Four lobbying groups—including three who have lobbied on abortion issues—are seeking an exemption Tuesday from the state ethics board that would allow them to keep their major donors private.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, Family Planning Advocates of NYS and the New York Women’s Equality Coalition have all applied for an exemption from the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, the watchdog board that has authority over both the Legislature and the Executive Branch.
Organizations who spend more than $50,000 a year on lobbying are required to disclose their donors of more than $5,000 under a 2011 state ethics law. But the law allows for groups to be exempt from the requirement if they can prove disclosing their donors could put them in harm’s way.
Only one group—NARAL Pro-Choice New York—received an exemption earlier this year before the process was put on hold as JCOPE weighed whether application materials should be accessible to the public.
The batch of applications being considered Tuesday is the first since the ethics board tweaked its rules in September, requiring the requests to be made public. But JCOPE Chairman Daniel Horwitz said three of those groups requested the merits of their applications be discussed in private, and the board moved into executive session shortly after 11 a.m.
Of the four groups seeking an exemption, the New York Women’s Equality Coalition and Family Planning Advocates were very active this year in lobbying for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act, a 10-point bill that included a much-debated provision that would have strengthened the state’s abortion laws.
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a Spencerport, Monroe County-based group, has lobbied against abortion as well as same-sex marriage, which was passed into law in 2011.