Goo-Goos Split On Dislcosure Lookback
Beofre JCOPE Commissioner Ravi Batra was hauled away in an ambulance, the state’s major good-government advocacy groups gave differing interpretations of how much information lobbying organizations and registered non-profits should disclose on who funds their efforts.
The majority — the New York Public Interest Research Group, the League of Women Voters and Citizens Union — landed on the side of a limited “look back” period.
In other words, the disclosure period should be based on when the disclosure provisions of last year’s ethics law went into effect, June 1.
The retroactive versus proactive disclosure goes to the heart of how the ethics overhaul measure is being interpreted. The law passed by the lawmakers in June leaves it up to the commission to determine how retroactive the reporting period should be.
And its provision has taken on all the more significance after the Committee to Save New York, a coalition of business interests aligned with Cuomo’s fiscal agenda, was revealed to have received $2.4 million in contributions from gambling interests.
“There are examples when disclosures should be limited,” said Alex Camarada of Citizens Union, noting some donors do not want to be associated with controversial causes.
Barbara Bartoletti delivered testimony to the commission, saying that it is only fair that donors who contribute to groups are revealed after the law has taken effect.
NYPIRG’s Russ Haven offered more nuanced in his testimony, suggesting that JCOPE could look back as far as Jan. 1 of this year, but could also argue that June 1 is a effective reporting date as well.
Susan Lerner of Common Cause, the executive director of the only group which discloses its donors online, was the only advocate to argue for a full-throated retroactive disclosure period. She told the commission that groups like the Committee to Save New York “cloak” themselves in a specialized tax status in order to avoid full disclosure of who is funding their activities.
The law enacted last year covers the good-government organizations, which are also registered as lobbying entities.
During the roughly 90-minute public hearing on developing regulations for disclosure, Batra was the only commissioner who asked questions of the good-government advocates testifying.
Batra, a controversial appointee of Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, at one point asked if there was a problem with political campaigns that “launder” money through 501(c)4 groups, a line of questioning that was cut off by JCOPE Chairwoman Janet DiFiore, an appointee of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
At another point, Batra went into an extended line of questioning over whether groups should disclose money that has been spent versus money that is merely received and not spent. Batra argued for the latter.
“From what little I know of politics, money not spent can be more powerful than money spent,” he said. “Any police officer would tell you that a loaded gun is more dangerous than an empty one.”
The Committee to Save New York raised $17.5 million in contributions from just 74 donors whose identities have not been publicly disclosed. The committee has run expensive advertising campaigns backing the governor’s proposals for a tax cap and an overhaul of the state’s pension system.
Groups like the Committee to Save New York are not uncommon in Albany and indeed have flourished in recent decades promoting a variety of causes. The group was formed at Cuomo’s urging in order to quell the historic pushback from well-funded union-backed campaigns against previous gubernatorial proposals.
The group has a registered tax status as a 501c4 and is not required to disclose who contributes money. Committee spokesman Mike McKeon says the group has and will comply with all disclosure laws, but will not make its donor list publicly available proactively.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on June 7, 2012 at 2:10 pm, and is filed under Fundraising. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|