June 9, 2011
DiNapoli Urges Action on Campaign Finance Reform for Office of State Comptroller
Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today submitted legislation calling for a comprehensive election reform program including public financing of campaigns for the Office of State Comptroller. Spending limits for primary and general elections for Comptroller starting in 2014 would be capped at $5 million and $7.5 million dollars respectively and contributions would be limited to a maximum of $2,000.
"Elections should be about issues, not about money," said DiNapoli. "The Comptroller's Office must be a model of independence and ethics. Strict contribution limits and a level playing field for all candidates for Comptroller are a clear signal that this office is not for sale.
"Earlier this week, the Governor and legislative leaders announced an important ethics reform agreement. But the reform agenda is not complete without campaign finance reform for state elections. The Comptroller's office is the perfect place to start. In 2007, as part of my work to restore the reputation of the Office of State Comptroller, I introduced a comprehensive election reform program, including public financing for campaigns for the Comptroller's Office. The need for those reforms has only grown stronger since then."
To be eligible to participate in the program, a candidate must receive individual contributions totaling $150,000 in matchable contributions. At least 50 matchable contributions must come from registered voters living in 20 of 26 (75 percent) of the state's congressional districts. A matchable contribution is defined as the first $250 dollars of each contribution.
The ratio of matching funds to be disbursed would be set at 6 dollars for every dollar of a matchable contribution for funds raised for both a primary and general election. If a candidate does not participate in the program and spends more than the proposed limit in a primary or a general election, the Campaign Finance Fund would provide participating candidates a match of $7 for every $1 contributed until the non-participating candidate spends two times the spending cap.
DiNapoli's proposed legislation establishes an independent seven-member Campaign Finance Fund Board to monitor and audit the program and enforce its provisions. It would be composed of one member appointed by the Governor and each legislative leader of both houses and two members appointed by the Governor upon consultation with the leaders of non-partisan citizens' groups. One of these members shall be designated as the chair.
The newly established board would oversee the fund and retain a non-governmental auditor through an open, competitive process to monitor the fund's operation and candidate compliance. There would be strict limits on how public funds could be spent and the Board would have enforcement powers at its disposal to permit it to recover funds wrongfully or mistakenly paid to a candidate and to seek civil and criminal penalties against those who have violated the law.
Each participant in the program would be required to engage in at least one debate before a primary and one debate before the general or special election according to rules set by the Campaign Finance Fund Board.