A good start. A half step. A missed chance.
Those are the broad reactions to a state commission’s recommendations for a $100 million system of publicly funded political campaigns, part of an effort to rein in the state’s existing system of high donor limits that advocates have long feared buy influence in Albany.
The public financing commission on Monday voted on the specifics of the program, which include:
- Small donations of $250 or less would receive public matches
- State residents would have their donations matched with public dollars at a 6-to-1 ratio for statewide candidates
- In-district residents would have a tiered match when contributing to a candidate: 12-to-1 for the first $50, 9-to-1 for the next $100 and 8-to-1 for the final $100.
- Public funds would be capped at $7 million statewide
- Donations to statewide candidates would be set at $18,000.
- Donations to state Senate candidates are to be capped at $10,000; $6,000 for Assembly.
For good-government advocates, the likely final product isn’t everything they wanted.
“Unfortunately, the recommendations approved today stray into areas that are unrelated to the commission’s purpose and public financing,” said Larry Norden of the Brenna Center, who nonetheless pointed to the recommendations as a move that would “bring more New Yorkers into the state’s democracy, as donors and as candidates” if adopted.
Reinvent Albany’s Alex Camarda, meanwhile, said the statewide donor limits were set far too high.
“Unfortunately, while better than the abominable status quo, the commission’s proposal does not reduce the dominance of big money enough to earn Reinvent Albany’s support,” the group said in a statement.
The League of Women Voters worried the proposals would ultimately aid those already in office.
“The complex small donor matching system proposed by this commission in some ways may be seen to be designed to favor incumbents,” the League of Women Voters said.
“The League believes that much lower campaign contribution limits for all candidates and parties and better enforcement are necessary for any new public financing system to function as intended and fix how elections work in this state.”