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Long IslandPolitics

Higher campaign-finance limits in effect

ALBANY -- Got an extra $100,000 lying around? Well, now you can spend it, politically, all in the same place.

New campaign-finance limits took effect Wednesday, and New York State crossed the six-figure threshold: individuals or legal partnerships may give $102,300 to a party committee, up from $94,200.

"This is just further indication of how completely out of whack our campaign-finance system is," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause NY, a good-government group. "These limits are way too high under any analysis, and the continual upward direction is the wrong direction for them to be going."

The limit for federal committees is $30,800. Individuals may give $2,500 for federal candidates in general election races -- either for president, the House or Senate -- but in New York, the limits are $4,100 for Assembly candidates and $10,300 for State Senate candidates.

The limit for statewide candidates is $41,100 in general elections and $19,700 in primary elections, a total of $60,800. That's up nearly $5,000.

The contribution limits rise by law, according to a formula based on the consumer price index, said John Conklin, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections. They rise every fourth year, after a gubernatorial vote, and have since 1995.

Good-government advocates have lamented the limits for almost as long, prompting legislative proposals.

Assemb. Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) has long wanted to enact a system of public matching funds. Candidates must first raise a large number of small-dollar donations, something Ortiz said would help keep them accountable to constituents.

But Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said he's unwilling to spend public funds on campaigns, a spokesman said.

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