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New proposal would match more state funds to local campaign donations to limit big-money donors

Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said the proposal

Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs said the proposal would provide more of than the 6:1 match initially considered by the commission and greater than New York City's 8:1 match. Credit: Howard Schnapp

ALBANY – A powerful commission is considering a new proposal to combat big-money special interests by using state funds to boost the value of small contributions by constituents, according to Commissioner Jay Jacobs.

Jacobs, the Nassau County Democratic chairman and one of the leading commission members, described the new proposal in an interview Wednesday. The measure would establish a formula for state legislative races in which the state would match the first $50 of a contribution from a donor living within the candidate’s legislative district. The matching formula would be $12 in state funds for every dollar in contributions, he said. 

Contributions from the same donor for any amount up to an additional $100 would be matched 9:1 with state funds. Contributions that surpass $100 from the same donor up to $250 would be matched 8:1.

Under the proposal, the same matching system would apply to all contributions in the statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller.

Overall, the new proposal would provide more than the 6:1 match initially considered by the commission and greater than New York City’s 8:1 match, Jacobs said Wednesday.

The proposal being discussed by the state Public Finance Reform Commission now is revised from a proposal last week that would have matched in-district contributions 20:1.

The commission is charged with implementing a $100 million public financing system. The system was approved by the legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in April. Public campaign financing is intended to encourage small contributions from individual New Yorkers as a way to limit the influence of big-money donors and special interests on campaigns and on state spending and legislation.

The new proposal comes as the commission’s deadline to recommend a system draws near. The commission plans meetings on Nov. 13, another likely session on Nov. 14, and a tentatively scheduled meeting for Nov. 25 during which a recommendation could get its final vote. The recommendation is due to be submitted to the legislature on Dec. 1 and the commission’s plan would become law 20 days later unless the legislature returns to Albany to change or reject the recommendation.

All candidates, including those who choose to participate in the matching program, could continue to accept additional donations that don’t qualify for state funds. But the commission is also expected to lower the amount of allowable campaign contributions and potentially restrict donations from corporations and companies doing business with the state.

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