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1991-6: Characterization of Public Matching Funds Paid on the Basis of the 6th Periodic Disclosure Statement

Friday, August 09, 1991

The New York City Campaign Finance Act requires candidates participating in the Campaign Finance Program to submit disclosure statements periodically reporting contributions to and expenditures by their campaigns. In these disclosure statements participants may report matchable contributions and claim public matching funds. The sixth periodic disclosure statement for the 1991 elections, due to be filed on September 23, 1991 and covering the September 5 through September 18 reporting period, was the first statement filed by candidates after the September 12, 1991 primary election. This advisory opinion explains how public matching funds paid on the basis of information reported as of the timely filing of this disclosure statement will be characterized as either payments for the preceding September 12 primary election or the subsequent November 5, 1991 general election.

The Campaign Finance Act defines a "matchable contribution," in relevant part, as:

a contribution...not greater than one thousand dollars for all covered elections held in the same calendar year...made by a natural person resident in the city of New York to a participating candidate which has been reported in full...and has been contributed on or before December thirty-first in the year of such election that may be matched by public funds in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

Administrative Code §3-702(3). The definition does not require candidates to identify that a contribution was received specifically for the primary or general election. Rather, up to $1,000 of any matchable contribution raised for the 1991 primary and/or general election is matchable for either election as long as it was contributed by December 31, 1991.

Similarly, the fact that a contribution was received before or after the date of the primary election does not conclusively determine its matchability in the primary or general election. It may be matchable in either election.

The amount of public funds paid to a City Council candidate for an election may not exceed the candidate's qualified campaign expenditures in that election or $40,000, whichever is less. See Administrative Code §3-705(1), (2); 3-710(2) (b). If total campaign receipts exceed total expenditures for the 1991 elections, in which a candidate ran, the candidate is not eligible for additional public matching funds. Administrative Code §3-710(2) (c). Primary election candidates may receive public funds as early as two weeks after the last day to file designating petitions, whereas candidates who are on the ballot only in the general election may not receive public funds before the day after the primary election. Administrative Code §3-709(5),(6).

Given these legal requirements, the following standards govern whether public fund payments based on information reported through the sixth disclosure statement, timely filed on September 23, 1991, have been initially characterized as primary or general election payments1.

1.An eligible general election candidate, who was not in a primary election, receives a general election payment.

2.An eligible primary election candidate, who is not on the general election ballot, receives a primary election payment.

3.A candidate who is in both the primary and general elections receives a primary election payment, to the extent the candidate is eligible to receive primary election payments. If, however, the total public fund payments to the candidate in the primary election have reached one of the applicable legal caps, as noted above, a general election payment will be made instead, to the extent the candidate is otherwise eligible to receive general election payments.

NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD

1 The ultimate characterization of public funds received and used by a participating candidate will, of course, depend on the election for which they are actually used, as determined by the Board. Thus, for example, public funds the Board initially characterizes as general election payments may be used to extinguish liabilities incurred in the primary election, provided that the total amount used for City Council primary election expenditures does not exceed $40,000. Administrative Code §3-705(1), (2).