An opinion has been requested whether a candidate who chooses to participate in the public financing program of the New York City Campaign Finance Act (New York City Administrative Code §3-701, et seq.) may receive public funds, even if that candidate has raised monies in excess of the expenditure limitation applicable to the primary or general election.
Section 3-705(2) of the Administrative Code provides, in relevant part:
The authorized committee designated by an eligible candidate pursuant to subdivision six of section 3-703 shall receive payment for qualified campaign expenditures of one dollar for each one dollar of matchable contributions in excess of the threshold for eligibility, obtained and reported to the campaign finance Board in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, but in no case shall such authorized committee receive in public funds an amount exceeding one-half of the expenditure limitation provided in subdivision one of section 3-706 for the office for which such candidate seeks nomination for election or election.
The legislative history of the act is instructive. Prior to amendment by the City Council Committee on Governmental Operations, the bill which, as amended, became the Campaign Finance Act contained an additional restriction on payments made from the Campaign Finance Fund to eligible candidates:
The total payments from the fund received by the authorized committee of any candidate, when added to the total contributions received by such candidate and his or her authorized committee, may not exceed the amount which may be expended by such candidate pursuant to the provisions of this chapter...
Int. No. 906 (proposed Administrative Code §3-705(4)), introduced on September 22, 1987.
The restriction on payments from the public fund based on the total amount of monies raised on behalf of the candidate was omitted from the bill which was finally enacted into law. It is therefore the opinion of the Board that contributions may be matched with public funds in an amount up to one-half of the expenditure limitation applicable under Administrative Code §3-706(1) (a), regardless whether the total monies raised by the candidate exceed the applicable expenditure limitation. Except as otherwise provided in Administrative Code §3-706(4) (removing the expenditure limitation for eligible candidates who are opposed by a candidate who is not participating in the public financing program and who raises or spends an amount which exceeds one-half the applicable expenditure limitation), each eligible candidate is obligated not to make expenditures in excess of the limitations applicable under §3-706(1) (a). Administrative Code §3-703(1) (i). Monies raised in excess of the applicable expenditure limitation may be used for the purposes described in Section 105(b) of the regulations of the Campaign Finance Board, carried over for expenditure in the next following election pursuant to Administrative Code §3-706(3), or not expended.
NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD