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Closed Door Deal Allows Mayoral Candidate To Raise Funds Above City Limits

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TWC News: Closed Door Deal Allows Mayoral Candidate To Raise Funds Above City Limits
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Republican Mayoral candidate George McDonald is claiming victory after striking a deal on his challenge to the city's campaign finance system, which allows McDonald to raise money under the higher state contribution limits, but limits his ability to spend that money. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Before the judge could rule on a preliminary injunction sought by Republican mayoral candidate George McDonald, the city's corporation counsel and the McDonald campaign met behind closed doors and struck a deal.

In essence, the deal allows the candidate to keep raising money at the higher state contribution limit.

"It gives me the ability to go out to my donors without the cloud that there is something wrong with the process that we're doing," McDonald said. "The judge recognized that and is allowing me to go forward under the state law."

The city's campaign finance law allows candidates for citywide office to raise $4,950 from individuals. The state's limits are $19,500 for the primary and $41,100 for the general election.

But the city law applies to those accepting public matching funds. Lawyers for McDonald argue that if he doesn't want any public money, he should be subject to superseding state law.

"The damage that could be done here is not simply limited to one campaign," city corporation counsel Jonathan Pines said. "The damage that can be done here is, number one, it would risk throwing the campaign finance system act's proper construction into great confusion."

Under the agreement, McDonald can raise money within state limits, but until the judge rules, he can only spend within the city's limits. The balance of funds raised would go into an inactive escrow account.

"It's a position that allows the campaign to raise the money," McDonald's attorney Laurence Laufer said. "We respect the judge's need for time to consider all the arguments and issue a ruling on the preliminary injunction."

The New York City law department says the agreement preserves the status quo.

The judge said she would like to rule on this case within the next few weeks, preferably before March 15, which is the next filing deadline.

Depending on which way the ruling goes, it could have a significant impact on the race, as other candidates may decide to opt out of public financing.

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