool.8

This new analysis shows still another important benefit of small donor public financing. The
option drives candidates to solicit support from many more of their future constituents, and
gives those constituents far greater financial influence in these campaigns, than when
candidates do not use small donor public financing. Put simply, the policy serves to strengthen
the ties between candidates and the New Yorkers they hope to serve.

The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing | 1


B. Findings
The effects of public financing become clear when comparing otherwise similar candidates who
took the two different fundraising routes. In New York City, which unlike New York State offers
its candidates the option of small donor public financing for city elections,9 there are 21 State
Assembly districts that almost exactly overlap geographically with 21 City Council districts and
where sufficient campaign finance data from the most recent respective election cycles are
available.10 This allows us to compare candidates for City Council and State Assembly running in
the same communities. We examined candidates’ fundraising records to study the impact of
public financing, controlling for differences in degree of opposition, incumbency, and type of
office sought (city or state).

This analysis shows that opting into small donor public financing was a statistically significant
reason for a stronger record of constituent engagement.11 In each of the following ways, the
median publicly-financed City Council candidate outperformed their privately-funded State
Assembly and City Council counterparts in the same neighborhoods.12

Publicly-financed candidates:13
• Attract more donors from the candidate’s own district.
• Raise a larger portion of their funds from donors in the district.
• Raise a larger portion of their funds from small donors.

These findings bolster the already substantial evidence available to the New York Public
Campaign Financing Commission and other policy makers that small donor public financing is
the most effective way to meet their official mandate. The policy serves to amplify the voices of
regular New Yorkers, brings a greater diversity of donors to participate in a critical part of the
democratic process, and encourages candidates to spend more time and raise more of their
campaign support from within the districts they seek to represent. Further details and
explanation of this analysis appear below.

The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing | 2


II. Analysis

A. Campaign Finance Law Context


To understand the different fundraising behaviors of City Council and State Assembly
candidates in this analysis, it is important to note the starkly different sets of campaign finance
rules they faced in addition to the City’s small donor public financing option.

Table 1. Campaign Finance Rules for New York City Council (2017) and New York State
Assembly (2018)14
Rule City Council 2017 State Assembly 2018
Public financing $6-to-$1 match up to $175 None
option
Limits on None allowed $5,000 total per calendar year
contributions from for corporations; $2,500 per
corporations, election cycle for partnerships;
partnerships, and $4,400 per primary and $4,400
LLCs per general election for LLCs15
Limits on $2,750 per election cycle (publicly- $4,400 per primary and $4,400
contributions from financed candidate) per general election
individuals $2,750 per election cycle
(privately-financed candidate)16

Along with the option of small donor public financing with a sizeable match ratio, the City’s
campaign finance framework included contribution limits that were lower across the board
than the State’s for districts of approximately the same size and that prioritized individual
donors over business entities. As the state Commission carries out its charge of considering “all
details and components reasonably related to” a public financing program, it should address
the interplay of these other aspects of campaign finance regulation with public financing in
order to meet its goal to incentivize candidates to seek small donations.17

The following pie charts illustrate the aggregate differences in fundraising between all City
Council candidates in 2017 and all State Assembly candidates who ran in New York City in 2018:

The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing | 3


Figure 1. Fundraising Shares by Type of Donor: 2017 City Council v. 2018 NYC Assembly
Candidates18

Among the critical differences these charts show:


• People who gave $175 or less were the most significant (40%) source of funds for City
Council candidates, but the least significant source (7%) of funds for State Assembly
candidates who ran in New York City.
• Entity donors were the least significant (9%) source of funds for City Council candidates,
but the most significant source (56%) of funds for State Assembly candidates who ran in
New York City.

B. Details of Small Donor Public Financing’s Constituent-Engagement Effect


Within the overall campaign finance regulation contexts described above, this analysis found,
small donor public financing was a statistically significant driver of far greater engagement by
candidates of constituents. This section provides further detail about the following major
findings:19
• The median publicly-financed City Council candidate received campaign support from 23
percent more in-district donors than did their privately-funded State Assembly and City
Council counterparts in the same neighborhoods.
• The median publicly-financed City Council candidate raised 30 percent more of their
total campaign funds from in-district donors than did their privately-funded State
Assembly and City Council counterparts in the same neighborhoods.
• The median publicly-financed City Council candidate also raised greater percentages of
their total campaign funds from small donors, both in-district and overall:

The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing | 4


o In-district – The publicly-financed City Council candidate raised 18 percent more
of their total campaign funds from these donors than did their privately-funded
counterparts.
o Overall – The publicly-financed City Council candidate raised 27 percent more of
their total campaign funds from these donors than did their privately-funded
counterparts.
The charts below depict the records in engaging support from different types of donors of the
three types of candidates studied: the 65 candidates in the 21 overlapping City Council and
State Assembly districts for whom sufficient campaign finance data were available, including six
City Council candidates who did not participate in the City’s small donor public financing
program. But, because of the marked differences between the overall City and State campaign
finance legal regimes as explained above, the most instructive comparison for those wishing to
design an effective program for the State is between publicly-financed City Council candidates
and State Assembly candidates who had no such option.

Figure 2, below, shows that constituents and small donors were a far bigger part of the total
pool of donors engaged for support by publicly-financed candidates in the City system than by
State Assembly candidates running in the same neighborhoods. The donor pool of the median
publicly-financed City Council candidate, compared to that of the median State Assembly
candidate:
• Showed far greater participation by constituents (45 percent versus 17 percent of donor
pool).
• Relied far more heavily on people who gave $175 or less (77 percent versus 34 percent
of donor pool).
• Consisted almost entirely of people rather than entities (97 percent people in City
Council donor pool versus 28 percent entities in State Assembly donor pool).

The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing | 5


FIGURE 2. Percentage of Total Donor Pool by Donor Type for the Median Publicly-Financed
and Privately-Financed Candidates Running in Overlapping Districts.20

This figure summarizes the donor pools of the median publicly-financed and privately-financed City Council
candidate in 2017 and the median privately-financed State Assembly candidate in 2018. Numbers of donors appear
in parentheses.

Further, publicly-financed City Council candidates in this analysis owed a far greater share of
their total funds raised to the support of constituents and small donors (and to people, instead
of entities) than did their State Assembly counterparts. As Figure 3, below, shows, for the
median publicly-financed City Council candidate compared to the median State Assembly
candidate:
• Constituents accounted for a much larger share of total funds raised (41 percent versus
11 percent).
• People who gave $175 or less accounted for a remarkably larger share of total funds
raised, which is a major policy goal of small donor public financing (47 percent versus 5
percent).
• People instead of entities accounted for a far greater share of all funds raised by the City
Council candidate (95 percent from people, 5 percent from entities), but the opposite
was true for the State Assembly candidate (43 percent from people, 57 percent from
entities.

The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing | 6


FIGURE 3. Share of Total Funds Raised from Different Donor Types by the Median Publicly-
Financed and Privately-Financed Candidates Running in Overlapping Districts.21

This figure summarizes total fundraising by the median publicly-financed and privately-financed City Council
candidate in 2017 and the median privately-financed State Assembly candidate in 2018. Total dollars raised from
specific donor types by the relevant median candidate appear in parentheses.

The real-world comparisons in this analysis show that small donor public financing was a
statistically significant impetus for candidates to engage far more constituents for campaign
support than when candidates did not or could not opt to participate in such a program. It is a
proven, effective solution to achieve a more representative and participatory political process
based on small donations rather than large checks.

III. Methodology
A. Selection

This study analyzes the fundraising records of New York City Council and New York State
Assembly candidates who campaigned to represent districts within New York City in the most
recent respective elections, 2017 and 2018. The district sizes of these city and state offices are
approximately the same, giving all candidates similar numbers of potential in-district donors—
the key focus of this study. Fundraising data came from the New York City Campaign Finance
Board and the National Institute on Money in Politics.
The number of candidates analyzed is limited both by objective circumstance and by design, as
explained below. This study examines 41 of 252 City Council candidates in 2017—35 who
participated in small donor public financing and 6 who did not—and 24 of 137 State Assembly
candidates in 2018.22

The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing | 7


The major objective circumstance limiting the number of candidates to study is New York
State’s campaign finance disclosure law, which permits state candidates not to report
individualized donor information for contributions of $99 or less. (New York City requires all its
candidates to report individualized donor data for all contributions.) Donors’ individualized
geographic information is essential to determine whether they are constituents of the district a
given candidate is campaigning to represent, which is the primary question of this study.23 Still,
many State Assembly candidates voluntarily report individualized donor information for even
small contributions. In 2018, 66 of them running in New York City reported this information.
Decisions made to design a fair study also limited the number of candidates examined:
• To compare like populations of in-district donors – To control for the socioeconomic
differences among districts that may make it easier or harder to raise campaign money
locally, this study analyzes only candidates in 21 City Council and State Assembly
districts whose boundaries almost exactly overlap. These districts represent all five New
York City boroughs.
• To compare similar fundraising periods – To compare candidates who raised money
over similarly lengthy periods of time, this study focuses on 65 candidates in the 21
overlapping City Council and State Assembly districts who participated in the general
elections, rather than losing and stopping at the primary stage, in 2017 and 2018.24

B. Analysis
This study calculates and compares the track records of candidates in raising campaign funds
from different categories of donors, reporting median rather than average results. It asks
whether small donor public financing incentivizes greater candidate engagement of in-district
donors (“constituents”) and small donors, and answers by testing through multi-regression
analysis whether participation in public financing is a statistically significant reason for better
track records in these regards.

The use of the median rather than the mean, or average, measure to compare categories of
candidates intends to reduce the skewing effect of extreme outliers among the 65 City Council
and State Assembly campaigns examined. (For instance, one 2017 City Council candidate had a
single donor while another had 1,386 donors. Similarly, one 2018 Assembly candidate raised
$13,250 while another raised $699,924.) These median results are useful for observing patterns
of fundraising.25 But alone they cannot provide accurate insight into the effect, if any, of using
small donor public financing on candidates’ fundraising track records, as variables such as
incumbency, opposition, and even the characteristic of running for a city rather than state
legislative office, could explain a candidate’s ability or need to raise money.

To control for these other, potentially confounding variables, this study employs multivariate
quantile regressions. This statistical analysis method works best for explaining relationships
between variables when data are non-normally distributed (or have a significant number of
outliers). The controls included in the regression model additionally mitigate the competition-

The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing | 8


creating effect of New York City’s term limits on certain districts and thus on certain candidates’
presumed incentives to raise money.26 To account for the differential number of donors and
absolute fundraising dollars for Assembly and City Council candidates, regression findings are
reported as proportional differences. For brevity, detailed results are reported in this study’s
online Appendix.27

The findings that the median publicly-financed City Council candidate engaged more
constituents and raised a larger share of total funds from them and from small donors, than
median candidates in the other categories, are statistically significant. In other words, there is a
strong likelihood that the positive relationship between participating in small donor public
financing and achieving these fundraising records is not due to chance. It is reasonable to
conclude that participating in small donor public financing, as part of New York City’s overall
campaign finance law scheme, is a strong motivating factor for candidates to solicit more
support from constituents and small donors. All findings are significant at the 0.05 level or
below, meaning there is at least a 95% probability that the relationships detected are not due
to chance.

The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing | 9


ENDNOTES

1
The authors wish to thank a number of individuals for their contributions. Hazel Millard conducted critical
research on the elections studied. Peter Miller and Kevin Morris provided important guidance on statistical
research methodology. Lawrence Norden and Ian Vandewalker offered helpful editorial feedback. Alexandra Ringe
contributed communications expertise. Joëlle Simeu, Lauren Meadows and Marco Balestri provided research
assistance. Yuliya Bas and Justin Charles provided important design and production assistance. Staff of the New
York City Campaign Finance Board offered assistance with data. Any errors are the authors’ own.
2
See FY 2020 Budget Bill (S1509C), January 18, 2019, 196 (Part XXX):
https://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2019/S1509C; Lawrence Norden and Chisun Lee, “A small-donor
matching public campaign finance system is in reach in New York,” New York Daily News, April 8, 2019,
https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-campaign-finance-reform-in-reach-in-new-york-20190408-
kj4ffkbfffeylbvdqjpltenfue-story.html.
3
See Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, “Preliminary Report,” State of New York, December
2, 2013, 30-34, https://www.publiccorruption.moreland.ny.gov/sites/default/files/moreland_report_final.pdf.
4
During the period analyzed in this study, New York City offered a $6-to-$1 match on up to $175 of eligible
donations for candidates who qualified. New York City’s small donor public financing system has been in effect
since 1989, with the match ratio increasing several times since. The City currently provides a match of $8-to-$1 to
qualifying candidates for Mayor, Public Advocate and Comptroller on up to $250 of eligible donations, and for
Borough President and City Council candidates up to $175. See New York City Campaign Finance Board, “What’s
New in the Campaign Finance Program”, January 5, 2019, https://www.nyccfb.info/program/what-s-new-in-the-
campaign-finance-program-2/; New York City Campaign Finance Board, “History of the CFB”, July 2, 2015,
https://www.nyccfb.info/about/history/.
5
Chisun Lee and Nirali Vyas, “Analysis: New York’s Big Donor Problem & Why Small Donor Public Financing Is an
Effective Solution for Constituents and Candidates,” Brennan Center for Justice, January 28, 2019,
https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/nypf.
6
Brennan Center for Justice, The Case for Small Donor Public Financing in New York State, February 28, 2019, 2,
https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/CaseforPublicFinancingNY_0.pdf.
7
Ibid., 9.
8
See Elisabeth Genn, Sundeep Iyer, Michael Malbin, and Brendan Glavin, Donor Diversity Through Public Matching
Funds, Brennan Center for Justice, May 14, 2012, 4,
https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/publications/DonorDiversityReport_WEB.PDF.
9
During the 2017 City Council elections, nearly 70 percent (175 of the 252) of general and primary candidates
running for office participated in the city’s matching funds program. See “Candidate List: 2017 Citywide Elections,”
New York City Campaign Finance Board, last updated August 15, 2019, https://www.nyccfb.info/follow-the-
money/candidates/2017.
10
Unlike New York City law, state law does not require candidates to report individualized donor data for
donations of $99 or less. Some Assembly campaigns voluntarily reported individualized donor data for all their
donations, permitting the comparison with City Council campaigns in these 21 geographically similar districts. For
additional selection criteria, see Methodology section.
11
This study defines people’s engagement in terms of campaign finance participation. There are, of course, other
important ways for people to engage in elections. But campaign giving is not just a mode of engaging; it is also a
gateway to other modes of engaging in elections. See Spencer A. Overton, “The Participation Interest,”
Georgetown Law Journal 100, 2012: 1279,

