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December 09, 2016
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The rules apply to all candidates

Well, you might say, of course they need this kind of legislation in Albany where influence buying has a long and intractable history. It seems to us, however, that the principles involved remain the same even in local elections. Does not the public have a right to know who is bankrolling local candidates for office at county and municipal government levels, too? And if there are rules, should they not be complied with?

Which brings us to this rule from the NYS Board of Elections (BOE) Campaign Finance website pertaining to local candidates: “Local filers [i.e. candidates filing to run for election] who raise or spend, or expect to raise or spend more than $1,000 in any calendar year are… required to register and file campaign financial disclosure reports with NYSBOE, in addition to filing with the appropriate county or city board of elections.” (Those who raise or spend less than $1,000 still must register with their local boards of elections.)

Because special interests with money to spend on election campaigns can dominate the debate, it seems to us at The River Reporter that the very least the public can expect is to know who is funding local candidates and their campaigns, as existing finance reporting rules require. It also seems that at the very least, candidates, their campaign committees and their contributors ought to obey the state’s campaign finance reporting rules, or face the consequences.

Candidates for election should not be able to pick and chose which rules they want to obey, and when some candidates comply with the rules but others don’t, the playing field is not level. Knowing disregard for the state election board’s filing regulations is reprehensible, but ignorance is also no defense or justification.

Voters long for ethical and transparent government. Whether in Washington, DC, Albany, or in local elections, removing hidden influence of special interest money will help give elections back to the people and restore confidence in the electoral process.