In the Nation's Interest
New York City Partial-Public Matching Program: A Model of Successful Campaign Finance Reform
By Amy Morse
Associate Director of Programs
Committee for Economic Development
On March 27, 2014, CED hosted the Executive Director of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, Amy Loprest, for a forum with business and civic leaders in Chicago to discuss campaign finance reform. New York City’s twenty-five year old campaign finance system, which includes a unique public matching program, offers a reform model for cities or states to increase citizen participation and competition in elections. The New York City Campaign Finance Board is a nonpartisan, independent city agency that oversees the public matching program. The CFB’s stated mission is to increase voter participation and awareness, provide campaign finance information to the public, enable more citizens to run for office, strengthen the role of small contributors, and reduce the potential for actual or perceived corruption.
CED has long supported public funding based on a multiple-match on low-dollar contributions. CED believes that the experience of the New York City program demonstrates the value of this approach. Small dollar donors constitute the vast majority of spending in New York City elections, representing 73% of all contributions in 2013 and 80% specifically to City Council races. Donor diversity is also significantly greater than state assembly elections. New York City donors were active in 90% of every census block compared to 30% of state assembly races. CED observed in the recent report, Promoting Small Dollar Democracy: The Value of Public Matching Funds, that public campaign funding, administered by means of a multiple-match on low-dollar contributions, is an effective alternative to traditional fundraising practices. While the adoption of public matching will not address all of the problems associated with campaign funding, it offers the best available means of improving the ways campaigns are conducted. A multiple-match system changes the incentive structure of campaign fundraising, encouraging candidates to emphasize small contributions, empowering citizens of average means to play a meaningful role in the financing of campaigns, and providing candidates with the opportunity to raise the money needed to compete for elective office without having to depend on special interests or other donors seeking to influence policy decisions. It promotes broad citizen participation and engagement in the political process, resulting in a more representative and equitable system of campaign finance.
For additional research and resources on the New York City public matching program, please find a link to the New York City Campaign Finance Board website, and the Brennan Center for Justice and the Campaign Finance Institute report, Donor Diversity Through Public Matching Funds.