City officials reviewing publicly financed campaigns

May 28, 2014

Buffalo's Common Council is drawing some praise for looking into public financing of political campaigns.

Common Cause New York has made campaign financing a key issue in Albany.

Public campaign financing has been an issue for years. Some municipalities do it and there is a program for presidential elections.

New York City has a system, although when Michael Bloomberg was running for mayor and for his two successful re-election campaigns, he spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money. In the third race, he won somewhat narrowly against a candidate who only used public money.

The Council is setting up a committee to look at the issues and possibly make some recommendations.

"It's only putting together committees so that we can explore it and see if it's possible or not. It doesn't mean that this is going to happen," said Councilmember Joseph Golombek, who is pushing the effort.

"I want to commend my colleagues for this because if it hurts anybody, it hurts us, the incumbents that are sitting on the Council because It would grant the opportunity for opponents to run against us and actually be able to raise money."

Common Cause/New York is pushing public financing hard, especially in the current struggle in Albany over financing of state elections. Governor Cuomo has been using that issue against State Senate Republicans.

Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner says a public financing system would allow a greater role for small-amount donors and potentially allow a wider array of candidates to run.

Lerner says it's not clear to her why there is so much public opposition.

"People who aren't really familiar with how the system works think that basically, this is too favorable to politicians when, in actuality, what this is designed to do is get more private money involved in politics and to bring more small donors into elections, supporting a broader range of candidates," Lerner told WBFO.

There are local campaign finance systems around the country and there is the presidential system, which most candidates in recent years have avoided.