By Carolann Lowe

On Thursday, members of the New York Campaign Finance Board (CFB) held a session titled “Promises and Reality” at New York Law School, informing the audience about rules and regulations regarding campaigns.

The New York City Campaign Finance Board aims to encourages citizens to be involved in city elections and run for office, despite their financial status. The idea is to assure, as best they can, that there be no corruption in city campaigns. The tool is the city’s matching funds program.

 

Left to right, Jerry Goldfeder, Special Counsel for Stroock & Stroock; Bethany Perskie, Deputy General Counsel, CFB; Chisun Lee, Brennan Center for Justice; Amy Loprest, Executive Director, CFB; Frederick Schaeffer, CFB Chair. Credit: Carolann Lowe

The program provides public funds to City Council candidates, using an $8 to $1 matching rate for the first $175 contributed by a city resident. This means that a ten dollar contribution by a city resident is worth ninety dollars to a qualifying candidate.
The CFB discussed the many rules and regulations related to penalties and required disclosure statements that must be enforced if a City Council candidate misuses the funds provided to run a campaign. Campaigns are required to document the fair market value of goods and services they’ve purchased. If a candidate misuses funds, the candidate can be forced to appear at a hearing before the board and prove expenditure limits were not exceeded.
Special Counsel Jerry Goldfeder, who was also once a City Council candidate, proposed to the CFB that there should be more monitoring in relation to assuring that candidates comply with the law during campaigns – as opposed to after election. He also proposed that candidates frequently communicate with their liaisons to avoid penalization for minor financial mistakes. As someone who previously ran for City Council, Goldfeder said he empathized with candidates who find CFB regulations to be rather difficult.
However, he sad that the establishing of disclosure report deadlines “helps to avoid favoritism of a particular candidate by the CFB and takes out subjective components.” He added, “They make it very difficult because all these regulations. I’m going to have to spend a lot of money to make sure everything is done which in of itself is a real problem. I tell my clients, ‘You have a liaison, speak to your liaison as much as you can.’ The default is that they will be penalized, not because of fraud but due to their mistakes and because of deadlines.”