Paterson's Multilateral Campaign Finance Plan

Two highlights of the plan David Paterson announced yesterday to reform the state’s campaign finance law were the dramatically lowered contribution limits (from $55,800 to $10,000 for statewide candidates), and the provision to “level the playing field” should anyone face a self-financed millionaire (or billionaire) candidate.

I asked a spokesman for Paterson if the governor would abide by the lowered contribution limits now, or only after the proposed bill becomes law.

“We believe in a level playing field,” Paterson spokesman Errol Cockfield told me via email.

In other words, he’ll do it if and when the limits are passed by both houses of the legislature.

For context: Eliot Spitzer never got his own campaign finance proposal, but he said he would “unilaterally disarm” and abide by self-imposed limits immediately. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has said he’s abiding by a campaign finance agreement the legislature reached at one point, but never formalized, with Spitzer. Those limits call for statewide contribution limits of $25,000.

And what about that millionaires clause in Paterson’s bill?

Cockfield explained:

“Once a self-financed candidate spends personal funds in an amount equal to 20 x the contribution limit for a particular office (e.g. Governor’s race: 20 x $5,000), then the non-self-financed candidate gets to accept contribution limits twice as large until he or she reaches the amount that the self-financed candidate spent of his or her personal funds.”

Paterson's Multilateral Campaign Finance Plan