“Fake Donations Helped a Candidate Get $162,000 From Taxpayers”

The N.Y. Times with the report on matching funds in a state Assembly race that’s something of an outlier:

The report also contrasts the state system with the city’s system:

For years, government watchdogs had urged state leaders to adopt a matching-funds system similar to New York City’s long-established version, contending it would amplify small donors’ voices and reduce the influence of big-money interests. Lawmakers, especially long-tenured ones who tend to benefit from institutional donors, were hesitant to make a change.

But in 2020, the Legislature approved a weaker form of the city’s system, settling for one with incumbent-friendly features, far less oversight and fewer safeguards.

The state system is much more generous than the city’s, which matches small-dollar donations at an eight-to-one rate. State candidates in competitive races can get up to $12 in public money for each dollar donated by residents of their district who give from $5 to $50, and smaller matches for sums above that, up to $250.

Yet unlike the city’s program, the state has no spending limits or mandatory audits for all candidates, and does not publish the identity of bundlers, the influential fund-raisers who bring in money from others.

The state also has far more to oversee and fewer resources to do it: Officials must monitor candidates running for more than three times the number of offices — 217 versus 59 — than their city counterparts, despite having fewer than half of the employees and less than a quarter of the budget. State races are also more frequent: Legislative candidates run every two years, compared with every four for City Council.

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