Monday, June 23, 2008

Assembly Passes Public Campaign Finance Bill

Last week, with two days left in session the Assembly passed the 2010 Campaign Finance Reform Act, a system of voluntary public financing of statewide and legislative elections through a matching system.

What do we make of the late-breaking development? To some extent, any news on campaign finance reform, especially public financing, is good news. However, we're concerned about both the bill's substance and the process.

The bill creates a system of matching funds--$250 would be matched by the state at a rate of $4 for every $1 raised for state residents--similar to New York City. The Brennan Center's Ciara Torres-Spelliscy and Laura MacCleery outlined their issues with the bill in this document (opens as a PDF). Apart from questions about the public financing system, we have myriad concerns, including the absurdly high individual contribution limits and loopholes that allow for parties to set up housekeeping accounts that allow for unlimited contributions.

The Brennan Center has typically frowned upon the end-of-session glut of bill passing, as pointed out in
our reports on Albany's broken legislative rules. Moreover, there hasn't been so much as a hearing on the bill. We hope this is meant as a good faith starting point for public education and discussion of the severe need for campaign finance reform and public financing.

In that case, Governor Paterson's program bill, which fixes many of the problems with the current system--high limits, loopholes, pay-to-play and enforcement--and the Assembly's public financing bill are a good place to start talking before the beginning of next session. In fact, my colleagues and I will be in the first row.

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