Matching Funds for Local Media?

Stephen Witt (Photo via Kings County Politics)

In recent weeks, Stephen Witt, founder and publisher of Kings County Politics and Queens County Politics, has floated the idea that the city should support small local media by allocating a portion of the taxpayer funds that go toward matching campaign donations for electoral candidates. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s charter revision commission has proposed that the city’s current $6 to $1 match for small donations be raised to $8 to $1, and that proposal will go on the ballot in November.

Witt argued that the mayor, who has said he supports local community and ethnic media, could have demonstrated that support by saying that a percentage of those new matching funds be directed toward local media outlets. The mayor, for his part, threw cold water on the idea.

Kelly Mena reports in Kings County Politics:

“I don’t think it’s fair or constitutional to dictate to a candidate, even with use of public funds, what they specifically have to spend it on,” said de Blasio, who is not an attorney.

“I’m simply saying that I cannot, on first blush hearing it for the first time, I’m not comfortable mandating it. I think it creates too much of a legal and fairness challenge. I am comfortable with maximizing the City’s spending for all the things we normally spend on to advertise with community and ethnic media,” he added.

For his 2017 re-election campaign, de Blasio received almost $3.5 million in matching funds to give him a total of over $10 million. Of that he spent only $5,000 with local media – the Queens Tribune, according to the Campaign Finance Board website.
Witt argues that the taxpayer dollars that go into matching campaign funds end up being funneled to large consulting firms and big media outlets. Read more about his arguments at Kings County Politics.

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