Sonia Sotomayor Serves on the New York Campaign Finance Board

Sotomayor brings hands-on experience to the issue [of campaign finance] from her four years of experience on the New York City Campaign Finance Board, an independent, nonpartisan city agency created in 1988.

One of the first members appointed to the board by then-Mayor Ed Koch, Sotomayor helped implement—enthusiastically, according to her cohorts—one of the most comprehensive campaign finance laws in the country.

In a rare and little-noticed law review article, she forcefully defended the policy motivations behind such restrictions, questioning the line between campaign contributions and “bribes,” calling on Congress to overhaul campaign finance laws – including suggesting public financing of its own elections – and blasting the Federal Election Commission for not enforcing existing laws.

Judge Sotomayor’s engagement with campaign finance regulations dates back to 1988, when Peter L. Zimroth, New York’s corporation counsel, said he recommended that Mayor Edward I. Koch appoint her to the city’s new Campaign Finance Board.

The board members, including Ms. Sotomayor, became pioneers in developing a voluntary program in which local candidates receive public matching money in exchange for accepting disclosure requirements and limits on contributions and spending.

Board minutes provide a glimpse: Ms. Sotomayor, then in private practice, grilled one politician over why his campaign reported receiving some cash contributions as checks, requested a study “on the ethnicity and sex” of program participants, and reviewed the Spanish translation of voter guides.