NY’s First Campaign Finance Test Falls Short

ALBANY (AP) -

The test of public campaign financing in the New York comptroller race has proved ineffective, with the incumbent declining to participate and the challenger falling short of the thresholds that would parlay his $200,000 into $1.2 million.

Republican Robert Antonacci, who lost last Tuesday, raised more than $200,000, meeting the minimum required to receive 6-to-1 state funding for his bid to become the state’s chief financial officer. But about $50,000 of that comes from donations greater than $175. Only smaller donations count toward the required total and are matched with public money.

Democratic Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the winner, who had already raised $2.1 million from private donors when the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved the public financing test in April, decided not to participate. Though an advocate of public financing, he would have had to return or sequester his larger donations. He said there wasn’t enough lead time to implement it fairly, and the pilot program was “a poor excuse” to avoid real reforms.

New York City offers candidates the option of public campaign financing. Advocates, including Senate Democrats, have urged the same for all statewide races and the 213 state legislative seats as a way of reducing the influence of rich donors on state government.

Opponents, including Senate Republicans, have opposed spending taxpayer money to fund candidates’ races.

The pilot program money comes from the state abandoned property fund, not direct tax dollars.