Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced today the passage of legislation that provides for public financing of campaigns for the Office of the State Comptroller beginning in 2014. In an effort to end the perception that large campaign contributions translate into unfair influence, the measure (A.8367/Silver), a comptrollerís program bill, has been advanced by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
In order to limit the impact on taxpayers and state funds, the legislation also establishes the New York State Campaign Finance Fund. The fundís primary sources of revenue will be a new additional ten percent surcharge on penalties, damages, or settlements in connection with securities fraud prosecution. Additionally, an optional "check off" on individual personal income tax forms will help support the fund.
"Too often, citizens lament that what matters most in our election system is how much money a candidate can raise when the real focus should be on the important issues that matter to all New Yorkers," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "This public financing system is a fair and balanced approach, accountable to taxpayers and voters, that will limit the amount of private fundraising involved in campaigning and increase the competitiveness in elections."
In the past, Silver sponsored campaign finance reform legislation that extended this legislation to all elected statewide offices and state legislative offices.
Publicly financed campaign spending limits would be capped for the primary election and general elections for State Comptroller in 2014 at the following levels: $5 million per candidate for a primary election and $7.5 million per candidate for the general election. Any qualified candidate, regardless of party affiliation, could receive matching funds if he or she agrees to accept a limit on campaign contributions, spending caps and strict reporting requirements and monitoring. To qualify for public funding, candidates would also have to collect $150,000 in matchable contributions in individual amounts from $10 to $250 including at least 50 contributions from voters in at least 75 percent of the congressional districts in the state.
The new Campaign Finance Fund would match $6 for every $1 contributed to the candidate. Candidates seeking matching funds would be limited to contributions of $2,000 per donor, but only the first $250 of each contribution would be matched. Candidates not participating in public funding would not be bound by the regulations, but would still be required to file certain campaign finance reports as required by the bill.
The legislation also creates an independent Campaign Finance Board, made of seven appointees by the governor, leaders of each majority and minority in the Legislature, and two members from nonpartisan citizensí groups. The board would enforce the strict limits on how public funds could be spent.