The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing | 10


https://scholarship.law.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1167&context=faculty_publications (observing that
“financial participation” can lead to other forms of civic engagement).
12
This study provides findings for the median (middle) candidate in each category, rather than mean (or average)
findings for all candidates in each category, because median findings are less likely to be skewed by outliers. The
set of 65 candidates in this study includes a few extreme outliers at the very low and very high ends of fundraising,
whose records would tend to distort understandings of the more typical candidate in each category. Fundraising
figures for publicly-financed City Council candidates include matching funds. Publicly-financed candidates in New
York City may also receive private contributions. In this study, “privately-financed” indicates candidates who did
not receive any public matching funds. Among the 41 City Council campaigns selected for analysis based on
similarities in geography and other electoral characteristics with Assembly campaigns, only 6 campaigns opted out
of the matching funds program.
13
See Methodology section for full explanation of selection criteria and statistical methods employed, and
Appendix Tables I and J for detailed results of analyses.
14
New York State Board of Elections, “2018 Contribution Limits”, accessed August 6, 2019, 13-27,
https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/Finance/2018ContributionLimits.pdf; New York State Board of Elections,
“Contribution Limits”, accessed August 6, 2019, https://www.elections.ny.gov/CFContributionLimits.html; New
York State Board of Elections, “New York State Board of Elections Campaign Finance Handbook 2019”, accessed
September 3, 2019, 42, https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/finance/hndbk2019.pdf; New York City
Campaign Finance Board, “Limits & Thresholds: 2017 Citywide Elections”, accessed August 8, 2019,
http://www.nyccfb.info/candidate-services/limits-thresholds/2017;
15
Prior to January 2019, New York election authorities treated LLCs, for purposes of campaign finance regulation,
as individuals rather than corporations or partnerships. A recent change in election law subjects LLCs to corporate
contribution limits. See Senate Bill S1101, January 10, 2019, https://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2019/S1101;
Tim Lau, “New York’s Democracy Just Got Fairer”, January 24, 2019, https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/new-
yorks-democracy-just-got-fairer.
16
Beginning with the 2021 cycle, City Council candidates who choose to participate in public financing must adhere
to lower individual contribution limits ($1,000 per election cycle) than non-participating candidates ($2,850 per
election cycle). The new, higher match ratio of $8-to-$1 (up from $6-to-$1 in the 2017 cycle), combined with lower
contribution limits, further incentivizes candidates to seek campaign support from everyday constituents and
donors rather than big donors. See New York City Campaign Finance Board, “Limits & Thresholds: 2021 Citywide
Elections”, accessed September 3, 2019, https://www.nyccfb.info/candidate-services/limits-thresholds/2021/;
Brennan Center for Justice, The Case for Small Donor Public Financing in New York State, 1.
17
FY 2020 Budget Bill (S1509C), 197.
18
This figure analyzes all fundraising, including matching funds, by candidates for City Council in 2017 and for State
Assembly within New York City in 2018. New York City law prohibits candidates from raising funds from most
entities, though they may raise funds from unions and registered PACs. See New York City Campaign Finance
Board, “Limits & Thresholds”, https://www.nyccfb.info/candidate-services/limits-thresholds/2017/.
19
See Methodology section for full explanation of selection criteria and statistical methods employed, and
Appendix Tables I and J for detailed results of analyses.
20
Small donors are individuals who contributed in amounts of $175 or less which was the eligibility threshold for
matching funds in New York City elections in 2017. See Methodology section for full explanation of selection
criteria and statistical methods employed, and Appendix Tables G and H for the data underlying this figure.
21
Small donors are individuals who contributed in amounts of $175 or less which was the eligibility threshold for
matching funds in New York City elections in 2017. See Methodology section for full explanation of selection
criteria and statistical methods employed, and Appendix Tables E and F for the data underlying this figure.
22
See the Appendix for a complete list of candidates and districts studied.
The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing | 11
23
To determine which political district a particular donor resided in, donors’ individualized geographic information,
99 percent of which was successfully geocoded, was cross-referenced with spatial data of City Council and State
Assembly district boundaries in NYC.
24
This study examines only major-party candidates. Candidates who ran exclusively on minor-party lines were
excluded, because they raised a relatively insignificant amount of campaign funds.
25
See Appendix Tables E-H.
26
New York State Assembly seats are not term-limited. In the 21 City Council districts observed in this analysis,
67% had contested Democratic primaries and 8% had contested Republican primaries. When the four City Council
districts in this sample with term-limited open seats are excluded, the percentage differences are small: 59% of
observed districts had contested Democratic primaries and none had contested Republican primaries. Thus, while
term limits have some impact on electoral competition, they are not a significant explainer of the discrepancies
found in median fundraising trends between City Council and State Assembly candidates in this analysis.
27
See Appendix Tables I and J. Statistical significance is determined when an independent variable’s “p-value” is
less than 0.05. This denotes at least a 95% probability that the relationship detected between the independent
variable and the dependent variable is not due to chance.

The Constituent-Engagement Effect of Small Donor Public Financing | 12


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

APPENDIX 1

OVERVIEW: CANDIDATES AND DISTRICTS ANALYZED

Table A. City Council and Assembly Districts by NYC Borough


NYC Borough Assembly Districts City Council Districts
Manhattan 65, 70, 72, 76 1, 5, 9, 10
Brooklyn 46, 48, 50, 53, 54, 55, 59, 60 33, 34, 37, 41, 42, 43, 44, 46
Bronx 78, 82, 83, 87 12, 13, 15, 18
Queens 23, 26, 36 19, 22, 32, 34
Staten Island 61, 63 49, 50

Table B. Publicly-financed City Council Candidates (2017) by District and NYC Borough 2
Publicly-financed City City Council Overlapping NYC Borough
Council candidate District Assembly
District
Aaron Foldenauer 1 65 Manhattan
Christopher Marte 1 65 Manhattan
Margaret Chin 1 65 Manhattan
Benjamin Kallos 5 76 Manhattan
Bill Perkins 9 70 Manhattan
Jack Royster, Jr. 9 70 Manhattan
Tyson-Lord Gray 9 70 Manhattan
Ydanis Rodriguez 10 72 Manhattan
John Cerini 13 82 Bronx
John Doyle 13 82 Bronx
Marjorie Velazquez 13 82 Bronx
Ritchie Torres 15 78 Bronx
Jayson Cancel 15 78 Bronx
Michael Beltzer 18 87 Bronx
William Moore 18 87 Bronx
Paul Graziano 19 26 Queens
Paul Vallone 19 26 Queens
Costa Constantinides 22 36 Queens

1
The online Appendix contains background data pertinent to the study, 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. Additional data are on file with the Brennan Center for Justice.
2
Nine candidates on this list ran in contests with open seats due to term limits (districts 13, 18, 41, 43).

Appendix | 1
Eric Ulrich 32 23 Queens
Michael Scala 32 23 Queens
Stephen Levin 33 50 Brooklyn
Antonio Reynoso 34 53 Brooklyn, Queens
Alicka Ampry-Samuel 41 55 Brooklyn
Inez Barron 42 60 Brooklyn
Mawuli Hormeku 42 60 Brooklyn
John Quaglione 43 46 Brooklyn
Justin Brannan 43 46 Brooklyn
Robert Capano 43 46 Brooklyn
Kalman Yeger 44 48 Brooklyn
Alan Maisel 46 59 Brooklyn
Deborah Rose 49 61 Staten Island
Kamillah Payne-Hanks 49 61 Staten Island
Michael Penrose 49 61 Staten Island
Richard Florentino 50 63 Staten Island
Steven Matteo 50 63 Staten Island

Table C. Privately-financed City Council Candidates (2017) by District and NYC Borough
Privately-financed City City Council Overlapping Assembly NYC Borough
Council candidate District District
Bryan Jung 1 65 Manhattan
Frank Spotorno 5 76 Manhattan
Andrew King 12 83 Bronx
Mark Gjonaj 13 82 Bronx
Ruben Diaz, Sr. 18 87 Bronx
Rafael Espinal, Jr. 37 54 Brooklyn

Table D. Privately-financed State Assembly Candidates (2018) by District and NYC Borough
Privately-financed State Assembly District Overlapping City NYC Borough
Assembly Candidate Council District
Stacey Pheffer Amato 23 32 Queens
Edward Braunstein 26 19 Queens
Aravella Simotas 36 22 Queens
Ethan Lustig-Elgrably 46 43 Brooklyn
Mathylde Frontus 46 43 Brooklyn
Steven Saperstein 46 43 Brooklyn
Simcha Eichenstein 48 44 Brooklyn
Joseph Lentol 50 33 Brooklyn
Maritza Davila 53 34 Brooklyn
Erik Dilan 54 37 Brooklyn
Latrice Walker 55 41 Brooklyn
Jaime Williams 59 46 Brooklyn
Charles Barron 60 42 Brooklyn

Appendix | 2
Charles Fall 61 49 Staten Island
Patricia Kane 61 49 Staten Island
Michael Cusick 63 50 Staten Island
Yuh-Line Niou 65 1 Manhattan
Inez Dickens 70 9 Manhattan
Carmen De La Rosa 72 10 Manhattan
Rebecca Seawright 76 5 Manhattan
Jose Rivera 78 15 Bronx
Michael Benedetto 82 13 Bronx
Carl Heastie 83 12 Bronx
Karines Reyes 87 18 Bronx

Appendix | 3
SUMMARY STATISTICS: FUNDRAISING AND DONOR ENGAGEMENT

Tables E-H show the median fundraising and donor engagement levels of the 65 publicly-financed and
privately-financed candidates analyzed in 21 overlapping districts. The numbers of candidates studied in
each category appear in parentheses.

Table E. Total Funds Raised from Different Donor Types by the Median Publicly-Financed and Privately-
Financed Candidates Running in Overlapping Districts
Total Small Small-Donor
Candidate Type Funds People Entities Constituents Donors Constituents
Publicly-financed
City Council
candidates, 2017
(35) $228,373 $202,058 $16,000 $74,530 $97,834 $39,795
Privately-
financed City
Council
candidates, 2017
(6) $126,803 $75,715 $36,187 $13,100 $15,775 $3,372
Privately-
financed State
Assembly
candidates, 2018
(24) $112,490 $39,364 $54,002 $8,850 $6,111 $1,580

Table F. Share of Total Funds Raised from Different Donor Types by the Median Publicly-Financed and
Privately-Financed Candidates Running in Overlapping Districts

Small-Donor
Candidate Type People Entities Constituents Small Donors
Constituents

Publicly-financed City
Council candidates, 95% 5% 41% 47% 25%
2017 (35)
Privately-financed City
Council candidates, 86% 14% 13% 14% 3%
2017 (6)
Privately-financed
State Assembly 43% 57% 11% 5% 2%
candidates, 2018 (24)

Appendix | 4
Table G. Numbers of Different Donor Types Engaged by the Median Publicly-Financed and Privately-
Financed Candidates Running in Overlapping Districts
Total Small Small-Donor
Candidate Type Donors People Entities Constituents Donors Constituents
Publicly-financed City
Council candidates,
2017 (35) 389 384 10 131 293 107
Privately-financed City
Council candidates,
2017 (6) 367 323 37 66 200 56
Privately-financed
State Assembly
candidates, 2018 (24) 196 136 49 29 74 19

Table H. Share of Different Donor Types Engaged by the Median Publicly-Financed and Privately-
Financed Candidates Running in Overlapping Districts
Small Small-Donor
Candidate Type People Entities Constituents
Donors Constituents
Publicly-financed
City Council
97% 3% 45% 77% 40%
candidates, 2017
(35)

Privately-financed
City Council 95% 5% 22% 60% 16%
candidates, 2017 (6)
Privately-financed
State Assembly
72% 28% 17% 34% 11%
candidates, 2018
(24)

Appendix | 5
MULTIVARITATE QUANTILE REGRESSIONS

Dependent variables:
1. Proportion constituent donations of total funds raised
2. Proportion small donations of total funds raised
3. Proportion small-dollar constituent donations of total funds raised
4. Proportion small donors of total donor pool
5. Proportion constituent donors of total donor pool
6. Proportion small-donor constituents of total donor pool
Independent variables:
1. Publicly-financed City Council candidate = 1 if the candidate was a recipient of public campaign
funds; 0 if otherwise.
2. City Council = 1 if the candidate ran for a seat in the City Council; 0 if the candidate ran for a
seat in the Assembly.
3. Incumbent =1 if the candidate was an incumbent in the district they campaigned in; 0 if
otherwise.
4. Contested Primary = 1 if the candidate faced at least one challenger in a primary election; 0 if
otherwise.
5. Contested General = 1 if the candidate faced at least one challenger in a general election; 0 if
otherwise.
Results:
The quantile regression results in Table I show proportional differences in funds raised from constituents
(model 1), small donors (model 2) and small-donor constituents (model 3) by publicly-financed City
Council candidates vs. privately-financed City Council and State Assembly candidates.

Table I. Effects of Public Financing on Shares of Funds Raised from Constituents, Small Donors and Small-
Donor Constituents
Model 1: Model 2: Model 3:
Variables Constituent Donations Small Donations Small-Dollar
Constituent Donations
(Constant) 0.113 0.132 0.064
(0.106) (0.140) (0.065)
Publicly-financed City 0.302*** 0.266** 0.176***
Council candidate (0.095) (0.125) (0.058)
City Council -0.054 0.109 0.038
(0.102) (0.136) (0.062)
Incumbent -0.053 -0.085 -0.062*
(0.061) (0.081) (0.037)
Contested Primary 0.047 -0.029 -0.028
(0.057) (0.076) (0.035)
Contested General 0.052 -0.003 0.002
(0.093) (0.124) (0.057)
Notes: Standard errors are in parentheses. Cells report quantile regression coefficients. Each model had 65
observations. Pseudo R2 values for Models 1, 2 and 3 are 0.3221, 0.4465 and 0.3732, respectively. *** p<0.01,
** p<0.05, * p<0.1.

Appendix | 6
The quantile regression results in Table J show proportional differences in shares of constituents (model
4), small donors (model 5) and small-donor constituents (model 6) engaged by publicly-financed City
Council candidates vs. privately-financed City Council and State Assembly candidates.

Table J. Effects of Public Financing on Shares of Constituents, Small Donors, and Small-Donor
Constituents Engaged
Model 4: Model 5: Model 6:
Variables Constituents Small Donors Small-Donor
Constituents
(Constant) 0.099 0.475 0.050
(0.128) (0.127) (0.107)
Publicly-financed City 0.233** 0.119 0.136
Council candidate (0.115) (0.114) (0.095)
City Council 0.039 0.168 0.102
(0.124) (0.123) (0.103)
Incumbent 0.017 -0.182** -0.420
(0.074) (0.073) (0.061)
Contested Primary -0.000 0.038 0.018
(0.070) (0.069) (0.058)
Contested General 0.075 0.040 0.100
(0.113) (0.112) (0.094)
Notes: Standard errors are in parentheses. Cells report quantile regression coefficients. Each model had 65
observations. Pseudo R2 values for Models 4, 5 and 6 are 0.2493, 0.3864 and 0.2827, respectively. *** p<0.01,
** p<0.05, * p<0.1.

