Lander likely won’t participate in New York City’s matching funds program

William Alatriste/New York City Council
Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Councilman Brad Lander during Local Progress National at City Hall.

Lander likely won’t participate in New York City’s matching funds program

Lander likely won’t participate in New York City’s matching funds program
July 24, 2016

New York City Councilman Brad Lander said he does not anticipate participating in the city’s matching funds program in the next election, as his campaign committee has already spent so much that should Lander opt into the program, it could give any potential primary challenger a dramatic financial advantage.

Since 2014, Lander’s campaign reported spending nearly $172,000, about three-and-a-half times the $49,000 those participating in the city’s matching funds program are permitted to use during the three-year period leading up to an election year. Any expenditures beyond the $49,000 mark are subtracted from the $182,000 spending cap candidates are given for primaries. So in Lander’s situation, he could be forced to fend off a primary challenge with a $59,000 budget, while a potential opponent opting into the campaign finance program could wield triple as much money: $182,000.

Lander said he remains a proponent of the matching funds program, which encourages candidates to engage - and fundraise from - potential constituents by matching their low-dollar donations with public funds. Those who opt into the program must abide by spending limits and other provisions.

Lander said he doesn’t plan to seek matching funds because he’s already spent beyond the $49,000 allowed during the out-years. Nonetheless, Lander said he would abide by the $182,000 spending cap and rules about how much he can take from firms that do business with the city if he has a challenger in the primary or general election.

“What’s important to me is to abide by the spending limit so that there is a fair election if I have a challenger, and I’m committed to doing that,” Lander said. “In the outyears, for these other purposes, most of which honestly are public purposes, you can’t use Council money for an independent website or food for participatory events. … That is one thing we want to be able to do.”

Lander’s campaign, however, has been spending heavily on fundraising. It has doled out nearly $65,000 on fundraising consulting, events and related services. Another $22,000 went toward campaign finance consulting; and $4,500 for campaign consulting.

Despite his heavy spending and fundraising efforts, Lander said he isn’t seeking anything beyond a third term in his Council seat, such as a run for speaker or another goal, such as a higher office. He said his strategy remains the same: to support candidates he believes would be good, particularly in the Council and state Legislature. Lander said he spends his so-called call time urging others to contribute to fellow progressive candidates via their campaign committees, and would be transferring some of his haul to those he supports, which is a common practice.

Lander said he did not imagine the city’s Progressive Caucus Alliance group approaching the 2017 election cycle any differently than it did in 2013 - or spending money on the speakership race. He has, however, been elected to serve as chairman of the national group Local Progress.

“Part of my political strategy or my political effort is I want us to have a more just, equitable, sustainable city, state and country - and part of doing that is by being part of other efforts, by helping other good candidates get elected, and part of things like Local Progres,” Lander said. “All of those things take money. … That is the strategy that’s always been on the horizon, and we continue to have it and try to do more of it as you grow and evolve in politics.”

Lander was the only non-term-limited City Council member who appeared to abandon his previously consistent campaign requests for matching funds this election cycle. But other Council members have also already spent well beyond the $49,000 cap in place before the election year, including Councilman David Greenfield ($242,121) and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland ($177,805). That could be a clue they are interested in having money in their account to transfer to colleagues after the election, which the speakership race picks up.

Sarina Trangle