So, I cannot and should not make a habit of responding to everything the New York Post writes about NYC’s public campaign financing system. I work with the good people who administer the system, and I believe that the program achieves its policy goals: any serious candidate in NYC needs to make small, local donors central to his or her fundraising plan. (Unless the candidate has his or her own money to spend.)
New York City candidates don’t throw $25,000/head dinners. City laws don’t force candidates to learn to ask for donations larger than NYC’s median annual household income to be competitive.
That said… Monday’s Post has a pat-on-the-back for George McDonald, who is suing to overturn the law that limits the size of contributions to a non-publicly-financed candidate. McDonald lacks Bloomberg’s wealth, the paper writes, so he wants to rely on wealthy friends to finance his campaign.
Alas, the reasonable, common-sense limits of the city’s system stand in his way. It’s a shame. But McDonald makes a good argument, the Post writes, because the “professional politicians” who oppose him “excel at turning favors into campaign contributions.”
Underneath the populist, visceral distaste for incumbents that is essential to the tabloid voice, there is a truth that bears repeating: promises and favors may sometimes be traded for campaign contributions. If this is true, don’t larger contributions require larger favors? Don’t super-sized contributions require super-sized favors? The limits exist precisely to eliminate this sort of favor-trading, or the perception thereof.
There are other arguments to be made about contribution limits and whether they are effective. But I believe that a wide majority of the voting public views any transaction involving large political contributions in the tens of thousands of dollars with deep cynicism, whether the target is a “professional politician” or a neophyte candidate with wealthy supporters. Thankfully, NYC’s system doesn’t have that problem.