Mayoral Candidates Draw Heavily on Public Funds

With days to go before early voting for the mayoral primary, and six-figure ad spends dominating the airwaves, the candidates continue to be flush with taxpayer dollars.

That, after the NYC Campaign Finance Board (CFB) doled out close to $20 million in public matching fund payments late last month. This brings the total of taxpayer money disbursed to city primary candidates to nearly $96 million.

“The historic amount of matching funds issued to candidates in the 2021 elections is the direct result of New Yorkers making contributions to candidates, suggesting widespread interest and excitement for the candidates seeking their votes,” said Amy Loprest, executive director of the CFB.

The CFB is an independent, nonpartisan agency charged with distributing $8 of taxpayer money for every $1 of private campaign money raised. This 8-1 ratio of public financing for elections, on paper, is meant to limit the influence of deep-pocketed donors.

In the mayoral race, the rule allows the match for the first $250 of every private donation from a New York City resident. That dollar threshold is lower for down-ballot races.

The mayoral campaigns are keen to capitalise on the ratio in their fundraising efforts. The donation portal at Andrew Yang’s has the matching ratio in bold, as does Stringer’s. Maya Wiley’s donation portal mentions the ratio in the first sentence.

Of the eight frontrunners in the mayoral race, six candidates have public funds providing a majority of their contributions. Only Ray McGuire, who raised $11.7 million in private donations, declined public support.

Scott Stringer, Eric Adams, and Andrew Yang garnered the most public funds, including $6.14 million, $6.13 million, and $5.98 million for each candidate respectively. 

Stringer and Adams, the leading public fundraisers, both have around 8,000 contributors, with an average contribution of $285 and $458 respectively. For Yang, his 20,000 contributors are averaging $175 a donation.

Tellingly, Morales’ donation portal doesn’t mention the public matching ratio at all, as her campaign lags behind at an average of $78 per contributor.

The CFB’s rules require any money remaining from the campaign to be returned to the city, so the campaigns are in spend-it or lose-it mode.

The Stringer campaign launched a $689,678 TV ad buy in mid-May. The Yang campaign made four six-figure purchases in May, including a $737,560 TV ad buy. Kathryn Garcia’s May expenditures included video production services worth $335,377.50. 

Friday, June 11, is the last day the campaigns for city office can file for the 8-1 matching funds in the primary season. After a 4 business day review of the submissions, the candidates will receive the last round of municipal support for the cycle. 

This coincides with the start of early voting, which begins Saturday, June 12 and runs through Sunday, June 20. The primary is the following Tuesday, June 20.

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