The mayor's announcement that he will participate in a primary debate coincided with news that he would receive millions in taxpayer funds for his re-election bid. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
The mayor’s re-election campaign has already raised close to $5 million. Now, it's adding $2.6 million in public money thanks to the city's matching funds program, which matches small-dollar donations six to one with public dollars to encourage grassroots fundraising.
On Friday, de Blasio defended the system.
"The whole idea of participating in a matching-fund program is to encourage candidates to seek out everyday New Yorkers for smaller donations. That’s been the focal point of our campaign," de Blasio said.
In seeking the full match, de Blasio had to file a statement of need with the city’s Campaign Finance Board, making the case that his primary opponents amount to more than "minimal opposition."
The mayor’s match was more than one-third of the total amount awarded to all candidates citywide, striking some as excessive. But the mayor says he doesn’t take any election for granted, and is simply playing by the rules.
"We’ve really focused on low-dollar donations from everyday people," de Blasio said. "If you start saying, 'Well, now you’re not going to have matching funds available,' it goes back to the, I think, the bad old days of encouraging people to go seek donations from wealthy people and big chunks of money at one time."
De Blasio could, in fact, have opted out of the system. Fourteen incumbent City Council members have done just that. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, of course, circumvented the system by spending his own money, a whopping $108 million in 2009.
Critics of the program say taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize political campaigns. And it’s been abused by some over the years, including former Council members Larry Seabrook and Ruben Wills. But de Blasio calls it a national model, even if some see his situation as reason to revise the rules.
"After the elections, and as required by law, the Board will consider whether to propose to the City Council amendments to the law with respect to this provision," Frederick Schaffer of the NYC Campaign Finance Board said Thursday.
De Blasio on Friday said it's perfectly fair to consider changes after each election.