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 voluntary public financing program matches small-dollar contributions from individuals who reside in New York City, helping to amplify the voices of New Yorkers in city elections. A $10 contribution from a NYC resident to a participating candidate in the 2021 election could be worth as much as $90 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 qualifying contributions from NYC residents (only the matchable portion of the contributions counts towards this threshold).
- Certify agreement to and demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the Act and Board Rules.
- Be on the ballot, and have an opponent on the ballot.
- Submit a personal financial disclosure filing with the Conflicts of Interest Board
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.
Candidates who receive an early public funds payment before the ballot is set may be required to return public funds if they:
- Terminate prior to the petitioning period;
- Fail to get on the ballot in the primary and/or general election;
- Fail to gather and submit petitions; or
- Eventually do not face opposition on the ballot.
Limits on Public Funds
There is a cap on the total amount of public funds available to each candidate. The cap ensures candidates use a combination of public and private funds to finance their campaigns. Candidates may only spend public funds 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.