Appendix | 7
EXHIBIT C
The Brennan Center’s Model Public Financing Bill

Guide to Annotations: Additions to the law are underlined. Deletions from existing law are
bracketed and highlighted gray for ease of review.
Introduced by ______ -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to
the Committee on Elections
AN ACT to amend the election law, in relation to enacting the “fair elections act”; to amend the
election law, the state finance law, and the tax law, in relation to providing for optional partial
public financing of certain election campaigns in this state; and to amend the general business
law and financial services law, in relation to additional surcharges.
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:
§ 1. Short title. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “fair elections act.”
§ 2. Legislative findings and declarations.
The legislature finds that reform of New York state’s campaign finance system is crucial to
improving public confidence in the state’s democratic processes and continuing to ensure a
government that is accountable to all of the voters of the state regardless of wealth or position.
The legislature finds that New York’s current system of campaign finance, with its large
contributions to candidates for office, has created the potential for and the appearance of
corruption. The legislature further finds that, whether or not this system creates actual
corruption, the appearance of such corruption can give rise to distrust in government and
citizen apathy, undermining the democratic operation of the political process.
The legislature also finds that the high cost of running for office in New York discourages
qualified candidates from running for office and creates an electoral system that encourages
candidates to spend too much time raising money rather than attending to the duties of their
offices, representing the needs of their constituents, and communicating with voters.
The legislature amends this chapter by adding a new title two to article fourteen of the election
law to create a system of optional public financing that provides a multiple match on small
contributions to candidates for statewide and state legislative office who are able to qualify.
The legislature finds that this system will help to reduce the possibility and appearance that
large donors exercise undue influence over state officials; increase the actual and apparent
responsiveness of elected officials to all voters; encourage qualified candidates to run for office;
incentivize candidates to solicit small contributions; reduce the pressure on candidates to
spend significant amounts of time raising large contributions for their campaigns; and enlarge
public debate and increase participation in the democratic process.
The legislature finds that this article’s limitations on contributions further the government’s
interest in reducing real and apparent corruption and in building public trust in government.

Page 1 of 42
The legislature further finds that lowering contribution limits from their current levels for
candidates who do not participate in the optional public financing system is necessary for the
proper functioning of the system. The legislature finds that the contribution levels are
sufficiently high to allow candidates to raise enough money to compete for elected office.
Therefore, the legislature declares that these amendments further the important and valid
government interests of reducing voter apathy, building confidence in government, reducing
the reality and appearance of corruption, and encouraging qualified candidates to run for
office, while reducing candidates’ and officeholders’ fundraising burdens.
The legislature further finds that the state’s campaign finance laws, including a new system of
public financing, would be best administered by a new “fair elections board” empowered with
effective oversight and enforcement capabilities and dedicated to working with and assisting
candidates to comply with the campaign finance laws.
§ 3. A new section 3-101 of article fourteen of the election law is added to read as follows:
§ 3-101. New York state fair elections board
1. There is hereby created within the Executive Department a New York state fair
elections board, hereafter referred to as the “fair elections board,” with full authority to
enforce the provisions of article fourteen of this chapter and promulgate rules necessary for
such enforcement. The fair elections board shall be composed of five members appointed by
the governor on advice and consent of the senate. The majority and minority leaders of the
senate and assembly shall each recommend to the governor two persons for appointment to
the board. The governor shall select one member from the two individuals recommended by
each legislative leader. The governor shall select the fifth member, who shall not be a member
of any political party. No more than two members of the same political party may serve on the
fair elections board simultaneously. For purposes of this section, a person is a member of a
political party if he or she is a registered member of a party or has been a registered member of
a party in the five years before the date of appointment to the board. No member of the fair
elections board shall hold elective office, nor shall any member be a lobbyist as defined in
subdivision (a) of section one-c of the legislative law. The members of the fair elections board
shall each serve for a term of five years.
2. The members of the fair elections board shall first be appointed to serve as follows:
(a) one member recommended by the governor shall be appointed for a term of two years; (b)
one member recommended by the majority leader of the senate shall be appointed for a term
of six years; (c) one member recommended by the minority leader of the senate shall be
appointed for a term of five years; (d) one member recommended by the majority leader of the
assembly shall be appointed for a term of four years; and (e) one member recommended by the
minority leader of the assembly shall be appointed for a term of three years. Members
appointed thereafter shall be appointed for terms of five years.

Page 2 of 42
3. The members of the fair elections board shall designate the chairperson of the fair
elections board from among the members thereof, who shall serve as chairperson at the
pleasure of the members of the fair elections board. The chairperson shall be responsible for
managing the fair elections board. The chairperson or any three members of the fair elections
board may call a meeting.
4. Each member’s term shall commence on January first, two thousand and twenty. In
case of a vacancy in the office of a member, a new member shall be appointed for the
remainder of the unexpired term, according to the original manner of appointment. Each
member shall be a resident of the state of New York and registered to vote therein. Each
member shall agree not to make and shall not make contributions to any candidate or
authorized committee for nomination or election. No member shall serve as an officer of a
political party or committee or be a candidate or participate in any capacity in a campaign by a
candidate for nomination or election. An officer or employee of the state or any state agency
shall not be eligible to be a member of the fair elections board.
5. The members of the fair elections board shall be entitled to receive payment for
actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties as members of such
board.
6. A member of the fair elections board may be removed for cause by the governor
upon notice and an opportunity for a hearing.
7. There shall be a unit known as the fair elections board enforcement unit established
within the fair elections board. Such unit shall have sole authority within the fair elections
board to investigate alleged violations and complaints arising under article fourteen of this
chapter.
8. The fair elections board shall appoint the fair elections board enforcement counsel,
who shall be the head of the fair elections board enforcement unit. The fair elections board
enforcement counsel shall serve a term of five years and may be removed by the fair elections
board only for cause upon notice and an opportunity to be heard. At any time a vacancy arises
in such position after the effective date of this section, the members of the fair elections board
shall appoint a new fair elections board enforcement counsel for the remainder of the
unexpired term.
9. The fair elections board may make necessary expenditures subject to appropriation
and employ necessary staff, including accounting, legal, and compliance staff. The fair elections
board shall hire additional staff members to serve as candidate liaisons for the purpose of
training and assisting participating candidates with complying with the requirements of the
optional public financing system.
10. Consistent with the provisions of the civil service law, and notwithstanding the
provisions of any other law to the contrary, all positions on the staff of the fair elections board,

Page 3 of 42
other than the five members created by subdivision one of this section, shall be classified in the
competitive class of the civil service.
11. The fair elections board’s administration of the fair elections fund shall be governed
by the provisions of title two of article fourteen of this chapter and section ninety-two-t of the
state finance law.
12. The fair elections board and its proceedings shall be governed by the state
administrative procedure act and subject to articles six and seven of the public officers law.
13. For the purposes of meetings three members of the fair elections board shall
constitute a quorum. The affirmative vote of three members shall be required for any action of
the fair elections board.
14. The fair elections board may take such other actions as are necessary and proper to
carry out the purposes of article fourteen of this chapter.
§ 4. Section 3-102 of the election law is amended to read as follows:
Drafting note: The existing provisions of this section concern the powers and duties of
the state board of elections. They are amended below to reflect the transfer of
oversight over all of the campaign finance law to the new fair elections board. There
are amendments throughout the bill reflecting that transfer of oversight, but they
reflect key examples and do not exhaustively detail every amendment necessary.
1. Issue instructions and promulgate rules and regulations relating to the administration
of the election process[,] and election campaign practices[, and campaign financing practices]
consistent with the provisions of law. Such powers shall not be interpreted to limit or
supersede the powers of the fair elections board pursuant to section 3-102-a.
Drafting note: Subdivisions 2 and 3 omitted here for length.
3-A. Notwithstanding subdivision three of this section, the fair elections board
enforcement counsel, as it may deem necessary, and after the fair elections board has
considered the matter or matters in question shall conduct any investigation necessary to
enforce the provisions of article fourteen of this chapter. Such investigations shall be kept
confidential until brought to the fair elections board for review and consideration.
Drafting note: Subdivisions 4 through 6 omitted here for length.
[7. Institute, or direct a board of elections to institute judicial proceedings as may be
necessary to enforce compliance with any provision of article fourteen of this chapter or any
regulation promulgated thereunder including, but not limited to, application on notice served
upon the respondent in the manner directed by the court at least six hours prior to the time of
return thereon, to a justice of the supreme court within the judicial district in which an alleged
violation of any such provision or regulation occurred or is threatened, for an order prohibiting

Page 4 of 42
the continued or threatened violation thereof or for such other or further relief as the court
may deem just and proper;
8.] 7. Prepare [uniform forms for the statements required by article fourteen of this
chapter and] uniform forms for use by local election officials in the conduct of registration and
voting; design, prepare, and make available to county boards of election and to such other
institutions and groups as such board in its discretion shall determine uniform application forms
for registration and enrollment, transfer of registration and/or enrollment and special
enrollment upon application filed by mail pursuant to the provisions of section 5-210 of this
chapter;
[9.] 8. Study and examine the administration of elections within the state [including
campaign financing, campaign financing reporting, and campaign practices];
[9-A. (a) develop an electronic reporting system to process the statements of campaign
receipts, contributions, transfers and expenditures required to be filed with any board of
elections pursuant to the provisions of sections 14-102 and 14-104 of this chapter;
(b) prescribe the information required in the form for each statement to be filed;
(c) establish an educational and training program on all reporting requirements
including but not limited to the electronic reporting process and make it easily and
readily available to any such candidate or committee;
(d) make the electronic reporting process available to any such candidate or committee
which is required to file or which agrees to file such statements by such electronic
reporting process;
(e) cause all information contained in such a statement filed with the state board of
elections which is not on such electronic reporting system to be entered into such
system as soon as practicable but in no event later than ten business days after its
receipt by the state board of elections; and
(f) make all data from electronic reporting process available at all times on the internet.]
[10.] 9. Establish rules allowing the admission of news media representatives to the area
of the polling place where the canvass of ballots cast can be directly observed;
[11.] 10. Recommend such legislation or administrative measures as it finds appropriate
to promote fair, honest and efficiently administered elections[, including, but not limited to,
legislation to adjust the contribution limitations set forth in article fourteen of this chapter];
Drafting note: the remaining subdivisions of this section are not included here due to
length but should also be renumbered.

Page 5 of 42
§ 5. A new section 3-102-a of the election law is added to read as follows:
§ 3-102-a. Fair Elections Board; general powers and duties.
In addition to its enforcement powers and any other powers and duties specified by law, the
fair elections board shall have the power and duty to:
1. Issue instructions and promulgate rules and regulations relating to article fourteen of
this chapter consistent with the provisions of law;
2. Conduct any investigation necessary to carry out the provisions of article fourteen of
this chapter, provided, however, that the fair elections board enforcement counsel, established
pursuant to section 3-101 of this article, shall conduct all investigations necessary to enforce
the provisions of article fourteen of this chapter;
3. (a) The board shall audit and examine all matters relating to the proper
administration of this article and shall complete such audit no later than one year after the
election in question. This deadline shall not apply in cases involving potential campaign-related
fraud, knowing and willful violations of article fourteen of this chapter, or criminal activity. The
authorized committees of both participating and nonparticipating candidates, as defined in
section 14-202 of this chapter, shall be audited as follows:

(b) The authorized committee of every candidate for statewide office shall be audited
by the fair elections board. For purposes of this section, “candidate for statewide
office” means a candidate for the office of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney
general, or comptroller.

(c) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this subdivision, the fair elections board shall
select not more than fifty percent of all authorized committees of candidates in covered
elections for legislative office for audit through an objective lottery. A separate lottery
shall be conducted for each office. The board shall select senate and assembly districts
to be audited, auditing every authorized committee in each selected district, while
ensuring that the number of audited committees does not exceed fifty percent of all
candidates for the relevant office. The lottery for senate and assembly elections shall be
weighted so that the least frequently audited districts during the past three election
cycles are most likely to be selected. The board shall promulgate rules concerning the
method of weighting the senate and assembly lotteries, including provisions for the first
three election cycles for each office.

(d) The cost of complying with a post-election audit shall be borne by the candidate’s
authorized committee using public funds, private funds or any combination of such
funds. Participating candidates who run in any primary or general election must
maintain a reserve equal to at least one percent of the public funds received to comply
with the post-election audit.

Page 6 of 42
(e) The board shall issue to each audited campaign a final audit report that details its
findings and make such report publicly available on the fair elections board’s website.

(f) The board shall notify, in writing, any authorized committee of its selection for audit
no later than January 31 of the year immediately following such election. The board
shall not audit any committee to which it fails to provide such notice.

(g) The fair elections board shall develop rules and procedures for implementing the
requirements of this subdivision.

4. Render advisory opinions with respect to questions arising under article fourteen of
this chapter upon the written request of a candidate, an officer of a political committee, or
member of the public, or upon its own initiative. The board shall issue such an opinion not later
than thirty days after receiving a request from a candidate, officer of a political committee, or
member of the public, except that if an advisory opinion is requested by a candidate or his or
her authorized committee during the thirty-day period before any election, the board shall
render a written advisory opinion relating to such request no later than ten days after the
board receives the request. The board shall make public the questions of interpretation for
which advisory opinions will be considered by the board and its advisory opinions, including by
publication on its webpage with identifying information redacted as the board deems
appropriate;
5. Attempt to secure voluntary compliance, by informal methods of conference,
conciliation and persuasion, with any provision of article fourteen of this chapter;
6. Conduct private or public hearings;
7. Administer oaths or affirmations, subpoena witnesses, compel their attendance,
examine them under oath or affirmation and require the production of any books, records,
documents or other evidence it may deem relevant or material;
8. Confer immunity in accordance with the provisions of section 50.20 of the criminal
procedure law, in any investigation relating to any crime or offense with respect to which, by
express provisions of statute, a competent authority is authorized to confer immunity;
provided, however, that such immunity shall be conferred only after the attorney general and
appropriate district attorney are afforded the opportunity to be heard respecting any
objections which either may have to the conferring thereof; and provided, further, that if either
the attorney general or any such appropriate district attorney shall object to the conferring of
immunity, immunity may be conferred only by unanimous vote of all five members of the fair
elections board.
9. Institute such judicial proceedings as may be necessary to enforce compliance with
any provision of article fourteen of this chapter or any regulation promulgated thereunder
including, but not limited to, application, on notice served upon the respondent in the manner

Page 7 of 42
directed by the court at least six hours prior to the time of return thereon, to a justice of the
supreme court within the judicial district in which the alleged violation of any such provision or
regulation occurred or is threatened, for an order prohibiting the continued or threatened
violation thereof or for such other or further relief as the court may deem just and proper;
10. Administer the optional public financing system pursuant to title two of article
fourteen of this chapter and perform such acts as necessary to carry out the purposes of that
title;
11. Prepare uniform forms for the statements required by article fourteen of this
chapter;
12. Study and examine the administration of article fourteen of this chapter within the
state, including campaign financing, campaign financing reporting, and the effect of the
optional public financing system;
13. At the close of each fiscal year, report to the governor and legislature concerning the
fair elections board’s activities for the previous year and make such reports available to the
public on the fair elections board’s website. Such reports shall include the fair elections board’s
findings pursuant to subdivision 12 of this section and recommendations for legislation or
administrative measures concerning campaign finance in the state including, but not limited to,
legislation to adjust the contribution limits set forth in title one of article fourteen of this
chapter and legislation to improve the optional public financing system under title two of article
fourteen of this chapter;
14. (a) Develop an electronic reporting system to process the statements of campaign
receipts, contributions, transfers and expenditures required to be filed pursuant to the
provisions of article fourteen;
(b) Prescribe the information required and the form for each statement to be filed;
(c) Establish an educational and training program on all reporting requirements
including but not limited to the electronic reporting process and make it easily and
readily available to candidates and committees;
(d) Make the electronic reporting process available to any such candidate or committee
which is required to file or which agrees to file such statements by such electronic
reporting process;
(e) Cause all information contained in such a statement filed with the board which is not
on such electronic reporting system to be entered into such system as soon as
practicable but in no event later than ten business days after its receipt by the fair
elections board; and
(f) Make all data from the electronic reporting process available at all times on the
internet.
Page 8 of 42
§ 6. Subdivisions 1(b), 2(a), and 5 of section 3-104 of the election law are amended, and
subdivision 1(c) is added to read as follows:
1(b) The state board of elections shall have jurisdiction of, and be responsible for, the
execution and enforcement of [the provisions of article fourteen of this chapter and other]
statutes governing campaigns, elections and related procedures, other than article fourteen of
this chapter; provided however that the chief enforcement counsel shall have sole authority
within the state board of elections to investigate on his or her own initiative or upon complaint
alleged violations of such statutes and all complaints alleging violations shall be forwarded to
the division of election law enforcement.
(c) Notwithstanding the jurisdiction granted to the state board of elections in
subdivision 1(b) of this section, the fair elections board shall have sole jurisdiction of,
and be responsible for, the execution and enforcement of article fourteen of this
chapter, provided, however, that the fair elections board enforcement counsel shall
have the sole authority within the fair elections board to investigate on his or her own
initiative or upon complaint alleged violations of article fourteen. All complaints alleging
such violations shall be forwarded to the fair elections board enforcement unit.
2. (a) Whenever a local board of elections shall determine on its own initiative or upon
complaint, or otherwise, that there is a substantial reason to believe a violation of this chapter
or any code or regulation promulgated thereunder, other than a violation of article fourteen of
this chapter or any regulation promulgated thereunder, has been committed by a candidate or
political committee or any other person or entity that files statements required by article
fourteen of this chapter solely with such local board, it shall expeditiously make an investigation
which shall also include investigation of reports and statements made or failed to be made by
the complainant and any political committee supporting his candidacy if the complainant is a
candidate or, if the complaint was made by an officer or member of a political committee, of
reports and statements made or failed to be made by such political committee and any
candidates supported by it. The local board shall report the results of its investigation to the
division of election law enforcement chief enforcement counsel within ninety days of the start
of such investigation. The chief enforcement counsel may direct the local board of elections at
any time to suspend its investigation so that the division of election law enforcement can
investigate the matter.
Drafting note: subdivisions 2(b) through 4 are omitted here for length.
5. (a) If[, an individual has failed to cure pursuant to section 3-104-a of this title, or] the
chief enforcement counsel determines that substantial reason exists to believe that a person,
acting as or on behalf of a candidate or political committee [under circumstances evincing an
intent to violate such law that does not otherwise warrant criminal prosecution, or] has
unlawfully violated any provision of this chapter, except for the provisions of article fourteen,
that does not otherwise warrant criminal prosecution, the state board of elections shall assign a

Page 9 of 42
hearing officer, randomly from a list of prospective hearing officers each of whom shall have
been approved by a majority vote of the board. The chief enforcement counsel shall provide a
written report to such hearing officer as to: (1) whether substantial reason exists to believe a
violation of this chapter has occurred and, if so, the nature of the violation and any applicable
penalty, based on the nature of the violation; (2) whether the matter should be resolved extra-
judicially; and (3) whether a special proceeding should be commenced in the supreme court to
recover a civil penalty. The hearing officer shall make findings of fact and conclusions of law
based on a preponderance of the evidence as to whether a violation has been established and,
if so, who is guilty of such violation on notice to and with an opportunity for the individual or
entity accused of any violations to be heard. However, if the hearing officer finds that on
balance, the equities favor a dismissal of the complaint, the hearing officer shall dismiss the
charges. In determining whether the equities favor a dismissal, the hearing officer shall
consider the following factors: (1) whether the complaint alleges a de minimis violation [of
article fourteen] of this chapter; (2) whether the subject of the complaint has made a good faith
effort to correct the violation; and (3) whether the subject of the complaint has a history of
similar violations. For purposes of making any such findings under this subdivision, proceedings
before the hearing officer shall be governed by article three of the state administrative
procedure act. The chief enforcement counsel shall adopt the report of the hearing officer and
may, in his or her discretion, commence a special proceeding in the supreme court pursuant to
sections 16-100, 16-114 and 16-116 of this chapter should the findings of fact and conclusions
of law support the commencement of such proceeding or enter into an agreement to settle
such matter with the subject of the complaint. In the event the chief enforcement counsel
commences a special proceeding, the court shall afford the subject of the [compliant]
complaint an opportunity to be heard and shall be empowered to accept, reject or modify the
findings of fact and conclusions of law made by the hearing officer. If the board fails to produce
a list of eligible hearing officers, the chief enforcement counsel may commence a special
proceeding as provided herein in accordance with recommendations made in his or her report.
Drafting note: Subdivisions 5(b) through 8 are omitted here for length.

§ 7. Section 3-104-a of the election law is amended as follows:


1. There shall be a compliance unit within the fair elections board[board of elections].
The compliance unit shall examine campaign finance statements required to be filed pursuant
to article fourteen of this chapter. If such statements are found to be deficient, the compliance
unit shall notify the person required to file such statement of such deficiency. Such notice shall
be in writing and mailed to the last known residence or business address of such person by
certified mail, return receipt requested. If the person required to file such statement is a
treasurer who has stated that the committee has been authorized by one or more candidates, a
copy of such notice shall be sent to each candidate by first class mail.
2. Upon a failure to remedy the deficiencies identified by the compliance unit within
thirty days of the receipt of such notice the [chief] fair elections board enforcement counsel

Page 10 of 42
may proceed pursuant to [subdivision five of] section 3-104-b of this title. If such notice is
received within thirty days of an election, upon a failure to remedy the deficiencies identified
within seven days of the receipt of such notice the [chief] fair elections board enforcement
counsel may proceed pursuant to [subdivision five of ]section 3-104-b of this title.
§ 8. A new section 3-104-b is added to the election law as follows:
§ 3-104-b. Fair elections board; enforcement powers
1. On his or her own initiative, or upon receipt of a complaint and supporting
information alleging a violation of article fourteen of this chapter, the fair elections board
enforcement counsel shall determine if an investigation should be undertaken. In the case of a
complaint, the fair elections board enforcement counsel shall, if necessary, request additional
information from the complainant to assist such counsel in making this determination. Such
analysis shall be confidential and include the following: first, whether the allegations, if true,
would constitute a violation of article fourteen of this chapter and, second, whether the
allegations are supported by credible evidence.
2. If the fair elections board enforcement counsel determines that the allegations, if
true, would not constitute a violation of article fourteen of this chapter or that the allegations
are not supported by credible evidence, he or she shall issue a letter to the complainant
dismissing the complaint and provide notice of the same to the fair elections board.
3. If the fair elections board enforcement counsel determines that the allegations, if
true, would constitute a violation of article fourteen of this chapter and that the allegations
appear to be supported by credible evidence, or if such counsel determines on his or her own
initiative that a violation likely has occurred, he or she shall notify the fair elections board of
(a) his or her intent to resolve the matter extra-judicially due to the de minimis nature of the
violation; or (b) his or her intent to commence an investigation, no later than the fair elections
board’s next regularly scheduled meeting. Notification shall summarize the relevant facts and
the applicable law and shall, to the extent possible, protect from public disclosure the identity
of the complainant and the individual subject to the complaint. In determining whether a
violation is de minimis in nature the fair elections board enforcement counsel shall consider the
following factors: (a) whether any unforeseen extraordinary circumstances, such as a natural
disaster, contributed to the violation alleged in the complaint; (b) whether the participating
candidate or such candidate’s campaign treasurer exercised due diligence to abide by the
applicable rules; (c) whether the participating candidate or such candidate’s campaign treasurer
agrees to pay any penalties assessed by the board; and (d) whether the violation was
unknowing or had a negligible impact on the election.
4. If, upon considering the fair elections board enforcement counsel’s notice of intent to
commence an investigation, the fair elections board determines that the allegations, if true,
would not constitute a violation of article fourteen of this chapter, or the allegations are not
supported by credible evidence, or, that on balance, the equities favor a dismissal of the
Page 11 of 42
complaint, the board shall no later than thirty days after the receipt of notification from the fair
elections board enforcement counsel of his or her intent to commence an investigation publicly
direct that an investigation not be undertaken and state the basis of such determination. In
determining whether the equities favor a dismissal of the complaint, the fair elections board
shall consider the following factors: (a) whether the complaint alleges a de minimis violation of
article fourteen of this chapter; (b) whether the subject of the complaint has made a good faith
effort to correct the violation; and (c) whether the subject of the complaint has a history of
similar violations. Determinations of the fair elections board to dismiss a complaint and not
proceed with a formal investigation shall be voted upon as provided in subdivision thirteen of
section 3-101 of this article at an open meeting pursuant to article seven of the public officers
law, and shall be made on a fair and equitable basis without regard to the status of the subject
of the complaint.
5. Absent a determination by the fair elections board within the thirty-day period set
forth in subdivision four of this section that an investigation shall not be undertaken, the fair
elections board enforcement counsel shall immediately commence an investigation. If the fair
elections board enforcement counsel determines that additional investigative powers, as
provided for in subdivisions six through eight of section 3-102-a of this article, are needed to
complete such counsel’s investigation, he or she shall request such additional powers from the
fair elections board. Such powers shall be granted by the fair elections board in public, as
provided in subdivision thirteen of section 3-101 of this article, only when the board finds that
further investigation is warranted and justified. Should the fair elections board fail to vote on
such request within twenty days of its submission, the fair elections board enforcement counsel
shall be so empowered to act pursuant to subdivisions six through eight of section 3-102-a of
this article.
6. At the conclusion of its investigation, the fair elections board enforcement counsel
shall provide the fair elections board with a written recommendation as to: (a) whether
substantial reason exists to believe a violation of article fourteen of this chapter has occurred
and, if so, the nature of the violation and any applicable penalty, as defined in sections 14-126,
14-222 or 14-224 of this chapter, based on the nature of the violation; (b) whether the matter
should be resolved extra-judicially; (c) whether a special proceeding should be commenced in
the supreme court to recover a civil penalty; and (d) whether a referral should be made to a
district attorney or the attorney general pursuant to subdivision eight-b of this section because
reasonable cause exists to believe a violation warranting criminal prosecution has taken place.
7. The fair elections board shall accept, modify, or reject the fair elections board
enforcement counsel’s recommendation no later than thirty days after receipt of such
recommendation. In making its determination, the board shall again consider: (a) whether the
complaint alleges a de minimis violation of article fourteen of this chapter; (b) whether the
subject of the complaint has made a good faith effort to correct the violation; and (c) whether
the subject of the complaint has a history of similar violations. All such determinations shall be

Page 12 of 42
voted upon as provided in subdivision thirteen of section 3-101 of this article at an open
meeting pursuant to article seven of the public officers law, and shall be made on a fair and
equitable basis, without regard to the status of the subject of the complaint.
8. (a) If the fair elections board determines, as provided in subdivision seven of this
section, that substantial reason exists to believe that a person, acting as or on behalf of a
candidate or political committee has knowingly or willfully violated a provision of article
fourteen of this chapter warranting civil penalties, the fair elections board shall provide the
candidate or committee with written notice of the alleged violation and the opportunity to
contest it. The fair elections board is authorized to assess civil penalties, if appropriate,
following such notice and opportunity to contest or to direct the fair elections board
enforcement counsel to institute a special proceeding or civil action in supreme court to obtain
judgment for civil penalties determined by the fair elections board to be payable following
notice and an opportunity to contest.
(b) If the fair elections board determines, as provided in subdivision seven of this
section, that reasonable cause exists to believe a violation of article fourteen of this chapter
warranting criminal prosecution has taken place, the board shall refer the matter to the
attorney general and a district attorney and shall make available to the same all papers,
documents, testimony, and findings relevant to its investigation. Where reasonable cause
exists to believe that a candidate for the office of attorney general has violated article fourteen
of this chapter, the board shall refer the matter only to the district attorney of the appropriate
county.
9. Any advice provided by the staff or members of the fair elections board to a
participating or nonparticipating candidate in connection with any action arising under article
fourteen of this chapter, when relied upon in good faith, shall be presumptive evidence that
such candidate or his or her committee did not knowingly and willfully violate the provisions of
such article.

