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Ensuring a level playing field for candidates competing for office and limiting the role that money plays in elections and politics are two cornerstones of a healthy democracy. Citizens Union has long championed comprehensive campaign finance reform as a tool to achieve a fairer, cleaner, and more equal political system.  

We believe in publicly financed electoral campaigns that allow people from diverse backgrounds to easily run for office and ensure candidates are accountable to their voters, not wealthy donors. That is why Citizens Union lobbied vigorously for the New York City Campaign Finance Act of 1988, which established contribution limits, public matching funds, and bans on corporate contributions, and has fought to improve and strengthen that system ever since. For decades, CU has pushed Albany lawmakers to adopt a similar model for state elected offices. This work has culminated in a statewide public campaign finance program, which began running in 2022. New York is now running the largest campaign matching funds program in the United States. 

Legislative Agenda – Campaign Finance

In 2023, Citizens Union will focus on improving, supporting, and strengthening the new state public campaign finance system, which candidates can use for the first time. We also work to protect New York from the rise in independent expenditures (super-PAC spending), and maintain New York City’s robust campaign finance system.

Citizens Union supports the following reforms to campaign finance. To see Citizens Union’s full 2023 policy agenda click here

Reduce the reliance on big-money donors in New York elections 

  • Strengthen rules defining coordination between Independent Expenditure entity and candidate, and consider incentives for candidates facing negative IE spending – CU priority
  • Strengthen the new state public campaign finance system and encourage participation – CU priority
  • Further lower contribution limits for legislative and statewide offices
  • Limit contributions to party committees and “housekeeping” accounts or use of those accounts for campaigns

Maintain and strengthen New York City’s campaign finance system CU priority

  • Prohibit elected officials from soliciting funds for their “affiliated nonprofits”, limit how prominently the official is featured in the nonprofit’s communications, and expand the definition of “affiliation”
  • Ban bundling by people on Doing Business with the City Database
  • Make explicit regulation defining coordination between Independent Expenditure entity and candidate, including reference to family members and former staff
  • Expand donor disclosure rules for independent expenditures that spend on municipal ballot proposals
  • Ease limits to help matching funds program participants defend from negative, high IE spending
  • Prohibit the use of public funds to purchase campaign consulting services from firms that also are registered city lobbyists
  • Ensure the continued independence and capacity of the NYC Campaign Finance Board

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