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Chapter 49, §1136.1: Prohibitions on the use of government funds and resources

1. Definitions. As used in this section:

(a) "Appear" means to communicate by live and/or recorded, visual and/or audio images of the candidate, or to use the name of the candidate, or both, or in a manner which makes the identity of the candidate otherwise apparent by unambiguous reference.

(b) "Candidate" means an individual who seeks nomination for election, or election, to any elective office to be voted for at a primary, general or special election whether or not the office has been specifically identified at such time and whether or not such individual is nominated or elected; an individual shall be deemed to seek nomination for election, or election, to an elective office, if he or she has (1) taken the action necessary to qualify himself or herself for nomination for election, or election, or (2) received contributions or made expenditures, given his or her consent for any other person to receive contributions or make expenditures, with a view to bringing about his or her nomination for election, or election, to any elective office at any time whether in the year in which such contributions or expenditures are made or at any other time.

(c) "Electioneering message" means a statement designed to urge the public to elect or defeat a certain candidate for elective office, or support or oppose a particular political party, or support or oppose a particular referendum question.

(d) "Elective office" means any elective office, including federal, state, and local offices.

(e) "Mass mailing" means identical or nearly identical pieces of literature or other mass communication totaling more than one hundred items, including but not limited to newsletters, pamphlets and informational materials, which are mailed to residents or voters, or any group or classification thereof, other than in response to specific inquiries or requests made by members of the public.

(f) "Participate" means to authorize, request, suggest, foster, cooperate, and encompasses actions and omissions of both the candidate for elective office and any agent acting on behalf of the candidate, including a political committee authorized by the candidate.

(g) "Public servant" means all officials, officers and employees of the city, including members of community boards and members of advisory committees, except unpaid members of advisory committees shall not be public servants.

2. (a) No public servant who is a candidate for nomination or election to any elective office or the spouse of such public servant shall appear or otherwise participate in any advertisement or commercial on television, radio, in print or by electronic means on the Internet, which is funded, in whole or part, by governmental funds or resources from January first in the year an election for such elective office shall be held through the day of the last election that year for that office, in which the candidate seeks nomination or election.

(b) No public servant who is a candidate for nomination or election to any elective office or the spouse of such public servant shall use, cause another person to use, or participate in the use of governmental funds or resources for a mass mailing that is postmarked, if mailed, or delivered, if by other means, less than ninety days prior to any primary or general election for any elective office for which office such person is a candidate for nomination or election; provided, however, that a candidate may send one mass mailing, which shall be postmarked, if mailed, or delivered, if by other means, no later than twenty-one days after the adoption of the executive budget pursuant to section two hundred fifty-four. No such mass mailing shall be intentionally sent to individuals outside the particular council district, borough, or other geographic area represented by such candidate.

(c) No public servant shall use governmental funds or resources for a public communication that contains an electioneering message, including but not limited to information placed by electronic means on the Internet.

(d) In the case of a candidate in a special election to fill a vacancy in an elective office, the prohibitions set forth in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subdivision shall apply from the day the special election is declared through the day of the special election.

3. (a) Nothing in this section shall prohibit appearances or participation by public servants in or the use of governmental funds or resources for:

(i) advertisements and other communications required by law;

(ii) communications necessary to safeguard public health and safety;

(iii) standard communications in response to inquiries or requests;

(iv) ordinary communications between public servants and members of the public;

(v) ordinary communications between elected officials and their constituents;

(vi) bona fide news coverage in print and electronic media; or

(vii) debates among opposing candidates or other public education forums.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the public funding of candidates pursuant to any voluntary system of campaign finance reform established by local law or the lawful use of such public funds by such candidates.

(c) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to permit any interest or conduct prohibited by chapter sixty-eight of this charter or by any rule, regulation, opinion, or determination of the conflicts of interest board issued pursuant thereto or to restrict in any way the powers and obligations of the conflicts of interest board.

4. The intentional or knowing violation of this section shall be punishable as a misdemeanor in addition to any other penalty as may be provided under law. Additionally, the campaign finance board shall have the power to investigate and determine whether any use of governmental funds or resources pursuant to paragraph (b) of subdivision two of this section is a violation of such paragraph and, if such violation is found, whether such use of government resources also violates or constitutes a contribution and/or expenditure under chapter seven of title three of the administrative code of the city of New York or any rule promulgated thereunder. The campaign finance board may assess civil penalties, upon giving written notice and the opportunity to appear before the board, against candidates for offices covered by the system of campaign finance reform, in an amount not in excess of ten thousand dollars for each such violation.