New York has been a hotbed for ideas surrounding campaign finance reform. From public funding of elections to donation matching, New Yorkers have been discussing innovative and constructive solutions to the problem of poor voter participation.
A bipartisan poll by Global Strategy Group, a Democratic policy research and consulting firm, and Mercury Public Affairs (Republican) found broad support for reforming how elections were financed.
The report found, “Fully 97% of voters say it is important for state leaders to address “reducing the influence of money in politics and ending corruption,” including 50% who say it is extremely important and another 39% who say it is very important.”
The sample of 604 likely 2014 New York voters reported the problem of money in politics as the number one problem facing the state. Of likely voters, 89 percent said it was either ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important to reduce the influence of money in politics. Other pressing issues like ‘reducing the threat of gun violence’ or ‘improving reproductive health and equality for women’ received 73 percent and 65 percent, respectively.
“Public campaign financing is supported by a strong majority of voters in all parts of the state,including 71% of voters in the suburbs, 63% of voters upstate, and 63% of voters in New York City. And in addition to 68% of Democrats, public campaign financing is supported by64% of Independents/Blanks and 62% of Republicans”
Likewise, the public matching of funds proposal has considerable support among New York voters. “Seven in 10 likely voters (70%) believe the proposal would reduce the influence of money in politics, and a slightly higher percentage (72%) believes it would help to end corruption instate government.” A public-matching program exponentially increases the impact of a small donation.
The popular model for this is in New York City. Each dollar an individual contributes is matched with six dollars from a public fund up to $175. This allows a rather modest contribution to be exponentially more valuable to any candidate, sextupling donations up to $1,050. Moreover, candidates who opt-in to the public financing are subject to additional reporting and financing regulations depending on what office they’re seeking.
Despite its popularity, some voters have serious reservations regarding publicly financed elections. Potential for abuse and ‘pay-to-play’ politics are still present with publicly financed elections — the subject of Tuesday’s public Senate Standing Committee on Elections hearing.