Exposing the secret funders of slimey political ads

December 13, 2012

NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is proposing new regulations which require charitable groups that engage in $10,000 or more in election spending to reveal their funders. The measure is intended to reduce the flow of anonymous contributions, or “dark money,” flowing from donors through 501c(4) charitable groups in support of political campaigns. Schneiderman’s proposed rules have been applauded by good government groups, including the Brennan Center for Justice. The State of Politics blog quotes Schneiderman:

“There’s no question that since Citizen United was decided in 2010, we have seen an extraordinary increase in the amounts being spent. Frankly a lot of the time when people want to conceal their identity they want to do it because these organizations pay for the worst ads. When you’re paying for the slimiest ad of all time, you probably don’t want your name associated to it.”

Reinvent Albany typically doesn’t focus on voting and political campaigning related issues — which is the priority of many established good government groups we admire —  but we have an avid interest in improving public oversight over New York’s vast universe of charitable organizations. Charities are big business in New York State and city comprise about 18% of the state’s workforce versus 6% jobs nationally.  New York charities have long been abused as sources of political patronage, and have been at the center of some of the states largest corruption scandals. Reinvent Albany has advocated for big improvements in the Attorney Generals charities website, which serves the dual role of helping charities report information, and reporting that information to the public. In the meantime, we welcome the proposed rules as a sensible step towards plugging the holes in campaign finance rules created by the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision.