Fundraising is the backbone of political campaigns. Without the money coming in, candidates are limited to what they can afford and not everyone has pockets like Michael Bloomberg.
Ironically, political parties themselves are private organizations, separate from the candidates they are affiliated with. The money they use for conventions, elections, and their overhead, or housekeeping purposes, are subsidized by the taxpayers. This creates problems with corruption and campaign finance laws, especially during perpetual election cycles.
It is not specifically confined to campaign finance reform, but political finance reform in general. The billions of dollars spent across all 50 states as a result of the election process requires there to be some sort of finance reform.
New York is taking the lead on this issue. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) formed the Moreland Commission to investigate corruption through illegal campaign donations and spending.
Campaign finance reform, or at least the New York City model, has widespread support among statewide residents. A poll in May showed independents, Democrats, and Republicans supported the NYC model 85 percent, 75 percent, and 68 percent, respectively.
The Moreland Commission was not convened until two months later and the preliminary results are due in early December. However, the reforms Cuomo advocates for have already been compared to the current NYC model.The money parties use for conventions, elections, or housekeeping purposes are subsidized by taxpayers.
New York City’s partially-subsidized model allows candidates who opt in to the Campaign Finance Program to receive matching funds from the city. Donors will see the first $175 of their contribution increase to $1,050 — or a 6 to 1 match.
If the candidate does decide to receive these matching public funds, their campaign will be under greater scrutiny to how these funds are used. Disclosure is important, especially when working with taxpayer money.
Cuomo hopes that with smaller donations coming from a more participatory electorate coupled with lowering contribution limits, it would create more fair elections.
According to Fair Elections for New York, statewide candidates raised over $110 million, but 71 percent came from donations of at least $1,000. That is typically not the amount low and middle class individuals donate to their elected officials.
With matching taxpayer funds, a simple $175 donation could go beyond $1,000 and have the same effect for the politicians.
The goal for publicly funding campaigns is to ensure the power of the purse, so to speak, is in the hands of the people as opposed to being limited to wealthy donors. Republicans have blocked such reforms in the legislature claiming that instead of matching funds, they should spend it on other purposes like education.
Aside from having voters cast ballots in their favor, these politicians will need those same individuals to help finance their campaigns. The goal is for the candidates to interact more directly with voters.
If Cuomo gets his way, New York will have a unique political finance system that combines private money with matching public funds with the result being greater voter participation.
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