New York City’s landmark Campaign Finance Program provides public funds to candidates for city office.
Matching funds provide candidates with a strong incentive to finance their campaigns by engaging with average New Yorkers instead of seeking large contributions from special interests. The Program empowers more candidates to run for office, even without access to wealth; ones who join can build viable, competitive campaigns for office by relying on support from their neighbors.
The city’s voluntary public financing program matches small-dollar contributions. Participating candidates may qualify to receive public matching funds at a $6-to-$1 rate for contributions up to $175 from individuals who reside in New York City.
The matching funds program helps to amplify the voices of New Yorkers in city elections. For example, if a NYC resident makes a $10 contribution to a participating candidate, it is actually worth $70 to their campaign.
Who is Eligible?
Any candidate running for municipal office (mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough president, and city council) may join the program. The program does not cover county district attorney offices or state or federal offices.
To receive public funds, candidates must:
Meet a two-part fundraising threshold:
- Collect a minimum number of contributions (of $10 or more) from the area they seek to represent. (For instance: candidates for City Council must have 75 contributors from their district; candidates for borough president must have 100 contributors from their borough.)
- Raise a minimum amount of matchable contributions (i.e., contributions from NYC residents up to $175).
- Comply with the requirements of the Act and Board Rules.
- Be on the ballot, and have an opponent on the ballot.
What Is Required of Candidates Who Participate?
Spending Limits & Restrictions
Candidates who seek public funds agree to abide by spending limits, which ensure money will not decide an election between participating candidates. The spending limit varies by office sought.
Limits on Public Funds
There is a cap on the total amount of public funds available to each candidate, equal to 55 percent of a candidate’s spending limit. The cap ensures candidates use a combination of public and private funds to finance their campaigns. Candidates who receive public funds may only spend this money to further their campaign, and must agree to return public funds that were not spent in accordance with the rules.
Accountability & Audits
After the election, candidates who have received public funding must return any remaining funds to the city. As a result, there are strict limits on what publicly-funded campaigns can spend after the election. All campaigns are audited, and those who receive public funds must provide a thorough accounting of the way public funds were spent. Those who fail to comply with the law may face penalties. Candidates with outstanding penalties or public funds repayment obligations from a previous election may not receive matching funds for the current election until payment is made.