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Mayoral candidates sign up for NYC campaign funds

Eight of the 11 mayoral candidates agreed Monday to New York City's campaign finance program, which encourages smaller individual donors over big organizational backers by allowing participants to receive up to $3.5 million in public matching funds.

Two contenders -- City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Comptroller John Liu -- said they've already raised enough in eligible small-dollar donations to qualify for the maximum matching funds.

Quinn would be adding the $3.5 million to her $5.8-million war chest, the race's largest. Liu would add it to his $1.9-million estimated balance. There is no limit to how much candidates who get the matching funds can raise for any city elective office. City election rules limit the amount spent by mayoral candidates getting the funds to $6.4 million in the primary and $6.4 million for the general election.

Three candidates -- Republican billionaire supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, independent Adolfo Carrion Jr. and Republican George McDonald -- Monday said they opted out of the city program.

Monday was the program's certification deadline. Participants must adhere to strict rules to get the generous $6-to-$1 match.

"The intent is to encourage candidates to get out and raise money from the people they hope to represent," said Matt Sollars, spokesman for the city's Campaign Finance Board, which oversees the program. "And it encourages voters to get more involved in the election amplifying their voices."

The board in August will verify the matching claims before the funds are paid out.

The rate of participation this election season contrasted with the past three, when billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg passed on the program to self-finance his campaigns and was not subjected to a spending limit.

With the exception of Quinn and Liu, mayoral campaigns taking part in the program Monday said it was too soon to know how much they expected in public funds, or they pointed to their most recent filings from May 15. After Quinn and Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio was poised to receive the most in matching funds, $2.5 million.

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