|Contact:||Sunny Mindel / Michael Anton
Remarks by Mayor Giuliani at Public Hearing on Local Laws
The last bill before me today is Introductory Number 879, sponsored by Speaker Vallone and Council Member Pinkett. This legislation would provide a candidate in the City's Campaign Finance Program with four public matching dollars for every one dollar raised by the candidate. At the four-to-one match rate, candidates would be capped at $1,000 in City matching funds per contributor. In addition, the bill would grant a candidate participating in the Campaign Finance Program five public dollars for every one dollar raised if the candidate faces a significant opponent who does not participate in the program. At the five-to-one match rate, candidates would be capped at $1,250 in City matching funds per contributor.
This legislation attempts to grant an excessive taxpayer subsidy to the City's politicians and office seekers. Many have argued that opposition to this bill amounts to opposition to the Campaign Finance Program itself. I have no objection to the program. Rather, I oppose this bill because it would dole out public funds at a runaway rate without any justification, radically altering the way in which the program operated during its first ten years of existence.
When the program was enacted in 1988, participating candidates were awarded one public dollar for every private dollar raised. In the event that a candidate faced a significant opponent who was not in the program, the participating candidate received two City dollars for every private dollar raised. These matching rates were capped at $1,000 and $2,000 respectively. For example, under the original system, if a candidate raised $250, the City matched the private contribution with 250 City dollars. Now, the Council wants to quadruple the amount the City hands politicians. Under this bill, the same $250 private contribution would be matched with $1,000 in taxpayer funds.
I support the program and its original matching rates. Those rates resulted in responsible expenditures that supported sound policy. A reasonable taxpayer contribution is an integral part of the program, and in three major City election years, participating candidates mounted prolific, well-publicized campaigns using the one-to-one and two-to-one system. Therefore, the knee-jerk reaction that the Campaign Finance Program cannot survive without the four-to-one and five-to-one match rates is baseless and contradicts past experience.
The Campaign Finance Program was never intended to be a massive taxpayer-funded subsidy for politicians. The original one-to-one and two-to-one match rates struck a balance between the needs of the program and fiscal responsibility. The City Council's bill would tip the balance too far toward turning the City's taxpayers into political bankrollers at the expense of fiscal discipline.
The voters of New York City should remember that they eliminated the need for the four-to-one and five-to-one match rates. As many New Yorkers know, the four and five-to-one match rates in this bill were originally added to the law as an incentive and reward for candidates in the program who agreed to forego corporate campaign contributions. A candidate who did not accept corporate dollars was rewarded with additional matching funds for deciding not to take corporate money. However, in a 1998 referendum, the voters approved an amendment to the City Charter that prohibited candidates in the Campaign Finance Program from accepting corporate contributions. With the enactment of the voters' ban on corporate money, the rationale for the four and five-to-one match rates was eliminated.
Despite the will of the voters, the City Council is now determined to preserve and expand these large matching rates not as a reward to some, but as an entitlement for all politicians in the Campaign Finance Program, allowing many to finance the bulk of their campaigns on the taxpayers' dime.
With a record number of candidates ready to seek office this year, because of term limits, these high matching rates would result in a vastly more expensive program, potentially costing taxpayers $110 million this year alone. As you can see from the chart beside me, that would be a massive 16 fold cost increase from the 1997 election cycle. Even the Campaign Finance Board's estimate of $63.3 million for 2001 would be a 9 fold cost increase from 1997. This money the Council wants to spend on political campaigns in the form of negative ads, mailers, flyers, and telephone banks, would be far better spent on public safety, education, sanitation, and other vital services.
Under the guise of "good government," the City Council wants to further open citizens' pockets to benefit politicians. But the taxpayers should not be fooled: this legislation does not constitute "good government." Instead, it is good for the people who run, or wish to run, the government. In the end, it amounts to a raw money grab, and the taxpayers deserve better from their elected representatives.
If four-to-one is better than one-to-one, then why not set the matching rate at ten-to-one or fifty-to-one? Under the rationale behind this piece of legislation, the more money the public lavishes on politicians and would-be politicians, the better the public is served. However, the taxpayers of New York know that the public is best served by a balanced, fiscally responsible Campaign Finance Law. The original one-to-one and two-to-one rates appropriately allowed the public to lend candidates a hand-up. Unfortunately, this bill will force the taxpayers to give candidates an excessively large handout.
For the reasons previously stated, I will now veto the bill.