10. Upon notification that a special proceeding has been commenced by a party other
than the fair elections board, pursuant to section 16-114 of this chapter, the fair elections
board shall direct the fair elections board enforcement counsel to investigate the alleged
violations unless otherwise directed by the court.
11. Whenever a local board of elections shall determine on its own initiative or upon
complaint, or otherwise, that there is a substantial reason to believe a violation of article
fourteen of this chapter or any code or regulation promulgated thereunder has been
committed by a candidate or political committee or any other person or entity that files
statements required by article fourteen of this chapter solely with such local board, it shall
expeditiously make an investigation which shall also include investigation of reports and
statements made or failed to be made by the complainant and any political committee
supporting his candidacy if the complainant is a candidate or, if the complaint was made by an

Page 13 of 42
officer or member of a political committee, of reports and statements made or failed to be
made by such political committee and any candidates supported by it. The local board shall
report the results of its investigation to the fair elections board enforcement counsel within
ninety days of the start of such investigation. The fair elections board enforcement counsel
may direct the local board of elections at any time to suspend its investigation so that the fair
elections enforcement unit can investigate the matter.
12. The fair elections board enforcement counsel shall prepare a report, to be included
in the fair elections board’s annual report to the governor and legislature, summarizing the
activities of the unit during the previous year. Such report shall include: (a) the number of
complaints received; (b) the number of complaints that were found to need investigation and
the nature of each complaint; and (c) the number of matters that have been resolved. The
report shall not contain any information for which disclosure is not permitted.
13. The fair elections board enforcement counsel may request, and shall receive, the
assistance of the state police in any investigation he or she shall conduct.
14. The fair elections board may promulgate rules and regulations consistent with law
to effectuate the provisions of this section.
§ 9. The election law is amended by adding a new section 3-112 to read as follows:
§ 3-112. Funding for fair elections board enforcement unit.
The state of New York shall appropriate during each fiscal year to the New York state
fair elections board enforcement unit not less than thirty-five percent of the appropriation
available from the general fund for the fair elections board to pay for the expenses of such
enforcement unit. Notwithstanding section fifty-one of the state finance law, such funding
shall not be decreased by interchange with any other appropriation.
§ 10. The article heading of article fourteen of the election law is amended to read as follows:
CAMPAIGN RECEIPTS AND EXPENDITURES; PUBLIC FINANCING
§ 11. Section 14-100 of the election law is amended by adding a new paragraph 4 to
subdivision 9, and two new subdivisions 18 and 19, to read as follows:
(4) The term “contribution” does not include expenditures by a bona fide membership
organization, including but not limited to a labor organization as defined in subdivision fourteen
of this section, to provide transportation to members of the organization while volunteering on
behalf of a candidate. Such expenditures shall not exceed twenty-five dollars per member per
candidate.
18. "intermediary" means an individual, corporation, partnership, political committee,
labor organization, or other entity which bundles, causes to be delivered or otherwise delivers
any contribution from another person or entity to a candidate or authorized committee, other

Page 14 of 42
than in the regular course of business as a postal, delivery or messenger service. Provided,
however, that an “intermediary” shall not include spouses, domestic partners, parents, children
or siblings of the person making such contribution or a staff member or volunteer of the
campaign identified in writing to the fair elections board. As used in this subdivision “causes to
be delivered” shall include providing postage, envelopes, or other shipping materials for the use
of delivering the contribution to the ultimate recipient.
19. "authorized committee" means the single political committee designated by a
candidate to receive all contributions authorized by this title.
§ 12. Subdivision 1 of section 14-102 of the election law is amended to read as follows:
1. The treasurer of every political committee which, or any officer, member or agent of
any such committee who, in connection with any election, receives or expends any money or
other valuable thing or incurs any liability to pay money or its equivalent shall file statements
sworn, or subscribed and bearing a form notice that false statements made therein are
punishable as a class A misdemeanor pursuant to section 210.45 of the penal law, at the times
prescribed by this [article] title setting forth all the receipts, contributions to and the
expenditures by and liabilities of the committee, and of its officers, members and agents in its
behalf. Such statements shall include the dollar amount of any receipt, contribution or transfer,
or the fair market value of any receipt, contribution or transfer, which is other than of money,
the name and address of the transferor, contributor, intermediary, or person from whom
received, and if the transferor, contributor, intermediary, or person is a political committee; the
name of and the political unit represented by the committee, the date of its receipt, the dollar
amount of every expenditure, the name and address of the person to whom it was made or the
name of and the political unit represented by the committee to which it was made and the date
thereof, and shall state clearly the purpose of such expenditure. An intermediary need not be
reported for a contribution that was collected from a contributor in connection with a party or
other candidate-related event held at the residence of the person delivering the contribution,
unless the expenses of such event at such residence for such candidate exceed five hundred
dollars or the aggregate contributions received from that contributor at such event exceed five
hundred dollars. Any statement reporting a loan shall have attached to it a copy of the evidence
of indebtedness. Expenditures in sums under fifty dollars need not be specifically accounted for
by separate items in said statements, and receipts and contributions aggregating not more than
ninety-nine dollars, from any one contributor need not be specifically accounted for by
separate items in said statements, provided however, that such expenditures, receipts and
contributions shall be subject to the other provisions of section 14-118 of this [article] title.
§ 13. Section 14-110 of the election law, as amended by chapter 46 of the laws of 1984, is
amended to read as follows:
§ 14-110. Place for filing statements. The places for filing the statements required by this
article shall be determined by rule or regulation of the [state board of elections] fair elections

Page 15 of 42
board; provided, however, that the statements of a candidate for election to the office of
governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, member of the legislature,
delegate to a constitutional convention, justice of the supreme court or for nomination for any
such office at a primary election and of any committee aiding or taking part in the designation,
nomination, election or defeat of candidates for one or more of such offices or promoting the
success or defeat of a question to be voted on by the voters of the entire state shall be filed
with the [state board of elections] fair elections board and in such other places as the [state
board of elections] fair elections board may, by rule or regulation provide.
§ 14. Subdivisions 1 and 10 of section 14-114 of the election law are amended, and new
subdivision 11 is added, to read as follows:
1. The following limitations apply to all contributions to candidates for election to any
public office for nomination for any such office, or for election to any party positions, and to all
contributions to political committees working directly or indirectly with any candidate to aid or
participate in such candidate’s nomination or election, other than any contribution to any party
committee or constituted committee:
a. In any election for a public office to be voted on by the voters of the entire state, or
for nomination to any such office, no contributor may make a contribution to any candidate [or
political committee] participating in the state’s public campaign financing system pursuant to
title two of this article, and no such candidate [or political committee] may accept any
contribution from any contributor, which is in the aggregate amount greater than: (i) in the
case of any nomination to public office, the product of the total number of enrolled voters in
the candidate’s party in the state, excluding voters in inactive status, multiplied by $.005, but
such amount shall not be [less than four thousand dollars nor] more than [twelve] six thousand
dollars as increased or decreased by the cost of living adjustment described in paragraph [c] e
of this subdivision, and (ii) in the case of any election to [a] such public office, [twenty-five] six
thousand dollars as increased or decreased by the cost of living adjustment described in
paragraph [c] e of this subdivision[; provided however, that the maximum amount which may
be so contributed or accepted, in the aggregate, from any candidate’s child, parent,
grandparent, brother and sister, and the spouse of any such persons, shall not exceed in the
case of any nomination to public office an amount equivalent to the product of the number of
enrolled voters in the candidate’s party in the state, excluding voters in inactive status,
multiplied by $.025, and in the case of any election for a public office, an amount equivalent to
the product of the number of registered voters in the state excluding voters in inactive status,
multiplied by $.025].
b. In any other election for party position or for election to a public office or nomination
for any such office, no contributor may make a contribution to any candidate [or political
committee] participating in the state’s public campaign financing system pursuant to title two
of this article (for those offices or positions covered by that system) and no such candidate [or
political committee] may accept any contribution from any contributor, which is in the
Page 16 of 42
aggregate amount greater than: (i) in the case of any election for party position, or for
nomination to public office, the product of the total number of enrolled voters in the
candidate's party in the district in which he is a candidate, excluding voters in inactive status,
multiplied by $.05, and (ii) in the case of any election for a public office, the product of the total
number of registered voters in the district, excluding voters in inactive status, multiplied by
$.05, however [in the case of a nomination within the city of New York for the office of mayor,
public advocate or comptroller, such amount shall be not less than four thousand dollars nor
more than twelve thousand dollars as increased or decreased by the cost of living adjustment
described in paragraph c of this subdivision; in the case of an election within the city of New
York for the office of mayor, public advocate or comptroller, twenty-five thousand dollars as
increased or decreased by the cost of living adjustment described in paragraph c of this
subdivision;] in the case of a nomination or election for state senator, such amount shall not be
greater than four thousand dollars as increased or decreased by the cost of living adjustment
described in paragraph [c] e of this subdivision; [in the case of an election for state senator, six
thousand two hundred fifty dollars as increased or decreased by the cost of living adjustment
described in paragraph c of this subdivision]; in the case of an election or nomination for a
member of the assembly, [twenty-five hundred] two thousand dollars as increased or
decreased by the cost of living adjustment described in paragraph [c] e of this subdivision[; but
in no event shall any such maximum exceed fifty thousand dollars or be less than one thousand
dollars; provided however, that the maximum amount which may be so contributed or
accepted, in the aggregate, from any candidate's child, parent, grandparent, brother and sister,
and the spouse of any such persons, shall not exceed in the case of any election for party
position or nomination for public office an amount equivalent to the number of enrolled voters
in the candidate's party in the district in which he is a candidate, excluding voters in inactive
status, multiplied by $.25 and in the case of any election to public office, an amount equivalent
to the number of registered voters in the district, excluding voters in inactive status, multiplied
by $.25; or twelve hundred fifty dollars, whichever is greater, or in the case of a nomination or
election of a state senator, twenty thousand dollars, whichever is greater, or in the case of a
nomination or election of a member of the assembly, twelve thousand five hundred dollars,
whichever is greater, but in no event shall any such maximum exceed one hundred thousand
dollars].
c. In any election for a public office to be voted on by the voters of the entire state, or
for nomination to any such office, no contributor may make a contribution to any candidate or
political committee in connection with a candidate who is not a participating candidate as
defined in subdivision eleven of section 14-202 of this article, and no such candidate or political
committee may accept any contribution from any contributor, which is in the aggregate
amount greater than:
(i) in the case of any nomination to public office, the product of the total number of
enrolled voters in the candidate's party in the state, excluding voters in inactive

Page 17 of 42
status, multiplied by $.005, but such amount shall be not more than eight thousand
dollars; and
(ii) in the case of any election to a public office, eight thousand dollars.
d. In any other election for party position or for election to a public office or for
nomination for any such office, no contributor may make a contribution to any candidate or
political committee in connection with a candidate who is not a participating candidate as
defined in subdivision eleven of section 14-202 of this article and no such candidate or political
committee may accept any contribution from any contributor, which is in the aggregate
amount greater than: (i) in the case of any election for party position, or for nomination to
public office, the product of the total number of enrolled voters in the candidate's party in the
district in which he is a candidate, excluding voters in inactive status, multiplied by $.05, and (ii)
in the case of any election for a public office, the product of the total number of registered
voters in the district, excluding voters in inactive status, multiplied by $.05, however in the case
of a nomination within the city of New York for the office of mayor, public advocate or
comptroller, such amount shall be not less than four thousand dollars nor more than twelve
thousand dollars as increased or decreased by the cost of living adjustment described in
paragraph e of this subdivision; in the case of an election within the city of New York for the
office of mayor, public advocate or comptroller, twenty-five thousand dollars as increased or
decreased by the cost of living adjustment described in paragraph e of this subdivision; in the
case of a nomination or election for state senator, six thousand dollars; in the case of an
nomination or election for a member of the assembly, three thousand five hundred dollars.
e. [c.]At the beginning of each fourth calendar year, commencing in [nineteen hundred
ninety-five] two thousand twenty-two, the [state board] fair elections board shall determine
the percentage of the difference between the most recent available monthly consumer price
index for all urban consumers published by the United States bureau of labor statistics and such
consumer price index published for the same month four years previously. The amount of each
contribution limit fixed in this subdivision shall be adjusted by the amount of such percentage
difference to the closest one hundred dollars by the [state] fair elections board which, not later
than the first day of February in each such year, shall issue a regulation publishing the amount
of each such contribution limit. Each contribution limit as so adjusted shall be the contribution
limit in effect for any election held before the next such adjustment.
f. (i) Each party or constituted committee may:
(A) make transfers to or expenditures in coordination with a candidate in an
aggregate amount of no more than five thousand dollars per election per
candidate; and
(B) transfer no more than five thousand dollars per election per party or
constituted committee.

Page 18 of 42
(ii) Notwithstanding subparagraph (f)(i) of this paragraph, each party or constituted
committee may:
(A) in any election make transfers to or expenditures in coordination with a
candidate in any amount from an account consisting of no more than five
hundred dollars received in the aggregate per election cycle from each
contributor; and
(B) in any election spend without limitation for non-candidate expenditures not
designed or intended to elect a particular candidate or candidates.
(iii) For the purposes of this paragraph, “coordination” shall be defined as provided in
section 14-107(1)(d) of this article.
g. Notwithstanding any other contribution limit in this section, participating candidates
as defined in subdivision eleven of section 14-202 of this article may contribute, out of their
own money, three times the applicable contribution limit to their own participating committee.
Subdivisions 2 through 9 omitted here for length.

10. [a.] No contributor may make a contribution to a party or constituted committee


and no such committee may accept a contribution from any contributor which, in the
aggregate, is greater than [sixty-two thousand five hundred] twenty-five thousand dollars per
annum.

b. At the beginning of each fourth calendar year, commencing in [nineteen hundred


ninety-five] two thousand twenty-two, the [state] fair elections board shall determine the
percentage of the difference between the most recent available monthly consumer price index
for all urban consumers published by the United States bureau of labor statistics and such
consumer price index published for the same month four years previously. The amount of such
contribution limit fixed in paragraph a of this subdivision shall be adjusted by the amount of
such percentage difference to the closest one hundred dollars by the [state] fair elections board
which, not later than the first day of February in each such year, shall issue a regulation
publishing the amount of such contribution limit. Such contribution limit as so adjusted shall be
the contribution limit in effect for any election held before the next such adjustment.

11. Multiple contributions from a single source. (a) If a candidate accepts more than
one contribution from a single source, the contributions shall be totaled to determine the
candidate’s compliance with the applicable contribution limit. A “single source” includes any
person, persons in combination, or entity who or which establishes, maintains, or controls
another entity and every entity so established, maintained, or controlled, including every
political committee, corporation, limited liability corporation, or other corporate entity
established, maintained, or controlled by the same person, persons in combination, or entity.

(b) Factors for determining whether a person, persons in combination, or entity


establishes, maintains, or controls another entity include, but are not limited to:

Page 19 of 42
(i) whether the person or entity makes decisions or establishes policy for the other
entity, including determinations of the recipients of its contributions and the purposes
of its expenditures;

(ii) whether the person or entity has the authority to hire, appoint, discipline, discharge,
demote, remove, or otherwise influence other persons who make decisions or establish
policies for the other entity;

(iii) whether contributions made by the person or entity and the other entity reflect a
similar pattern; and

(iv) whether the person or entity knows of and has acquiesced in public representations
by the other entity that it is acting on its behalf or under its direction.

(c) Notwithstanding paragraph (b), different labor organizations shall not be considered
to be a single source for the purpose of compliance with the applicable contribution limit if the
candidate demonstrates that the contributors satisfy the four criteria below:

(i) the labor organizations do not share a majority of members of their governing
boards;

(ii) the labor organizations do not share a majority of the officers of their governing
boards;

(iii) the labor organizations maintain separate accounts with different signatories; and

(iv) the labor organizations make contributions from separate accounts.

