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Money changing hands

Campaign contribution limits are rising, and donors can now give nearly $70,000 to candidates for statewide office in New York. 

The new contribution limits established by the state Board of Elections allow individuals to donate $47,100 to statewide candidates in a general election. The previous maximum was $44,000. 

There are separate ceilings for Democratic and Republican primaries because the limit is calculated using a formula that includes the total number of voters enrolled with the party. For Democrats, the limit increased from $21,100 to $22,600. The limit for GOP primary candidates is $14,300, up from $13,374. 

The elections board also raised contribution limits for party committees — $117,300, up from $109,600 — and candidates for state Legislature. The limits for donors to state Senate campaigns increased from $7,000 to $7,500 for the primary election and $11,000 to $11,800 for the general. 

The limit for state Assembly donations increased from $4,400 to $4,700 for the primary and general elections. 

State law requires automatic contribution limit increases every four years after a gubernatorial election. 

Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, called for changes to the campaign finance structure and the establishment of a public financing system. NYPIRG and other good government groups will participate in a lobby Tuesday to urge state lawmakers to pass campaign finance reform. 

"Without a fair elections system that encourages small donations from regular donors, New York's system will just get more tilted toward the very wealthy people and powerful organizations that can afford to make $70,000 donations," Horner said. 

There is support for altering the limits and instituting public financing of elections. Gov. Andrew Cuomo included campaign finance reform in his 2019-20 state budget plan. He proposed lowering the contribution limits for statewide and state-level offices. 

Under Cuomo's plan, a $25,000 limit would be in place for statewide candidates ($10,000 for the primary and $15,000 for the general election). State Senate candidates would be subject to a $10,000 cap, $5,000 for the primary and $5,000 for the general. There would be a $6,000 maximum for state Assembly candidates, $3,000 each for the primary and general elections. 

Cuomo also proposed providing a six-to-one match for candidates who receive small donations and banning corporate campaign contributions. 

"For far too long, rich corporations and the wealthiest one percent have influenced our elections and drowned out the voices of ordinary New Yorkers," Cuomo said. "Now is the time to implement real campaign finance reform in New York." 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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