Assembly Passes 2010 Campaign Finance Reform Act To Increase Competitiveness In Elections By Providing Public Financing
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Elections Committee Chair Ann-Margaret Carrozza announced today the Assembly's passage of the 2010 Campaign Finance Reform Act, a measure that would provide for optional public financing of statewide and legislative elections.
The legislation, aimed at restraining the influence of large donors and special interests in New York's elections system, also provides greater disclosure of the contributors to independent political communications, such as broadcast commercials, newspaper advertisements and mass mailings aimed at candidates and ballot measures.
"Our democracy is strongest when a fully-engaged and empowered electorate is encouraged to participate and thrive," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "For too long our elections system has engendered cynicism among those who fear that what matters most is ultimately how much money a candidate can raise for his campaign rather than the issues that matter most in our communities. By providing public financing options that are fair and accountable to taxpayers and voters, the Assembly has voted to help to limit the amount of private fundraising involved in campaigning and increase competitiveness in legislative and statewide elections."
"The Assembly today has voted to create a more competitive election system that is both accountable and sustainable," said Carrozza (D-Queens). "The public financing option will help candidates who are outspent by their opponents to remain competitive without giving an unfair advantage to those who participate."
The legislation (A.11507-A/Silver) would strengthen competition in elections by providing public matching funds to candidates in general, primary and special elections who agree to limit private contributions to their campaigns and cap campaign spending.
Individual donations to those participating in the public financing would be capped at $2,000 and contributions from state residents up to $250 would be matched by the state at a rate of $4 for every $1 raised.
The Assembly bill would also limit the amount of money political parties could transfer to participating candidates and create a $5 check-off option on state tax forms in order to contribute to the non-partisan campaign fund.
Candidates for the following offices would be eligible to participate in the public financing program beginning in the following years:
In addition to offering a means of public campaign financing, the bill contains a means for recovering unspent or misspent public campaign funds and would impose civil penalties for candidates who violate filing requirements and spending limits.
The legislation would require that political communications supporting or opposing a candidate or ballot measure, including mailings, newspaper and broadcast advertisements identify the source of their funding for the communication and state that the communication is not authorized by the candidate. Under the legislation independent expenditures on communications opposing or supporting a candidate or ballot measure in excess of $1,000 would be subject to the filing requirements currently imposed on political committees, including a 24-hour disclosure rule when these expenditures occur close to an election. Civil penalties could be applied to individuals who fail to disclose the source of independent political communications.
"It is encouraging that the Assembly has moved forward with a public financing proposal," said Michael Waldman, executive director, Brennan Center for Social Justice at NYU School of Law. "Public financing is the central element of true reform for New York. As the system in New York City shows, it can boost participation, reduce the role of special interests, and give ordinary citizens a louder voice. This bill is a marked improvement on the measures passed in previous sessions, and we look forward to working with Speaker Silver and other legislators to develop a law that is strong and legally sound. Together with a meaningful system of contribution limits and disclosure, such as the measure proposed by Governor Paterson, a strong public funding plan could make New York State's system a model for the country -- as it should be."
"Today Speaker Silver and the Assembly have shown their leadership and firm commitment to fundamental reform of our campaign finance system," said Karen Scharff, executive director, Citizen Action of New York. "The legislation today combines a strong matching system with elements of a Clean Elections system to provide a foundation for a robust public financing system that would greatly enhance Democracy in New York."
"We applaud the Assembly for moving this legislation," said Blair Horner, legislative director, New York Public Interest Research Group. "The Speaker now has a bill. The Governor now has a bill. Now where is the Senate?"
The Assembly legislation includes the following eligibility thresholds and spending limits:
Eligibility Threshold to Qualify for Public Financing
Governor: Must collect not less than $900,000 from at least 9,000 matchable contributions made up of sums of up to $250 per individual contributor who resides in New York State.
Lt. Governor (primary only), Attorney General and Comptroller: Must collect not less than $300,000 from at least 3,000 matchable contributions made up of sums of up to $250 per individual contributor who resides in New York State.
Senate: Must collect not less than $25,000 from at least 250 matchable contributions made up of sums of up to $250 per individual contributor who resides in New York State including at least $12,500 from at least 125 individual contributors who reside in the Senate District in which the seat is to be filled.
Assembly: Must collect not less than $10,000 from at least 100 matchable contributions made up of sums of up to $250 per individual contributor who resides in New York State including at least $5,000 from at least 50 individual contributors who reside in the Assembly District in which the seat is to be filled.
At-large Delegate to a Constitutional Convention: Must collect not less than $25,000 from at least 250 matchable contributions made up of sums of up to $250 per individual contributor who resides in New York State.
District Delegate to a Constitutional Convention: Must collect not less than $5,000 from at least 50 matchable contributions made up of sums of up to $250 per individual contributor who resides in the district in which the seat is to be filled.
The legislation also includes the following stipulations:
New York State Assembly
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