Bundling up for the Campaign Season

by Jessica Glazer and Nicholas Wells

You don’t have to be rich to win public office in New York City, but it doesn’t hurt to have rich friends. New York City’s strict public financing system limits donations to $4,950 for an individual, but critics claim that some donors take advantage of a loophole called campaign bundling.
The public finance system is one of the most progressive in the country, and matches the first $175 of eligible donations six to one with public funds. That means that for a candidate who opts to participate in the system, the finance board will turn a $175 donation into $1,225.
In addition to donating themselves, politically connected individuals, lobbyists and developers can solicit and collect donations from friends, family and co-workers and bundle it together for a candidate. Campaigns must report such intermediary bundlers to the Campaign Finance Board, but some critics say that doesn’t limit their influence after the election.
“These same bundlers are lobbyists,” said Bruce Berg, a political science professor at Fordham University. “Once you win the election, they are going to come back and obviously expect something.”
Roughly a quarter of the total monies raised in the 2013 mayoral race, or $6 million, has been brought in by nearly 500 of these bundlers, or intermediaries, according to the Campaign Finance Board.