Hochul vetoes Democrat-backed bill changing state campaign financing program

New York Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed an election bill on Wednesday that would have significantly changed the state’s newly established system to publicly finance political campaigns by raising the dollar threshold for candidates to qualify in state elections. As it stands, New York’s Public Campaign Finance Program allows statewide or state legislative office candidates to receive public matching funds at rates of up to 12-to-1 based on small donations — anywhere between $5-$250 — from residents in their district. More than 160 candidates have already opted in for the 2024 election cycle. But under the now-rejected measure, which state lawmakers narrowly passed in June, political contributions of any size could have been matched with $250 in public funding, increasing the thresholds for a candidate to participate in the program. “New York’s distinctive public campaign finance laws were written to amplify the voices of low-dollar donors in State elections and diversify the pool of candidates who can run for office,” Hochul said in a veto memo, adding that increasing the number of donations eligible for public matching funds would also add “significant costs” to the state budget that are not accounted for in its financial plan. “Signing this bill would effectively reduce the impact of small donors on elections, in direct contravention of the purpose for which the [Public Campaign Finance Program] was originally adopted,” she said. Sponsored by Brooklyn Democrat lawmakers, Assembly Member Latrice Walker and state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, the bill passed in June in both Democrat-controlled legislative chambers: 80 to 66 in the Assembly and 34 to 29 in the Senate. Hochul’s rejection came as a surprise as she sided with every state Republican lawmaker, including a handful of Democrats, who voted against the measure. New York Republican election attorney Joseph Burns told Fox News Digital that conservative lawmakers have long held the position of opposing public finance programs, asserting they fail to improve democracy and the state’s electoral system. “And they end up just becoming an unnecessary and wasteful taxpayer subsidy of politicians and political campaigns,” Burns said. Burns suggested that the origins behind the bill signaled more of a fight between the progressive and establishment Democrats. “The genesis of this bill to make it more difficult to qualify was that many establishment Democrats realized that progressive candidates and generally underfunded progressive candidates were poised to take advantage of it,” Burns said. “Which, of course, would have threatened the number of establishment Democrats in primaries.” Hochul’s veto received applause from good-government groups and public campaign finance advocates, who argued the bill would have undermined the voice of everyday New Yorkers and countered the influence of wealth in politics. “Because the program’s match is limited to small contributions from constituents, it will push back on the toxic influence of big money in our politics and uplift the voices of everyday voters,” Joanna Zdanys, senior counsel in the Elections and Government Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said in a statement. “It will give candidates a powerful incentive to engage with their own constituents. And it will open pathways for New Yorkers who aren’t wealthy to participate [in] the political process.” Fox News Digital reached out to the governor’s office but did not immediately receive a response.
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