Four lobbying groups that had been seeking to keep their donors private will now have to disclose them publicly, the state’s joint ethics board ruled Tuesday.
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted against all four exemption requests at its monthly meeting, rejecting claims by the organizations — including three actively lobbying on abortion issues.
The state’s 2011 ethics law required lobbying organizations to disclose their major donors, but allowed JCOPE to exempt some groups if a case could be made that disclosure would put the contributors at risk. The board rejected applications from Family Planning Advocates, the New York State Women’s Equality Coalition, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and the New York Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday.
“Obviously, my concern — and I’ve been pretty outspoken about it — is the ability of the special interest to hide assets, resources, fundraising abilities,” said David Renzi, a JCOPE member appointed by Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario County. “I think we need to be clear that we’re right on the statute in terms of whether there’s a substantial harm for showing a source.”
JCOPE had previously approved one disclosure exemption, when it voted in June to allow NARAL Pro-Choice NY to keep its donors private. But since then the regulations had changed to make the application process more public, and the ethics board announced Tuesday that NARAL had agreed to re-apply for its exemption after July 15.
The ethics board rejected the disclosure exemptions shortly after 1 p.m. By 1:30 p.m., it entered into executive session, it’s second closed-door session of the day.