Republican and Conservative mayoral nominee Nicole Malliotakis achieved a significant campaign milestone today, being awarded $1,518,092 in matching funds by the Campaign Finance Board. Malliotakis reported having just $162,000 on hand as of September 18th, so this funding increases her cash on hand nearly ten fold. It also places her campaign’s current financial condition reasonably close to that of Mayor de Blasio, who has an estimated balance (also calculated with his September 18th reported balance and matching funds awarded today) of $2.4 million.
Intended to “level the playing field” for candidates facing fundraising difficulties, the City’s program provides a 6-1 match for contributions of up to $175 from City residents. It also restricts the amount that candidates who opt to participate in the program may raise and spend, while setting thresholds of the number and total amount of contributions that candidates must meet to be eligible to receive matching funds. Malliotakis just met those thresholds in her September 18th filing, so this is the first time she’s received any matching funds.
There’s some irony in the great boost Malliotakis’ campaign received from the award of matching funds, however. Malliotakis has voiced opposition to the City’s program, calling it an irresponsible use of taxpayer money, and voted against a bill that would have established a state matching program with a similar 6-1 match. Malliotakis termed that proposal “a completely disgraceful use of taxpayer money.”
At a press conference this morning I asked Malliotakis about the inconsistency between her stated principle opposing the program and her decision to seek and accept payments. Her answer boiled down to necessity, saying that she saw little practical choice as Mayor de Blasio participates in the program and has received $3 million in matching funds to date for his 2017 campaign.
I also posed the question to Mike Long, chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, and Ed Cox, chairman of the New York State Republican Party. Both parties have chosen Malliotakis as their mayoral nominee and both parties, as well as their respective chairmen, are against the City matching funds program. They also responded with the notion that candidates have to deal with the legal environment that exists, not what they prefer, and that practical necessity dictates that a candidate utilize the program as it will boost their opponent regardless of their own preference. (I spoke with Long and Cox outside a Malliotakis fundraiser last night in Midtown.)
It’s a conundrum that other candidates have faced on different campaign finance issues, and most have chosen a similar course. For example, Andrew Cuomo has received millions of dollars in contributions through the so-called “LLC loophole” while saying that such provision should be eliminated. Other candidates have decried New York State’s high contribution maximums while accepting contributions up to those maximums. The few candidates who have voluntarily restricted their contribution amounts appear to have not benefitted, discouraging others from unilaterally imposing restrictions on themselves.