November 29, 2022

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Republican former state Assemblyman Brian Kolb was among the lawmakers who voted against creating a system of publicly financed campaigns. 
Now, he’s one of the officials, along with Democratic former Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, overseeing the new system coming online. 
"I’m not a skeptic of the program itself because now I’m trying to become part of making it work, which is fine," Kolb said in an interview on Tuesday. "It’s just the fact that intuitively, I’m all about protecting taxpayer money."
Kolb would have preferred the money coming from sources like revenue from the state’s cannabis program. Instead, the public matching funds will be drawn from unclaimed funds overseen by the state comptroller’s office.
Either way, Kolb said he wants to ensure the money will be spent properly. That will involve hiring staff to oversee the new system, which will be in place for the new election cycle. 
New York state’s public matching system will be among the largest in the country, but Kolb wants to use other systems as potential models. And curtailing fraud will be the overarching goal.  
"The good news is whether it’s New York City or other municipalities or states is to learn from them," he said. "If we’re going to have a program, let’s do it right, but make sure not a dollar is wasted or misspent by the very people who are using the public campaign financing system."
Supporters of New York’s new system of publicly financed campaigns hope it will finally remove the influence of big money in politics. 
For years, good-government organizations have railed New York’s campaign finance laws were too lax. Limits on campaign contributions too high as was the influence of the big donors themselves. The Brennan Center’s Chisun Lee hopes that will soon change. 
"It is the nation’s strongest response to a problem we saw explode in this election cycle both here and across the country," Lee said. "That problem is how severely undemocratic the financial side of our democracy has become."
The new system will lower contribution limits to only a few hundred dollars. Donations given to a legislative candidate within the district will be matched with public money. Lee hopes the system will counter the rise of deep-pocketed donors who have started to fund super PACs with millions of dollars. 
"We have seen that small donor match public financing brings in new donors who haven’t participated in this side of the political process," Lee said. 

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