DiNapoli Proposes Public Campaign Financing Plan Including Spending Caps, Mandatory Debates
Comptroller’s Race in 2010 Should be a Demonstration Project for the Plan
State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today called for a new system of public campaign financing for statewide office in New York, starting with a pilot project for the State Comptroller’s race in 2010. DiNapoli’s proposal would limit contributions from individuals to $10,000, cap campaign spending for the comptroller’s race, and provide $6 in public funds for every dollar raised by candidates.
“There has been a lot of debate about campaign finance reform in recent weeks,” DiNapoli said. “Governor Spitzer’s proposal is a great first step toward real reform. It’s time to take the next step and provide a blueprint for comprehensive public financing for statewide elected offices.
“The Comptroller’s Office must be a model of independence and ethics. Providing a level playing field for all candidates running for this important statewide post can and should be the first step to reforming campaign finance practices at all levels of government.”
DiNapoli’s proposed Comptroller Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2007 includes the following:
- Spending Limits Publicly-financed campaign spending would be capped for the 2010 primary and general elections for participating candidates for State Comptroller at $5 million per candidate for a primary election and $7.5 million per candidate for the general election.
- Public Financing A newly-established state Campaign Finance Fund would match $6 for every dollar raised by a participating candidate for the 2010 general election, and would match $4 for every dollar raised by a candidate for a primary.
- Individual Contribution Limits Participating candidates would be limited to accepting contributions of $10,000 per contributor, but only the first $2,500 of each contribution would be matched.
- Debates Each candidate participating in the program would be required to engage in public debates according to rules set by a new Campaign Finance Board, including at least one debate before a primary and at least two debates before the general election.
- Eligibility Criteria All candidates regardless of party affiliation running in the election for State Comptroller would be eligible to receive matching funds if they agreed to spending caps, strict reporting requirements and mandated monitoring. To establish eligibility, candidates would also be required to collect a total of $150,000 in individual contributions ranging from $50 to $1,000, including contributions from at least 50 voters in each senate district in the state, demonstrating a measure of statewide appeal.
- Program Oversight The program and participating candidates would be monitored and continuously audited by a new, independent seven-member Campaign Finance Board consisting of appointees by the Governor, leaders of each majority and minority in the Legislature, and two independent members from citizens groups. One of the independent members would serve as chair. The Board would also oversee the Fund, and would retain an independent auditor through an open, competitive process to monitor the Fund’s operation and candidate compliance. The Board would report to the Governor, the Legislature and the public on the functioning of the program early in 2011, to help determine whether the program should be modified, terminated or expanded to full public financing for all statewide offices.
- Candidates Who Choose Not to Participate If a candidate chooses not to participate and spends more than the spending limit, the Fund would pay participating candidates a higher match of $5 for each dollar raised for a primary election and $7 for each dollar raised for the general election. If a non-participating candidate spends more than twice the spending limit, participating candidates would be able to raise funds in accordance with existing contribution rules.
- Controls Over Public Campaign Funds There would be strict limits on how such funds could be spent and civil and criminal penalties associated with breaking the rules.
“The public places trust in its elected officials and expects them to act in the public interest,” DiNapoli said. “From my 20 plus years of service in Albany, I believe that the overwhelming majority of people in government take that responsibility seriously. The current system of campaign financing, however, clouds the good work of elected officials.”