While New York City has perhaps the most stringent campaign finance laws in the country, there are fears that super PACs and other outside groups could exploit a major loophole in the system. In fact, as of this week, those fears are already being realized. NY1's Bobby Cuza the fourth and final report in his "Smart Money" series.
For mayoral candidates, there are strict limits both on the size of contributions and on campaign spending. But thanks to the Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United, there can be no limits on spending by outside groups, so long as it's not coordinated with any candidate. That, some say, could blow the lid off the system.
"We could see the floodgates of money that we saw during the presidential election come here into New York," said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union.
The floodgates may have opened just this week, with an attack ad targeting Christine Quinn. The coalition behind the ad said they're not for any one candidate, just against Quinn.
The coalition said it has $1 million in pledges. By comparison, mayoral candidates can spend just $6.4 million on their entire primary campaign.
Quinn called on her rivals to condemn all such outside spending.
"If we allow them to exist, to occur, without vocal pushback and opposition, then we are allowing the best public finance system in the country to be eroded," Quinn said.
Her opponents mostly declined.
"I hope one day, we can create some bigger reform and get away from all sources of independent advertising, but it is legal," said mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio.
While the spending may be legal, New York City voters approved a ballot measure in 2010 that requires disclosure of outside spending.
That means groups making large ad buys must report details on their donors and expenditures to the New York City Campaign Finance Board.
"Going into this election, voters will have a more complete look at money that’s being spent outside the system," said Eric Friedman of the New York City Campaign Finance Board.
Independent spending from two recent City Council special elections is already posted online, with details on expenditures and even the ads themselves. The group behind the Quinn ad will have to submit that information by mid-May.