Tag Archives: davis v. federal election commission

High Court’s Recent Decision on Public Matching Funds Renders New York City’s Campaign Finance System Ripe for Constitutional Attack

By Larry Levy & Andrew Rafalaf*

            In a 5-4 decision last week, the Supreme Court found unconstitutional, once again, campaign finance laws that award public matching funds to candidates based upon the spending of personally financed opponents.  Under the challenged law in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett,[1]  (“Arizona”), candidates opting to participate in Arizona’s public financing program received significantly increased public funding when an opponent, or any independent expenditure group supporting that opponent or attacking the candidate, reached a set spending threshold.  The Court determined that the statute violated the First Amendment because this “trigger” mechanism threatened to, without sufficient justification, limit the spending of opponents or independent groups seeking to avoid triggering the additional matching funds.[2] Continue reading

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Filed under Constitutional Law, Election Law, Civil Procedure

New York City’s Campaign Finance Law is Unconstitutional

Daniel Katz, Staff Writer

The New York City campaign finance system was created in 1988 amid widespread scandal in New York City, and has been amended numerous times.1 That same year, the New York State Commission on Government Integrity issued a report outlining reforms that would improve the integrity of the New York City system.2 The report called for many changes, such as banning corporate contributions, treating loans as contributions, and enacting special rules for those doing business with the city,3 that have since been incorporated into the New York City campaign finance system. Because the New York City campaign finance system has been the subject of numerous reports, debates, and hearings over the 20 years that it has been in existence, it is viewed by many as a model for campaign finance reform.4

The New York City campaign finance system contains provisions that would be unconstitutional if mandatory, but which are acceptable because the candidates volunteer to participate, in essence subjecting themselves to the limits.  In the declaration of legislative intent and findings, the City Council stated that the goals and purposes of the Act are “to improve popular understanding of local issues, to increase participation in local elections by voters and candidates, to reduce improper influence on local officers by large campaign contributors and to enhance public confidence in local government.”5

Prior to the 2007 amendments, the City’s public campaign financing system was an entirely voluntary system.  In order to be eligible for public matching funds, candidates voluntarily accepted expenditure limits, contribution limits lower than state limits, more extensive disclosure requirements than state requirements, as well as a ban on corporate contributions, which are allowed under state law. Continue reading

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Filed under Constitutional Law, Election Law, Municipal Law