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COLUMN: Public dollars should not determine candidates

— Public financing of political campaigns is on the Governor’s agenda this year. Cuomo said in his State of the State address in January, the state should mimic what New York City has done and publicly fund campaigns. In this column, I want to outline for you why I believe publicly financing campaigns is a bad idea.

The most obvious fault of publicly funded campaigns is the considerable cost it would create for taxpayers. The New York City system, which the Governor refers to, is a matching grant program for candidates. Candidates can receive up to six times the amount in public funding that they receive in private dollars. That means that for every $1 raised for a campaign by candidate, taxpayer dollars match that with $6. Last year, the New York City Campaign Finance Department reported that $25 million in public funds were provided to candidates for city offices. If adopted at the State level, where there are many more elected offices, one could easily imagine how those costs would escalate.

Indeed, proponents of this type of system seem to understand how costs could escalate and, accordingly, they are proposing caps on just how much public funding a candidate can receive. For example, in a bill proposed by the Speaker of the Assembly, candidates for Governor would be limited to receive $12,000,000 in public funding during the general election, the Attorney General and Comptroller candidates would be limited to receive $8,000,000, and State Senate and Assembly candidates would be limited to $350,000 and $150,000 respectively. With 63 Senators and 150 Assembly members and with a potential of two or more candidates running for each of these offices, it doesn't take a mathematician to understand how these numbers could quickly add up to a big cost for the state. Instead of taking money out of the campaign system, this proposal would put more money in the system and, most troubling, it is your money.

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