NYC Charter Revision Commission Preliminary Report: Campaign Finance Amendments Loom?

July 23, 2010

On July 9, 2010 the Charter Revision Commission released a preliminary staff report, which reflects the Commission’s work to-date and staff recommendations on a number of topics such as term limits, voter participation, public integrity and non-partisan elections.  The staff also recommends significant changes to the NYC Campaign Finance Board. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, the staff recommends amending the Charter to require the disclosure of independent expenditures “to provide the citizens of New York City with the information they need to properly assess the content of political communications intended to influence their behavior at the polls, and to maintain the City’s status as a national leader in campaign finance law.”    The proposed amendment would make three major changes the Charter, including:
  • Requiring any individual or entity making independent expenditures in excess of $1,000 to disclose such activities to the CFB.
  • Empowering the CFB to require any entity making independent expenditures in excess of $5,000 to disclose the sources of the funds used to make such expenditures.
  • Requiring disclosure of the name of the individual or entity that funds certain literature or advertisements through independent expenditures.
The amendment would also make a knowing violation of the disclosure requirements punishable both as a misdemeanor and through a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation.  These changes, if adopted, would continue an ever-expanding evolution in the scope of public disclosure requirements: first from participating candidates in the public financing program (1988), then from non-participating candidates (2004), and now, possibly, from non-candidate entities, which seek neither public funding nor the attainment of public office. There are other staff recommendations of note.  For example, while the staff recommends further discussion on replacing the current three-term maximum provision with a two-term provision, the staff specifically recommends amending the charter so as to permit the City Council to enact only prospective changes to the term-limits provision where the amendment would extend the term of any incumbent.   Additionally, the staff recommends amending the Charter to reduce the number of signatures required on ballot petitions to ease candidate burdens. Many of these changes, if adopted, would certainly alter New York City’s political landscape. Whether or not the Commission adopts the recommendations of its staff, however, remains to be seen.

Tag: New York City