Former Republican Rep. Brian Kolb was among lawmakers who voted against creating a system of publicly funded campaigns.
Now he’s one of the officers, along with former Democratic MP Barbara Lifton, overseeing the new system coming online.
“I’m not a skeptic of the program itself because now I’m trying to be a part of making it work, which is fine,” Kolb said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s just the fact that I’m intuitively all about protecting taxpayers’ money.”
Kolb would have preferred the money to come from sources such as revenue from the state’s cannabis program. Instead, the public matching funds are drawn from unclaimed funds overseen by the Office of the State Comptroller.
Either way, Kolb said he wants to make sure the money is being spent properly. This includes hiring staff to oversee the new system that will be in place for the new election cycle.
New York State’s public matching system will be among the largest in the country, but Kolb wants to use other systems as potential models. And curbing fraud will be the overarching goal.
“The good news is whether it’s New York City or other communities or states to learn from them,” he said. “If we have a program, we’ll do it right, but make sure not a dollar is wasted or misspent by the very people using the public campaign finance system.”
Supporters of New York’s new system of publicly funded campaigns hope it will finally eliminate the influence of big money in politics.
For years, good government organizations have berated New York’s campaign finance laws for being too lax. Limits on campaign donations are too high, as is the influence of major donors themselves. Brennan Center’s Chisun Lee hopes that will change soon.
“It’s the nation’s strongest response to a problem we’ve seen exploding this election cycle both here and across the country,” Lee said. “The problem is how undemocratic the financial side of our democracy has become.”
The new system will lower contribution limits to just a few hundred dollars. Donations to an election candidate in the district are matched with public funds. Lee hopes the system will counteract the rise of deep-pocketed donors who have begun funding super PACs with millions of dollars.
“We’ve seen that public funding from small donors brings in new donors who haven’t participated on that side of the policy process,” Lee said.