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Abstract

In this address, former Mayor of New York Ed Koch discussed the successful efforts of his administration to create New York’s Campaign Finance Reform Act, a voluntary program imposing lower spending limits and detailed public disclosure requirements on candidates for the five New York City offices who chose to seek public financing. Speaking from the unique position as the first candidate to ever be fined under the Act, Mr. Koch illustrated the importance of the nonpartisan board created under the Act. He then recounted briefly the history of the program and discussed some of the specifics of the original Campaign Finance Reform Act and subsequent amendments. Mr. Koch then turned to the issue of soft money and federal reform, discussing the House’s Shays-Meehan bill and the Senate’s McCain-Feingold bill and articulating a belief that current regulations of soft money contribution limits could work, if amended to provide adjustments for inflation. Next, Mr. Koch advocated for public financing in elections and equal limits on corporate and labor union contributions. Finally, Mr. Koch listed specific reforms generally, and to New York City’s program specifically that he believed were necessary even if by amendment, such as eliminating the use of private wealth, application of contribution limits and disclosure requirements to all candidates (instead of just those seeking public financing) and restrictions on the campaign season’s time period. This transcript was taken at From the Ground Up: Local Lessons for National Reform, a national conference on campaign finance reform held on November 9, 1998, sponsored by the New York City Campaign Finance Board and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

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