Under the New York City Campaign Finance Act, candidates may receive public funds if they establish that they have received threshold contributions as provided in Administrative Code §3-703(2); and in addition, matchable contributions as provided in Administrative Code §3-705(2).
The following questions have arisen:
1) How much information must be disclosed about a contribution so that it may qualify as a threshold or matchable contribution?
2) If goods or services of negligible value are provided to the contributor in connection with the contribution, must the value of these goods and services be deducted from the amount of the contribution claimed as a threshold or matchable contribution?
Under Administrative Code §3-703(6), an authorized committee designated by a participating candidate must report, "to the best of its knowledge," to the campaign finance Board, for every contribution "the full name, residential address, occupation, employer and business address" of each contributor and intermediary. (Emphasis added.) The definitions of threshold and matchable contributions include only contributions:
made by a natural person resident in the city of New York... which have been reported in full to the campaign finance Board in accordance with subdivision six of section 3-703...
Administrative Code §3-702(2),(3). (Emphasis added.) The question is whether a contribution is "reported in full" if less than all the information specified in §3-703(6) is reported to the Board.
A contribution is "reported in full" as a threshold or matchable contribution when the full name and residential address of the contributor indicate to the Board that the contributor is a natural person resident in the city of New York. The information about the contributor's occupation, employer, and business address, and the intermediary for the contribution is not necessary to establish that the contribution qualifies for the threshold or for matching public funds. However, these additional categories of information must be reported to the Board for each contribution to the best of the candidate's or authorized committee's knowledge. The "best of knowledge" standard requires a good faith effort on the part of the candidate and the candidate's agents to obtain this additional information about each contribution accepted for an election for which the candidate is participating in the New York City Campaign Finance Program, even if the contribution was accepted before the New York City Campaign Finance Act became law on February 29, 19881. Candidates who fail to make a good faith effort to obtain this information are not eligible for public financing. Administrative Code §3-703(1) (d),(6) .
Goods and Services of Negligible Value
In determining the amount of a threshold or matchable contribution, the "reasonable value of any goods or services provided the contributor in connection with the contribution" is deducted from the gross amount of the contribution. Administrative Code §3-702(2),(3). Items of negligible value, such as a button, bumper sticker, snacks, and soft drinks made available to contributors attending a campaign event, and campaign literature, need not be deducted.
NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD
1 For contributions accepted before February 29, 1988, the Board will consider that a good faith effort has been made if the committee treasurer consults with the candidate and others active in the campaign and makes a sufficient search of campaign records to verify that he or she has made reasonable efforts to obtain the additional information. If the current treasurer and other staff do not have personal knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the receipt of particular contributions, they must attempt to locate and consult with the previous treasurer or other staff previously active in the management of campaign funds to determine whether the additional information required is available.