Ed Koch: 'Atrocious' to equate campaign matching funds to city's Sandy relief
New York City suffered about $26 billion worth of damages and economic loss as a result of Hurricane Sandy, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said this morning.
Already, Hurricane Sandy is being used as a reason for one prospective citywide candidate to opt out of the city's matching-funds program.
"Adolfo is not taking matching funds [for a potential run] given the city's urgent needs for rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy," Davidson Goldin, a spokesman for potential mayoral candidate Adolfo Carrion, told the Daily News. "Adolfo thinks it's atrocious that candidates for citywide office would siphon taxpayer money away from taxpayer needs."
The program gives six dollars in public funds for every dollar the campaigns raise privately, up to $175. The program caps spending for participating candidates at $6,426,000 in the primary election, and another $6,426,000 in the general election.
I asked Ed Koch, who served as mayor when the city first enacted the matching funds program, about Carrion's argument.
"I think it's atrocious that he should make that comment," Koch said in an interview. "I think Mr. Carrion is dead wrong."
The money spent on the matching funds program is a "very small part of our budget," Koch said. "It will in no way impede the rebuilding of New York."
In 2009, the New York City Campaign Finance Board spent a total of $27.9 million on the program, $15 million of which went to citywide candidates. That number could increase in 2013, with seven mayoral candidates who haven't ruled out accepting matching funds currently considering the race.
Last year, the city's budget was $66 billion.
Opting out of the city's matching funds programs is a gamble for Carrion. He'll have to raise a lot more money himself, while many of his rivals will quickly reach the matching funds limit. By not taking matching funds, he won't be limited to the same spending cap, an advantage that Bloomberg used to great effect. But that will only be an advantage if Carrion can raise significantly more money than his rivals.
Koch has occassionally supported Republicans over the years, and I asked him if he thought Carrion's mayoral bid could help Republicans expand their appeal to Hispanic voters and other minorities. Koch, focusing on the need for checks-and-balances in New York, said, "I think it's always helpful to have a two-party operation," even "when one of those parties is so far behind the opportunity to win that it's near ridiculous to even run."