State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced new regulations yesterday that will require nonprofit social-welfare groups registered in New York to report how much they spend on state and local elections. Under the regulations, groups that spend at least $10,000 on elections in state would have to submit itemized reports of expenses and contributions to the state, as well as disclose the percentage of their expenditures that go toward electioneering.
The proposed regulations are expected to be published in the State Register Dec. 26, and the public will have until March 6, 2013 to provide written comments to Schneiderman’s office. Four public hearings have been scheduled — one each in New York City, Albany, Buffalo and on Long Island. As the state law enforcement official who has primary responsibility for overseeing nonprofits, Schneiderman has the authority to enact rules and regulations to administer the reporting system.
“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.
We’d like to know what you think of the regulations, detailed here by Gannett’s Albany Bureau.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, it has become common for 501(c)(4) social-welfare organizations to serve as conduits for political activity, according to Schneiderman. They have funded “sham issue ads” attacking candidates for public office. These nonprofits, which are exempt from federal and state taxation, can raise and spend unlimited funds and conceal the source of the money, he said.
Any group that currently files with another agency that makes the information publicly available would be exempt from the regulations. Another exemption would be for funding collected that is earmarked for non-political purposes and kept in a separate account from electioneering money. If public disclosure of a contribution or donor’s identity could cause harm, threats or harassment, the donor or organization could apply for a waiver.
The new rules would not apply to 501(c)(3) groups, which are not permitted to engage in political activity.