What is the New York City Campaign Finance Board?
In 1988, New York City voters passed a series of campaign finance measures through a city referendum. The referendum created a public financing program for city candidates and established the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB). The CFB consists of five members, each appointed to serve staggered five-year terms. The mayor and the Speaker of the City Council each appoint two members. The mayor’s appointees—and likewise the Speaker’s appointees—may not be members of the same political party. The Chair is selected by the mayor in consultation with the Speaker.
The CFB administers the public financing program, publishes a voter guide and provides public disclosure of campaign finance information. Additionally, the CFB provides free, web-based financial reporting software, C-SMART, for all candidates for city office. The CFB’s commitment to committee training and compliance, as well as the CFB’s role in assessing and recommending necessary legislative updates, makes it a model campaign finance administration and enforcement agency.
Does the CFB provide training and guidance?
Through the Candidate Services Unit (CSU), the CFB offers several varieties of support to candidates and their campaigns. CSU provides a series of in-person trainings and provides one-on-one guidance to campaigns. The CFB also makes its guidance, laws, rules, advisory opinions and enforcement decisions available on its website. Each candidate committee is assigned a liaison to help them throughout the election cycle. The CFB provides C-SMART training for all candidates. The CFB also provides additional compliance resources for candidates participating in the city’s matching funds program. The CFB provides similar resources to groups and individuals making independent expenditures. Upon request, the CFB issues advisory opinions interpreting the law and the CFB’s rules.
How does the CFB enforce the law?
All campaigns—those that received matching funds and those that did not—are subject to a post-election audit. The CFB provides an optional training to help campaigns navigate this process. During the audit process, committees have an opportunity to amend their disclosure statements and provide additional explanations to bring their disclosure reports into compliance.
The CFB also considers outside complaints of potential campaign finance law violations. Anyone may file a complaint with the CFB. The CFB may investigate potential violations and levy penalties for violations of the law.
How has the CFB helped keep New York City’s public funding program viable?
Part of the CFB’s mandate is to analyze its data and make legislative recommendations for how the public financing program should be modified to adapt to the constantly evolving way campaigns are run. Following each election, the CFB is required to produce and submit a report to the mayor and city council reviewing and evaluating the public financing program. The report provides statistical information about the number of candidates who used public financing and the amount of public funds distributed. The report also includes the CFB’s legislative recommendations for updating and maintaining the public financing system.
In order to assess the program, the CFB holds hearings following each election to solicit feedback on the public financing program. The hearings are open to the public. In the 2013 post-election hearing, the CFB heard testimony from a variety of individuals, including candidates who participated in the public financing program, citizen group leaders, New York City residents and campaign finance experts. This feedback helps the CFB identify aspects of the public funding program that are working and what needs to be changed to keep public financing a viable option for city candidates. Based on the CFB’s recommendations, the city council has updated the public financing program.