§ 15. Section 14-116 of the election law is amended to read as follows:


§ 14-116. Political contributions by certain organizations.
1. No corporation, limited liability company, joint-stock association or other corporate
entity doing business in this state, except a corporation or association organized or maintained
for political purposes only, shall directly or indirectly pay or use or offer, consent or agree to
pay or use any money or property for or in aid of any political party, committee or organization,
or for, or in aid of, any corporation, limited liability company, joint-stock, other association, or
other corporate entity organized or maintained for political purposes, or for, or in aid of, any
candidate for political office or for nomination for such office, or for any political purpose
whatever, or for the reimbursement or indemnification of any person for moneys or property
so used. Any officer, director, stock-holder, member, owner, attorney or agent of any
corporation, limited liability company, joint-stock association or other corporate entity which
violates any of the provisions of this section, who participates in, aids, abets or advises or
consents to any such violations, and any person who solicits or knowingly receives any money
or property in violation of this section, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Page 20 of 42
2. Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision one of this section, any corporation or
an organization financially supported in whole or in part, by such corporation, any limited
liability company or other corporate entity may make expenditures[, including contributions,
not otherwise prohibited by law, for political purposes, in an amount not to exceed five
thousand dollars in the aggregate in any calendar year] not otherwise prohibited by law for
political purposes in the form of contributions to independent expenditure committees, and in
the form of independent expenditures made as an independent expenditure committee;
provided that no public utility shall use revenues received from the rendition of public service
within the state for contributions for political purposes unless such cost is charged to the
shareholders of such a public service corporation.
3. Each limited liability company that makes an expenditure[, or contribution,] for
political purposes shall file with the [state board of elections] fair elections board, by December
thirty-first of the year in which the expenditure is made, on the form prescribed by the fair
elections board[state board of elections], the identity of all direct and indirect owners of the
membership interests in the limited liability company and the proportion of each direct or
indirect member’s ownership interest in the limited liability company.
§ 16. Subdivision 3 of section 14-120 of the election law is amended to read as follows:
Drafting note: If contributions from LLCs directly to candidates are prohibited, as in the
proposed amendments to section 14-116 above, subdivision 3 below becomes
superfluous and should be removed from section 14-120. If LLC contributions are not
prohibited, this section should be modified as below to empower the fair elections
board to promulgate the relevant rules and regulations referred to herein.
3. (a) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, all contributions made to a campaign or
political committee by a limited liability company shall be attributed to each member of the
limited liability company in proportion to the member’s ownership interest in the limited
liability company.
(b) If, by application of paragraph (a) of this subdivision, a campaign contribution is
attributed to a limited liability company, the contributions shall be further attributed to each
member of the limited liability company in proportion to the member’s ownership interest in
the limited liability company.
(c) The [state board of elections] fair elections board shall enact regulations that prevent
the avoidance of rules set forth in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subdivision.
§ 17. Subdivisions 2 and 3 of section 14-124 of the election law are amended to read as
follows:
2. The filing requirements and the expenditure, contribution and receipt limits of this
article shall not apply to any candidate or committee who or which engages exclusively in
activities on account of which, pursuant to the laws of the United States, there is required to be
Page 21 of 42
filed a statement or report of the campaign receipts, expenditures and liabilities of such
candidate or committee with an office or officers of the government of the United States,
provided a copy of each statement or report is filed in the office of the [state board of
elections] fair elections board.
Subdivision 2-a is omitted here for length.
3. (a) The contribution and receipt limits of this article shall not apply to monies
received and expenditures made by a party committee or constituted committee to maintain a
permanent headquarters and staff and carry on ordinary activities which are not for the express
purpose of promoting the candidacy of specific candidates, except that contributions made for
such activities to a party committee or constituted committee shall be limited to twenty-five
thousand dollars in the aggregate from each contributor in each year; provided that such
monies described in this paragraph shall be deposited in a segregated account.
(b) The monies described in paragraph (a) of this subdivision shall not be used for:
(i) Transfers of funds to candidates or political committees;
(ii) Communications supporting or opposing a candidate or the dissemination of
campaign materials;
(iii) Campaign expenses, including staff salaries, fees, or reimbursements,
including travel expenses; office supplies; printing costs; postage; and real estate
rental;
(iv) Expenses in connection with events that benefit a candidate’s campaign,
including entry fees or tickets; invitations or promotional material; sponsorship
or advertisements in an event publication; food or entertainment; and facility or
equipment rental; or
(v) Any expenditure deemed to be an in-kind contribution.
§ 18. Section 14-126 of the election law is amended by adding a new subdivision 8 to read as
follows:
8. Any knowing and willful violation of subdivision three of section 14-124 of this
chapter shall be subject to a civil penalty up to one thousand dollars.
§ 19. Sections 14-100 through 14-102 of article fourteen of the election law are designated title
one and a new title heading is added to read as follows:
CAMPAIGN RECEIPTS AND EXPENDITURES

Page 22 of 42
§ 20. Article fourteen of the election law is amended by adding a new title two to read as
follows:
TITLE II
PUBLIC FINANCING
SECTION 14-200. Applicability of title.
14-202. Definitions.
14-204. Reporting requirements.
14-206. Contributions.
14-208. Proof of compliance.
14-210. Eligibility.
14-212. Payment of public matching funds.
14-214. Limits on public financing.
14-216. Use of public matching funds; qualified campaign expenditures.
14-218. Powers and duties of the fair elections board: public financing.
14-220. Audits and repayments.
14-222. Enforcement and penalties for violations of the public financing system.
14-224. Criminal penalties.
14-226. Debates.
14-228. Distributions from the fair elections fund.
14-230. Reports.
14-232. Severability.

§ 14-200. Applicability of title. This title shall apply only to those candidates who elect to
participate in the optional public financing system. Participation in such system is voluntary.
§ 14-202. Definitions. As used in this title, unless another meaning is clearly indicated:
1. The term “board” or “fair elections board” means the board created by section 3-101 of
article three of this chapter.
2. The term “contribution” shall have the same meaning as in subdivision nine of section
14-100 of this article.
3. The term “contributor” shall mean any person or entity that makes a contribution.
4. The term “covered election” shall mean any primary, general, or special election for
nomination for election, or election, to the office of governor, lieutenant governor,
attorney general, state comptroller, state senator, or member of the assembly.
5. The term “election cycle” shall mean the four-year period starting the day after the day
of the last general election for candidates for statewide office and shall mean the two-
year period starting the day after the last general election for candidates for the state
legislature.
Page 23 of 42
6. The term “expenditure” shall mean any gift, subscription, advance, payment, or deposit
of money or anything of value, or a contract to make any gift, subscription, payment, or
deposit of money or anything of value, made in connection with the nomination for
election, or election, of any candidate. Expenditures made by contract are deemed
made when such funds are obligated.
7. The term “fund” shall mean the New York State fair elections fund created by section
ninety-two-t of the state finance law.
8. The term “item with significant intrinsic and enduring value” shall mean any item,
including tickets to an event, that are valued at twenty-five dollars or more.
9. The term “matchable contribution” shall mean a contribution, contributions, or a
portion of a contribution or contributions, of at least one dollar, for any covered
elections held in the same election cycle a candidate seeks public financing, made by a
natural person who is a resident in the state of New York to a participating candidate,
that has been reported in full by the candidate’s participating committee to the fair
elections board in accordance with sections 14-102 and 14-104 of this article, and has
been contributed on or before the day of the applicable primary, general, or special
election. Any contribution, contributions, or a portion of a contribution determined to
be invalid for matching funds by the board may not be treated as a matchable
contribution for any purpose. The following contributions are not matchable:
a. Loans;
b. In-kind contributions of property, goods, or services;
c. Contributions in the form of the purchase price paid for an item with significant
intrinsic and enduring value;
d. Contributions in the form of the purchase price paid or otherwise induced by a
chance to participate in a raffle, lottery, or similar drawing for valuable prizes;
e. Money order contributions from any one contributor that are, in the aggregate,
greater than one hundred dollars;
f. Contributions from individuals under the age of eighteen years;
g. Contributions from individual vendors to whom the participating candidate or his
or her participating committee makes an expenditure in furtherance of the
nomination for election or election covered by the candidate’s certification,
unless such expenditure is reimbursing an advance;
h. Contributions gathered during a previous election cycle;
i. Transfers from a party or constituted committee;
j. Anonymous contributions or contributions whose source is not itemized, as
required by section 14-204(2)(c) of this article;
k. Illegal contributions;
l. Contributions from lobbyists registered pursuant to subdivision (a) of section
one-c of the legislative law.
Page 24 of 42
10. The term “nonparticipating candidate” shall mean a candidate for any office eligible for
optional public financing under this title for a covered election who is not a participating
candidate as defined in subdivision eleven of this section.
11. The term “participating candidate” shall mean a candidate who is eligible to participate
in the optional public financing system established by this title, has met the threshold
for eligibility and has elected to participate in the public financing system.
12. The term “participating committee” shall mean a single authorized political committee
that a candidate certifies is the committee that will solely be used to participate in the
public financing system established by this title during the election cycle in which the
primary, general, or special election is held for the public office sought. A multi-
candidate committee may not be a participating committee.
13. The term “qualified campaign expenditure” shall mean an expenditure for which public
funds may be used.
14. The term “threshold for eligibility” shall mean the amount of matchable contributions
that a candidate’s authorized committee must receive in total in order for such
candidate to qualify for optional public financing under this title.
15. The term “transfer” shall have the same meaning as in subdivision ten of section 14-100
of this article.
§ 14-204. Reporting requirements. (1) Every participating candidate shall designate one and
only one authorized committee to serve as its participating committee. On or before the
deadline for applying to participate in the public financing system as provided in paragraph (c)
of subdivision one of section 14-210 of this article, each participating candidate shall notify the
fair elections board as to the existence of his or her participating committee. Each such
committee shall, before opening a committee bank account, receiving any contribution or
making any expenditure for a covered election:
(a) Designate a treasurer; and
(b) Obtain a tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service.
(2) Disclosure. (a) Every participating candidate shall file financial disclosure reports
with the fair elections board as required by title one of this article, and shall also submit
additional disclosure reports on March fifteenth and May fifteenth of the election year,
reporting to the board every contribution and loan received and every expenditure made.
Provided, however, that candidates seeking an early disbursement of public funds prior to the
last day to file designating petitions for a primary election shall file additional financial
disclosure reports on a schedule to be determined by the fair elections board.
(b) Except as provided in subdivision three of section 14-212 of this title, the fair
elections board shall analyze each disclosure report filed with such board and issue to the

Page 25 of 42
candidate a review within thirty days of the date upon which such disclosure report was due.
Such review shall inform participating candidates and their participating committees of relevant
questions the fair elections board has concerning: (i) compliance with requirements of this title
and of the rules issued by the fair elections board; and (ii) qualification for receiving public
matching funds pursuant to this title. In the course of such review, the fair elections board shall
give candidates and their participating committees an opportunity to respond to and correct
potential violations and give candidates and their participating committees an opportunity to
address questions the fair elections board has concerning their matchable contribution claims
or other issues concerning eligibility for receiving public matching funds pursuant to this title.
Any response from the participating candidate or committee to a review from the fair elections
board shall be due no earlier than the date the next disclosure report is due. The fair elections
board shall have authority to exclude from its review de minimis violations of this title. Nothing
in this paragraph shall preclude the board from subsequently reviewing such a disclosure report
and taking any action otherwise authorized by this title.
(c) Only itemized contributions contained in reports filed with the fair elections board
shall be eligible for matching funds pursuant to this title.
(d) Participating candidates may file reports of contributions as frequently as once a
week on Monday so that their matching funds may be paid at the earliest available date.
§ 14-206. Contributions. Recipients of public matching funds pursuant to this title shall be
subject to the applicable contribution limits set forth in section 14-114 of this article.
§ 14-208. Proof of compliance. Participating committees shall maintain such records of receipts
and expenditures for a covered election as required by the fair elections board. Participating
committees shall obtain and furnish to the board any information it may request relating to
financial transactions or contributions and furnish such documentation and other proof of
compliance with this title as may be requested. Consistent with subdivision three of section 14-
108 of this article, participating committees shall maintain copies of such records for a period of
five years.
§ 14-210. Eligibility. 1. To be eligible for optional public financing under this title, a candidate
for nomination or election must:
(a) Meet all the requirements of law to have his or her name on the ballot, or, for the
disbursement of optional public financing occurring prior to the last day to file
designating petitions for a primary election, certify that he or she intends to meet all the
requirements of law to have his or her name on the ballot for the primary or general
election;
(b) Be a candidate in a covered election and meet the threshold for eligibility set forth in
subdivision two of this section;
(c) Choose to participate in the public financing provisions of this title, by filing a written
certification in such form as may be prescribed by the fair elections board, which sets
Page 26 of 42
forth his or her acceptance of and agreement to comply with the terms and conditions
for the provision of such funds. The deadline for filing such certification shall be at least
three months before the primary election, pursuant to a schedule promulgated by the
fair elections board.
(d) Agree to obtain and furnish to the fair elections board any evidence it may reasonably
request relating to the candidate’s campaign expenditures or contributions and furnish
such other proof of compliance with this title as may be requested by the board;
(e) Have a single authorized political committee which he or she certifies as the
participating committee for the purposes of this title;
(f) Agree to identify accurately in all campaign materials the person or entity that paid for
such campaign materials;
(g) Maintain records of receipts and expenditures for a covered election as required by the
fair elections board;
(h) Not make expenditures from or use his or her personal funds or property or the
personal funds or property jointly held with his or her spouse, domestic partner, or
unemancipated children in connection with his or her nomination for election or
election except as a contribution to his or her participating committee in an amount
that does not exceed three times the maximum contribution amount applicable,
consistent with paragraph one-g of section 14-114 of this article;
(i) Agree not to expend for campaign purposes any portion of pre-existing funds raised for
any public office or party position prior to the first day of the election cycle for which
the candidate seeks certification. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to limit,
in any way, any candidate or public official from spending any portion of pre-existing
campaign funds for any lawful purpose other than those related to his or her campaign;
and
(j) Not have accepted contributions in amounts exceeding the contribution limits set forth
for participating candidates in subdivision one of section 14-114 of this article during the
election cycle for which the candidate seeks certification.
(i) Provided, however, that if a candidate accepted contributions exceeding such
limits before certification, such acceptance shall not prevent the candidate from
being certified by the board if the candidate immediately pays to the fund or
returns to the contributor the portion of any contribution that exceeded the
applicable contribution limit.
(ii) If the candidate is unable to return such funds immediately because they have
already been spent, acceptance of such contributions shall not prevent the
candidate from being certified by the board if the candidate submits an affidavit
agreeing to pay to the fund an amount equal to all portions of any contributions
that exceeded the limit no later than 30 days before the general election. If a
candidate provides the board with such an affidavit, any disbursement of public
funds to the candidate shall go to the fund rather than the candidate until the
total amount owed by the candidate is repaid.
Page 27 of 42
(iii) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to require a candidate who retains
funds raised during a previous election cycle to forfeit such funds. Funds raised
during a previous election cycle may be retained, but only if the candidate places
the funds in a separate account designated for non-campaign purposes.
(iv) Contributions received and expenditures made by the candidate or an
authorized committee of the candidate prior to the effective date of this title
during the election cycle for which the candidate seeks office shall not constitute
a violation of this title. Unexpended contributions in excess of the contribution
limits applicable to participating candidates shall be treated the same as
contributions over the limit under subparagraphs (i) and (ii) of this paragraph.
2. Threshold for eligibility. The threshold for eligibility for public financing for
participating candidates shall be in the case of:
(a) Governor, not less than four hundred thousand dollars in matchable contributions,
including at least two thousand matchable contributions comprised of sums up to two
hundred dollars per contributor, from residents of New York state;
(b) Lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller, not less than one hundred
thousand dollars in matchable contributions including at least five hundred matchable
contributions comprised of sums of up to two hundred dollars per contributor, from
residents of New York state;
(c) State senator, not less than ten thousand dollars in matchable contributions,
including at least one hundred fifty matchable contributions comprised of sums of up to
two hundred dollars per contributor from residents of the district in which the seat is to
be filled;
(d) Member of the assembly, not less than five thousand dollars in matchable
contributions, including at least seventy-five matchable contributions comprised of
sums of up to two hundred dollars per contributor from residents in the district in which
the seat is to be filled.
3. Any participating candidate meeting the threshold for eligibility in a primary election
for one of the foregoing offices shall be deemed to have met the threshold for eligibility for
such office in any other subsequent election held in the same calendar year.
4. The board shall adjust the dollar amount of each threshold for eligibility fixed in this
section by the amount of the percentage difference in the consumer price index calculated and
published by the board pursuant to paragraph e of subdivision 1 of section 14-114 of this article
to the closest one hundred dollars. Not later than the first day of March in each such year, the
board shall issue a regulation publishing the amount of each such threshold for eligibility. Each
threshold for eligibility as so adjusted shall be the threshold for eligibility in effect from the
beginning of the next election cycle until the beginning of the election cycle following the next
adjustment, at which time the next adjustment shall take effect. This process shall be repeated
Page 28 of 42
for each adjustment thereafter. The two hundred dollar maximum amount for the matchable
contributions that funds raised must be comprised by to meet the thresholds for eligibility for
candidates fixed in this section shall be adjusted by the amount of percentage difference to the
closest one dollar by the board which, not later than the first day of March in each such year,
shall issue a regulation publishing such maximum amounts. The two hundred dollar maximum
amounts as so adjusted shall be in effect from the beginning of the next election cycle until the
beginning of the election cycle following the next adjustment, at which time the next
adjustment shall take effect. This process shall be repeated for each adjustment thereafter.

