Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today proposed regulations that would require nonprofit groups registered in New York to report how much they spend on federal, state and local political campaigns.
Schneiderman said the regulations, which he hopes can take effect early next year, would improve transparency for groups that spend heavily on campaigns but are not required to disclose much, if anything, about their political efforts.
Groups that spend at least $10,000 on elections in New York would have to produce itemized reports of expenses and contributions that would be released publicly, Schneiderman, the first-term Democratic attorney general, said.
“More money is being spent on our elections, with less disclosure of where that money is coming from, than ever before. By shining a light on this dark corner of our political system, New York will serve as a model for other states, and for the federal government, to protect the integrity of nonprofits and our democracy,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
Groups that are 501(c)(4) organizations are exempt from federal and state taxes because they are deemed as promoting “social welfare.” But the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision ruling, Schneiderman said, has allowed for a proliferation of the groups to be used to fund political ads.
Because the Attorney General’s Office oversees the state’s nonprofits, Schneiderman can unilaterally change the disclosure laws. He plans to propose the new regulations through the State Registry, hold public hearings and adopt them in time for next year’s elections.
The new regulations would apply to organizations exempt from taxation under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. The 501(c)(3) organizations are already prohibited from political giving, Schneiderman said.
The regulations would require the disclosure of every expenditure on a campaign in New York and details about each contribution of more than $100.
The regulations include a waiver application that would allow an organization to not disclose a donor’s identity if it could “cause undue harm, threats, harassment or reprisals.”
The regulations are to be published in the Dec. 26 publication of the State Registry, where new regulations are required to be posted. A public comment period will be open until March 6, 2013. The Attorney General’s office will hold four public hearings in New York City, Albany, Buffalo and Long Island.