The Proposal for 2019

Never before has comprehensive campaign finance reform for New York state been more necessary – or more possible. The past few years alone have seen more than a dozen scandals linked with money in politics. High limits and big loopholes enable a political climate that gives even upstanding businesses a bad name, creates inefficiencies, and undermines the public’s trust in government. This year, thanks to the continued efforts of New York Leadership for Accountable Government (NY LEAD) in conjunction with the Brennan Center for Justice and others, Albany lawmakers have finally committed to adopting small donor public financing, a potentially powerful reform to address these problems. However, the effort to ensure that the final design of the reform lives up to this commitment continues.

A small donor match system will put the needs of voters — including a business culture of growth and opportunity based on the best ideas and hard work — back on the agenda. It will reduce the wasteful arms race that forces so many businesses and business owners to siphon more and more money into politics, and enable a more efficient and transparent government.

In April 2019, Albany leaders passed a law as part of the state budget that created the New York State Public Campaign Financing Commission, a nine-member body responsible for designing a small donor public financing system for the state. Appointees to the Commission were announced in early July and have until December 1, 2019 to recommend a system, which will become law unless the Legislature makes changes within 20 days. If the Commission does its job and creates a robust public financing program, it will be the most significant action since Citizens United to restore public trust in our democracy.

The Commission should consider the following principles as guideposts for its work:

  • A small donor multiple match encourages candidates to fund their campaigns through a broad base of small donors, much like New York City’s successful system;
  • Fair, effective, and timely enforcement of the system’s rules is essential; and
  • Public funds should be disbursed in a straightforward way that is easy for candidates to comply with and accessible for voters.

The public is watching not only how the Commission executes its task, but also how Albany’s elected leaders respond. If the Commission and Legislature take their directive seriously, New York has the chance to become a national model of democracy that works for everyone.

For more information on small donor match public financing and other campaign finance reform solutions, please visit the Brennan Center’s resource page.

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