The day after two former campaign aides of mayoral candidate John Liu got busted for attempting to defraud the city through an illegal campaign finance scheme, a Manhattan supreme court shut down GOP mayoral candidate George McDonald’s hope of changing the city’s campaign finance rules.
Currently, city campaign finance rules state that individual donors can give no more than $4,950 to mayoral candidates, but McDonald argued that candidates who don’t participate in the public matching program don’t have to abide by those limits. (In 2004, City Council passed a law requiring ALL candidates to stick to the same rules.) But here’s the way the matching program works: For the first $175 of a person’s campaign donation, the city agrees to pay $6 for every dollar spent–meaning that candidates, should they choose to participate, can sweep up as much as $1,050 in public funding per individual donor.
McDonald, though, sought the maximum donation the state would allow per donor–$19,700 for the primary and $41,000 for the general election. He argued that the state conditions preempted the city ones.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Kathryn Freed did not agree, explaining that state law didn’t articulate how to deal with a public matching funds system.
“The Court finds that the establishment of uniform limitations on both participating and non-participating candidates is reasonably related and calculated to achieve the goals of reducing the influence of ‘wealthy special interests’ over local elections,” she wrote. “And increasing public participation and public confidence in those elections, is well within the powers granted to the City to protect the welfare and well being of its citizens.”
So yeah, that’s a no-go. But I guess you could always try the same thing John Liu’s former campaign aides did and hope an FBI agent doesn’t start sniffing around campaign HQ.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 3, 2013