5. In order to be eligible to receive public funds in a primary election a candidate must


agree that, in the event such candidate is a candidate for such office in the general election in
such year, such candidate will be bound by the provisions of this title, including, but not limited
to, the public funds receipt limits of this title.

6. Candidates who are contested in a primary election and who do not seek public funds
shall not be eligible for public funds for the general election in that year. The provisions of this
subdivision shall not apply to candidates for the office of lieutenant governor.

7. Candidates who are unopposed in a general or special election shall not be eligible to
receive public funds in such general or special election.

8. No participating candidate for nomination for an office who is unopposed in a primary


election shall be entitled to payment from the fund for qualified campaign expenditures for
such primary election, except as provided in subdivision 3 of section 14-214 of this title.

9. No candidate for election to an office in a primary, general or special election who has
elected to participate in the public financing system shall be deemed opposed and receive
public funds unless there is at least one other candidate, as defined by subdivision seven of
section 14-100 of this article, for such office in such election. Provided, however, that
candidates may receive an early disbursement of matching funds before the deadline to file a
designating petition but will be required to pay such funds back into the fair elections fund if
they remain unopposed, except as provided in subdivision 3 of section 14-214 of this title.

§ 14-212. Payment of public matching funds. 1. Determination of eligibility. No public


matching funds shall be paid to a participating committee unless the fair elections board
determines that the participating candidate has met the eligibility requirements of this title.
Payment shall not exceed the amounts specified in subdivision two of this section, and shall be
made only in accordance with the provisions of this title. Such payment may be made only to
the participating candidate’s participating committee. No public matching funds shall be used
except as reimbursement or payment for qualified campaign expenditures actually and lawfully
incurred or to repay loans used to pay qualified campaign expenditures.

2. Calculation of payment. (a) If the threshold for eligibility is met, the participating
candidate’s participating committee shall receive payment for qualified campaign expenditures
of six dollars of public matching funds for each one dollar of matchable contributions, for the

Page 29 of 42
first two hundred dollars of eligible private funds per contributor, obtained and reported to the
fair elections board in accordance with the provisions of this title.

(b) Provided, however, that in the case of a participating candidate for the state
legislature, such participating candidate’s participating committee shall receive payment of
eight dollars of public matching funds for each one dollar of matchable contributions, for the
first two hundred dollars of eligible private funds per contributor residing in the participating
candidate’s district, obtained and reported to the fair elections board in accordance with the
provisions of this title.

(c) The maximum payment of public matching funds shall be limited to the amounts set
forth in section 14-214 of this title for the covered election.

(d) The board shall adjust the maximum dollar amount for matchable contributions fixed
in this subdivision by the amount of the percentage difference in the consumer price index
calculated by the board pursuant to paragraph e of subdivision 1 of section 14-114 of this
article to the closest one dollar. Not later than the first day of March in each year the fair
elections board makes the contribution limit adjustment pursuant to paragraph e of subdivision
1 of section 14-114 of this article, the board shall issue a regulation publishing the amount of
each such maximum dollar amount. The maximum dollar amount as so adjusted shall be the
maximum dollar amount in effect from the beginning of the next election cycle until the
beginning of the election cycle following the next adjustment, at which time the next
adjustment shall take effect. This process shall be repeated for each adjustment thereafter.

3. The fair elections board shall promptly examine all reports of contributions to
determine whether, on their face, they meet the requirements for matchable contributions,
and shall keep a record of such contributions.

4. The fair elections board shall promulgate regulations for the certification of the
amount of funds payable by the comptroller, from the fund established pursuant to section
ninety-two-t of the state finance law, to a participating candidate that has qualified to receive
such payment. These regulations shall include the promulgation and distribution of forms on
which contributions and expenditures are to be reported, the periods during which such
reports must be filed, and the verification required. The fair elections board shall institute
procedures which will make possible payment by the fund within four business days after
receipt of the required forms and verifications, which shall include one business day for the
comptroller to authorize payment from the fund, as provided in subdivision three of section
ninety-two-t of the state finance law.

5. Electronic funds transfer. The board shall, in consultation with the office of the
comptroller, promulgate rules to facilitate electronic funds transfers directly from the fair
elections fund into a participating committee's bank account.

6. Irregularly scheduled elections. Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, the
fair elections board shall promulgate rules to provide for the prompt issuance of public

Page 30 of 42
matching funds to eligible participating candidates for qualified campaign expenditures in the
case of any other covered election held on a day different from the day originally scheduled,
including special elections.

7. A participating candidate seeking or obtaining nomination for election by more than


one party shall be deemed one candidate, and shall not receive additional public funds or be
authorized to accept contributions in excess of the maximum contribution limit applicable
pursuant to section 14-114 of this article by reason of such candidate seeking or obtaining
nomination by more than one party.

8. Notwithstanding any provision of this section to the contrary, the amount of public
funds payable to a participating candidate on the ballot in any covered election shall not exceed
one quarter of the maximum public funds payment otherwise applicable under section 14-214
of this article, unless the participating candidate has submitted a certified signed statement
attesting to the need and stating the reason for additional public funds in such election. Such
statement must certify that (a) one or more of the following conditions apply and (b) such
condition or conditions reasonably demonstrate the need for such public funds, and the
participating candidate must provide documentation demonstrating the existence of such
condition or conditions:

(i) The participating candidate is opposed by a candidate who has received (A) the
endorsement of a statewide elected official or a federal official representing all or a
portion of the area covered by the election; (B) two or more endorsements from other
state elected officials who represent all or part of the area covered by the election; or
(C) endorsements of one or more membership organizations with a membership of over
250 members;

(ii) The participating candidate is opposed by a candidate who has had significant media
exposure in the twelve months preceding the election. For purposes of this
subparagraph, “significant media exposure” shall mean the appearance of the opponent
or his or her name on television or radio in the area of the covered election or in print
media in general circulation in the area of the covered election at least twelve times in
the year preceding the covered election; provided, however, that the listing of names of
candidates or potential candidates for a covered election without additional information
concerning the opponent shall not constitute an appearance for purposes of this
paragraph;

(iii) The participating candidate is opposed by a candidate who has received twenty-five
percent or more of the vote in an election for public office in an area encompassing all
or part of the area that is the subject of the current election in the last eight years
preceding the election;

(iv) The participating candidate is opposed by a candidate whose name is substantially


similar to the candidate’s so as to result in confusion among voters, as determined by
the board;

Page 31 of 42
(v) The participating candidate is opposed by a candidate whose spouse, domestic
partner, sibling, parent or child holds or has held elective office in an area encompassing
all or part of the area of the covered election in the past ten years; or

(vi) The participating candidate is opposed in a contest for an office for which no
incumbent is seeking re-election.

9. If any of the conditions described in subdivision 8 of this section occur in such


election, the fair elections board shall pay any and all additional public funds due to the
participating candidate up to the maximum total payment applicable in such election under
section 14-214 of this article.

§ 14-214. Limits on public financing. The following limitations apply to the total amounts of
public funds that may be provided to a participating candidate’s participating committee for an
election cycle:
1. In any primary election, receipt of public funds by participating candidates and their
participating committees shall not exceed:
(a) For governor, the sum of eight million dollars;
(b) For lieutenant governor, comptroller, or attorney general, the sum of four million
dollars;
(c) For senator, the sum of three hundred seventy-five thousand dollars;
(d) For member of the assembly, the sum of one hundred seventy-five thousand dollars.
2. In any general or special election, receipt of public funds by participating candidates
and their participating committees shall not exceed the following amounts:
(a) For governor and lieutenant governor (combined), the sum of ten million dollars;
(b) For attorney general or comptroller, the sum of four million dollars;
(c) For senator, the sum of three hundred seventy-five thousand dollars;
(d) For member of the assembly, the sum of one hundred seventy-five thousand dollars.
(3) No participating candidate for nomination for an office who is not opposed by a
candidate on the ballot in a primary election shall be entitled to payment of public matching
funds for such primary election, except that, where there is a contest in such primary election
for the nomination of at least one of the two political parties with the highest and second
highest number of enrolled members for such office, a participating candidate who is
unopposed in the primary election may receive public funds before the primary election, for
expenses incurred on or before the date of such primary election, in an amount equal to up to
half the sum set forth in paragraph one of this section.

Page 32 of 42
4. Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the amount of private funds a
participating candidate may receive subject to the contribution limits for participating
candidates contained in section 14-114 of this article.

5. The board shall adjust the amount of each public funds receipt limit fixed in this
section by the amount of the percentage difference in the consumer price index calculated and
published by the fair elections board pursuant to paragraph e of subdivision 1 of section 14-114
of this article to the closest one hundred dollars. Not later than the first day of March in each
such year, the fair elections board shall issue a regulation publishing the amount of such limit.
Each public funds receipt limit as so adjusted shall be the public funds receipt limit in effect
from the beginning of the next election cycle until the beginning of the election cycle following
the next adjustment, at which time the next adjustment shall take effect. This process shall be
repeated for each adjustment thereafter.

§ 14-216. Use of public matching funds; qualified campaign expenditures. 1. Public matching
funds provided under the provisions of this title may be used only by a participating committee
for expenditures to further the participating candidate's nomination for election or election,
including paying for debts incurred within one year prior to an election to further the
participating candidate's nomination for election or election. The fair elections board shall
promulgate regulations to assist in the determination of whether an expenditure is in
furtherance of a participating candidate’s nomination for election or election.

2. Such public matching funds may not be used for:

(a) An expenditure in violation of any law;

(b) An expenditure in excess of the fair market value of services, materials, facilities or
other things of value received in exchange;

(c) Any expenditure made after the participating candidate, or the only remaining
opponent of such candidate, has been disqualified or had such candidate’s petitions
declared invalid by a board of elections or a court of competent jurisdiction until and
unless such finding is reversed by a higher authority;

(d) An expenditure made by cash payment;

(e) A contribution or loan or transfer made to or expenditure to support another


candidate, political committee, party committee, or constituted committee;

(f) An expenditure to support or oppose a candidate for an office other than that which
the participating candidate seeks;

(g) Gifts, except brochures, buttons, signs and other printed campaign material;

(h) Legal fees to defend against a criminal charge;

Page 33 of 42
(i) Payments or any thing of value given or made to the candidate, a relative of the
candidate, or to a business entity in which any such person has a ten percent or greater
ownership interest or of which any such person is an officer, director or employee in
excess of the fair market value of such services, materials, facilities, or other things of
value received in exchange;

(j) Any expenditure made to challenge the validity of any petition of designation or
nomination or any certificate of nomination, acceptance, authorization, declination, or
substitution;

(k) Expenditures for non-campaign-related food, drink, or entertainment;

(l) Personal expenditures, as defined in section 14-130 of the election law.

3. Nothing in this section shall prohibit a candidate from using private funds for
permissible non-campaign expenditures consistent with section 14-130 of this article and
pursuant to the regulations of the fair elections board.

§ 14-218. Powers and duties of fair elections board: public financing. 1. Advisory opinions.
Consistent with subdivision four of section 3-102-a of this chapter, the fair elections board shall
render advisory opinions with respect to questions arising under this title upon the written
request of a candidate, an officer of a political committee or member of the public, or upon its
own initiative. The board shall issue such an opinion not later than thirty days after receiving a
request from a candidate, officer of a political committee, or member of the public, except that
if an advisory opinion is requested by a candidate or his or her participating committee during
the thirty-day period before any election, the board shall render a written advisory opinion
relating to such request no later than ten days after the board receives the request. The board
shall make public the questions of interpretation for which advisory opinions will be considered
by the board and its advisory opinions, including by publication on its website, with identifying
information redacted as the board deems appropriate.

2. Public information and candidate education. The board shall develop a program for
informing candidates and the public as to the purpose and effect of the provisions of this title,
including by means of a webpage. The board shall prepare in plain language and make
available educational materials, including compliance manuals and summaries and explanations
of the purposes and provisions of this title, and hold regular trainings for candidates and their
participating committees. The board shall prepare or have prepared and make available
materials including, to the extent feasible, computer software, to facilitate the task of
compliance with the disclosure and record-keeping requirements of this title.

3. Rules and regulations. The board shall have the authority to promulgate such rules
and regulations and prescribe such forms as the fair elections board deems necessary for the
administration of this title;

Page 34 of 42
4. Database. The board shall develop an interactive, searchable computer database that
shall contain all information necessary for the proper administration of this title including
information on contributions to and expenditures by candidates and their participating
committees, independent expenditures in support of or opposition to candidates for covered
offices, and distributions of moneys from the fund. Such database shall be accessible to the
public on the fair elections board’s website.

5. Staff training. The fair elections board shall develop a curriculum to be used to train
members of the fair elections board staff. Such curriculum shall include the issues and
problems confronted by campaigns for covered offices and how the application and
enforcement of the state’s campaign finance laws impact such campaigns.

§ 14-220. Audits and repayments. 1. Audits. The fair elections board shall conduct a post-
election audit consistent with section 3-102-a of this chapter.

2. Repayments. (a) If the board determines that any portion of the payment made to a
participating candidate's participating committee from the fund was in excess of the aggregate
amount of payments that such participating candidate was eligible to receive pursuant to this
title, it shall notify such committee and such committee shall pay to the board an amount equal
to the amount of excess payments. Provided, however, that if the erroneous payment was the
result of an error by the board, then the erroneous payment will be deducted from any future
payment, if any, and if no payment is to be made then neither the candidate nor the committee
shall be liable to repay the excess amount to the board. The participating committee shall be
liable for any repayments due to the fair elections board for deposit by such board into the
New York state fair elections fund.

(b) If the fair elections board determines that any portion of the payment made to a
participating candidate's participating committee from the fund was used for purposes other
than qualified campaign expenditures and such expenditures were not approved by the board,
it shall notify such committee of the amount so disqualified and such committee shall pay to
the board an amount equal to such disqualified amount. Such monies shall be deposited into
the New York state fair elections fund. The candidate’s participating committee shall be liable
for any repayments due to the fair elections board.

(c) If the total of payments from the fund received by a participating candidate and such
candidate’s participating committee exceeds the total campaign expenditures of such
candidate and participating committee for all covered elections held in the same calendar year
or for a special election to fill a vacancy, such candidate and committee shall use such excess
funds to reimburse the fund for payments received by such participating committee from the
fund during such calendar year or for such special election. Participating candidates shall pay to
the fair elections board unspent public campaign funds from an election not later than thirty
days after all liabilities for the election have been paid and in any event, not later than the day
on which the fair elections board issues its final audit report for the participating candidate's
participating committee, in the case of a committee selected for a post-election audit;
provided, however, that all unspent public campaign funds for a participating candidate shall be

Page 35 of 42
immediately due and payable to the fair elections board upon a determination by the board
that the participant has delayed the post-election audit. A participating candidate may make
post-election expenditures with public funds only for routine activities involving nominal costs
associated with winding up a campaign and responding to the post-election audit. Nothing in
this title shall be construed to prevent a candidate or his or her participating committee from
using campaign contributions received from private contributors for otherwise lawful
expenditures, subject to the contribution limits applicable to participating candidates under
section 14-114 of this article.

3. If a court of competent jurisdiction disqualifies a candidate whose participating


committee has received public funds on the ground that such candidate committed fraudulent
acts in order to obtain a place on the ballot and such decision is not reversed by a higher court,
such candidate and such candidate’s participating committee shall pay to the fair elections
board an amount equal to the total of public funds received by such participating committee.

4. The fair elections board must provide written notice of all payments due from a
participating candidate or such candidate’s participating committee to the board and provide
an opportunity for the candidate or committee to rebut, in whole or in part, the alleged amount
due. Upon a final written determination by the fair elections board, the amount due shall be
paid to the board within thirty days of such determination.

5. All payments received by the fair elections board pursuant to this section shall be
deposited in the New York state fair elections fund established by section ninety-two-t of the
state finance law.

§ 14-222. Enforcement and penalties for violations of the public financing system; other
proceedings. 1. Civil penalties. Any person or authorized committee who knowingly and
intentionally violates any provision of this title or any rule promulgated hereunder shall be
subject to a civil penalty not to exceed the amount of ten thousand dollars.

2. Notice of violation and opportunity to contest. (a) The board shall determine
whether a violation of any provision of this title or rule promulgated hereunder has been
committed and give written notice and an opportunity to contest to each person or entity it has
reason to believe has committed a violation.

(b) Fines authorized under this section will be imposed by the fair elections board after a
hearing at which the subject person or participating committee shall be given an opportunity to
be heard. For purposes of conducting such hearings, the fair elections board shall be deemed
to be an agency within the meaning of article three of the state administrative procedure act
and shall adopt rules governing the conduct of adjudicatory proceedings and appeals taken
pursuant to a proceeding commenced under article seventy-eight of the civil practice law and
rules relating to the assessment of the civil penalties herein authorized.

3. The fair elections board shall publish on its website the final order adjudicating any
matter brought pursuant to this section.

Page 36 of 42
4. All payments received by the fair elections board pursuant to this section shall be
deposited in the New York state fair elections fund established by section ninety-two-t of the
state finance law.

5. Subject to the maximum civil penalty enumerated in subdivision one of this section,
the fair elections board shall publish a schedule of lesser civil penalties for common violations
of this title. Such schedule shall identify aggravating and mitigating circumstances that the fair
elections board may take into account in assessing such penalties.

§ 14-224. Criminal penalties. 1. Any person who knowingly and willfully furnishes or submits
false statements or information to the fair elections board in connection with its administration
of this title shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, in addition to any other penalty as may be
imposed under this chapter or pursuant to any other law. The fair elections board enforcement
counsel shall seek to recover any public matching funds obtained as a result of such criminal
conduct.

2. All prosecutions for criminal acts under this title shall be prosecuted by the attorney
general of the state of New York, except that criminal acts allegedly committed by a candidate
for the office of attorney general shall be prosecuted by the district attorney of the appropriate
county.

3. Any and all fines imposed pursuant to this section shall be made payable to the fair
elections board for deposit into the New York state fair elections fund.

§ 14-226. Debates. 1. The fair elections board shall promulgate regulations to facilitate debates
among participating candidates. Participating candidates are required to participate in at least
one debate before the primary election and in at least one debate before the general election
for which the candidate receives public funds, unless the candidate is running unopposed.
Nonparticipating candidates may participate in such debates.
2. The fair elections board shall select one or more sponsors for each debate required
pursuant to this section. Organizations which are not affiliated with any political party or with
any holder of or candidate for public office, which have not endorsed any candidate in the
pending primary, special, general, or run-off election for the office shall be eligible to sponsor
one or more of the required debates. Written applications by organizations to sponsor a
debate shall be submitted to the fair elections board on a form provided by the board not later
than a date chosen by the board in any year in which an election is held. The fair elections
board shall select the organization or organizations to sponsor the debates and shall provide
written notification to the organization or organizations so selected. In addition to the
sufficiency of the application, the board shall consider the applicant’s ability to reach a wide
audience and present a fair and impartial debate.
§ 14-228. Distributions from the fair elections fund. 1. (a) No public funds shall be paid to any
participating candidate in a primary election any earlier than December 15 in the year prior to

Page 37 of 42
the year such election is scheduled to be held. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, for
the disbursement of public funds prior to the last day to file designating petitions for a primary
election, the fair elections board shall schedule a minimum of three payments between
December 15 in the year before such primary election and the deadline to file designating
petitions in the year such election is scheduled to be held, or as soon after each such date as is
practicable.
(b) A participating candidate shall be required to repay any disbursements of public
matching funds distributed before the last date to file a designating petition if such candidate
fails to actively campaign for a covered office. For purposes of this paragraph, “actively
campaign for a covered office” shall mean filing designating or nominating petitions for
inclusion on the ballot, and activities that include, but are not limited to, raising and spending
funds for nomination for election or election to covered office, seeking endorsements, and
broadly soliciting votes.
2. No public funds shall be paid to any participating candidates in a general election any
earlier than the day after the day of the primary election held to nominate candidates for such
election.
3. No public funds shall be paid to any participating candidates in a special election any
earlier than the day after the last day to file certificates of party nomination for such special
election.
4. No public funds shall be paid to any participating candidate who has been disqualified
or whose designating petitions have been declared invalid by the appropriate board of elections
or a court of competent jurisdiction until and unless such finding is reversed by a higher court in
a final judgment. No payment from the fund in the possession of such a candidate or such
candidate’s participating committee on the date of such disqualification or invalidation may
thereafter be expended for any purpose except the payment of liabilities incurred before such
date. All such moneys shall be repaid to the fair elections fund.
§ 14-230. Reports. The fair elections board shall include the following information in its annual
report to the governor and legislature, pursuant to subdivision thirteen of section 3-102-a of
this chapter:
1. A list of the participating and nonparticipating candidates in covered elections and
the votes received by each candidate in those elections;
2. The amount of contributions and loans received, and expenditures made, on behalf of
these candidates;
3. The amount of public matching funds each participating candidate received, spent,
and repaid pursuant to this title;

Page 38 of 42
4. Analysis of the effect of this title on the election campaigns for all offices covered
under this title, including its effect on the sources and amounts of private financing, the level of
campaign expenditures, voter participation, the number of candidates, the candidates’ ability
to campaign effectively for public office, and the diversity of candidates seeking and elected to
office;
5. Recommendations for amendments to this title, including changes in contribution
limits, thresholds for eligibility, and any other features of the system; and
6. Any other information that the fair elections board deems relevant.
§ 14-232. Severability. If any clause, sentence, subdivision, paragraph, section or part of this
title is adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such judgment shall not
affect, impair or invalidate the remainder thereof, but shall be confined in its operation to the
clause, sentence, subdivision, paragraph, section or part thereof directly involved in the
controversy in which such judgment shall have been rendered.
§ 21. The election law is amended by adding a new section 16-122 to read as follows:
§ 16-122. Proceedings as to public financing. 1. The determination of eligibility pursuant to
section 14-210 of this title and any question or issue relating to payments for qualified
campaign expenditures pursuant to this title may be contested in a proceeding instituted in the
Supreme Court, Albany County, by any aggrieved candidate.
2. A proceeding with respect to such a determination of eligibility or payment for
qualified campaign expenditures pursuant to this chapter shall be instituted within fourteen
days after such determination was made. The fair elections board shall be made a party to any
such proceeding.
3. Upon the fair elections board’s failure to receive the amount due from a participating
candidate or such candidate’s participating committee after the issuance of written notice of
such amount due, as required by this title, and after an opportunity for such participating
candidate or committee to contest, the fair elections board enforcement counsel is authorized
to institute a special proceeding or civil action in Supreme Court, Albany County, to obtain a
judgment for any amounts determined to be payable to the fair elections board, or to obtain
such amounts directly from the candidate or authorized committee after a hearing at the
board.
4. The fair elections board enforcement counsel is authorized to institute a special
proceeding or civil action in Supreme Court, Albany County, to obtain a judgment for civil
penalties determined to be payable to the fair elections board or to impose such penalty
directly after a hearing at the board.
§ 22. The state finance law is amended by adding a new section 92-t to read as follows:

Page 39 of 42
§ 92-t. New York state fair elections fund. 1. There is hereby established in the joint custody of
the state comptroller and the commissioner of taxation and finance a fund to be known as the
New York state fair elections fund.
2. Such fund shall consist of all revenues received from the New York state fair elections
fund check-off pursuant to subsection (h) of section six hundred fifty-eight of the tax law, from
the abandoned property fund pursuant to section ninety-five of this article, from the surcharge
imposed pursuant to section three hundred fifty-nine-gg of the general business law, from the
surcharge imposed pursuant to section 408-a of the financial services law, from the general
fund, and from all other moneys credited or transferred thereto from any other fund or source
pursuant to law. Such fund shall also receive contributions from private individuals,
organizations, or other persons to fulfill the purposes of the public financing system.
3. Moneys of the fund, following appropriation by the legislature, may be expended for
the purposes of making payments to candidates pursuant to title two of article fourteen of the
election law and for administrative expenses related to the implementation of article fourteen
of the election law. Moneys shall be paid out of the fund by the state comptroller on vouchers
certified or approved by the fair elections board, or its duly designated representative, in the
manner prescribed by law, not more than one business day after such voucher is received by
the state comptroller.
4. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, if, in any state fiscal year, the
fair elections fund lacks the amount of money to pay all claims vouchered by eligible candidates
and certified or approved by the fair elections board, any such deficiency shall be paid by the
state comptroller, from funds deposited in the general fund of the state not more than four
working days after such voucher is received by the state comptroller.
5. Commencing in two thousand twenty-three, if the surplus in the fund on April first of
the year after a year in which a governor is elected exceeds twenty-five percent of the
disbursements from the fund over the previous four years, the excess shall revert to the general
fund of the state.
6. No public funds shall be paid to any participating candidate earlier than the dates
provided in section 14-228 of the election law.
§ 23. Section 95 of the state finance law is amended by adding a new subdivision 5 to read as
follows:
5. (a) As often as necessary, the fair elections board shall certify the amount such board
has determined necessary to fund estimated payments from the fund established by section
ninety-two-t of this article for the primary, general or special election.
(b) Notwithstanding any provision of this section authorizing the transfer of any moneys
in the abandoned property fund to the general fund, the comptroller, after receiving amounts
sufficient to pay claims against the abandoned property fund, shall, based on a certification of
Page 40 of 42
the fair elections board pursuant to paragraph (a) of this subdivision, and at the direction of the
director of the budget, transfer the requested amount from remaining available monies in the
abandoned property fund to the fair elections fund established by section ninety-two-t of this
article.
§ 24. Section 658 of the tax law is amended by adding a new subsection (h) to read as follows:
(h) New York state fair elections check-off. (1) For each taxable year beginning on and
after January first, two thousand twenty, every resident taxpayer whose New York state income
tax liability for the taxable year for which the return is filed is forty dollars or more may
designate on such return that forty dollars be paid into the New York state fair elections fund
established by section ninety-two-t of the state finance law. Where a couple files a joint return
and has a New York state income tax liability of eighty dollars or more for the taxable year for
which the return is filed, or file separate returns on a single form, each taxpayer may make
separate designations on such return of forty dollars to be paid into the New York state fair
elections fund.
(2) The commissioner of taxation and finance shall transfer to the New York state fair
elections fund, established pursuant to section ninety-two-t of the state finance law, an amount
equal to forty dollars multiplied by the number of designations.
(3) For purposes of this subsection, the income tax liability of an individual for any
taxable year is the amount of tax imposed under this article reduced by the sum of the credits
(as shown in his or her return) allowable under this article.
(4) The department shall include a place on every personal income tax return form to be
filed by an individual for a tax year beginning on or after January first, two thousand twenty, for
such taxpayer to make the designations described in paragraph one of this subsection. Such
return form shall contain a concise explanation of the purpose of such optional designations.
(5) At the beginning of each tenth calendar year, commencing in two thousand thirty,
the department shall determine the percentage difference between the most recent available
monthly consumer price index for all urban consumers published by the United States Bureau
of Labor Statistics and such consumer price index published for the same month ten years
previously. Each dollar amount set out in paragraph one of this subsection shall be adjusted by
the amount of such percentage difference to the closest one dollar by the department, which
shall issue a regulation publishing each such dollar amount. Each dollar amount as so adjusted
shall govern the operation of the state fair elections check-off before the next such adjustment.
§ 25. The general business law is amended by adding a new section 359-gg as follows:
§ 359-gg. Additional surcharge. In addition to any penalty authorized by section three
hundred fifty-nine-g of this article or any damages or other compensation recoverable
including, but not limited to, any settlement authorized by section sixty-three or sixty-three-c of
the executive law, there shall be assessed thereon an additional surcharge in the amount of ten
Page 41 of 42
percent of the total amount of such penalty, damages or settlement. Such surcharge shall be
deposited in the New York state fair elections fund established by section ninety-two-t of the
state finance law.
§ 26. The financial services law is amended by adding new section 408-a as follows:
§ 408-a. Additional surcharge. In addition to any penalty authorized by this chapter or
under the banking law or insurance law, or any damages or other compensation recoverable
thereunder, including, but not limited to, any settlement, there shall be assessed thereon an
additional surcharge in the amount of ten percent of the total amount of such penalty,
damages or settlement. Such surcharge shall be deposited in the New York state fair elections
fund established by section ninety-two-t of the state finance law.
§ 27. Severability. If any clause, sentence, subdivision, paragraph, section, or part of this act be
adjudged by any court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such judgment shall not affect,
impair or invalidate the remainder thereof, but shall be confined in its operation to the clause,
sentence, subdivision, paragraph, section or part thereof directly involved in the controversy in
which such judgment shall have been rendered.
§ 28. Effective date. This act shall take effect immediately; provided, however, all eligible
candidates will be eligible to participate in the public financing system beginning with the 2022
election.

Page 42 of 42