Sometime after midnight on the last day of the legislative session — with zero public hearings, public review or consultation — Governor Cuomo rammed through a bill that includes very vague and very broad new reporting requirements for charitable groups which engage in lobbying or coordination with related charitable groups. The bill, A.10742 is opposed by all of the government watchdog groups and the NYCLU. The bill has two parts, the first part tries to fill the hole in campaign finance rules the Supreme Court created with its Citizens United decision. The bill has solid language for making it harder for Independent Expenditures or “Super PACS” to coordinate with political campaigns. However, at the very last minute, the governor tacked onto the Super PAC language a slew of poorly defined new rules that are ultimately intended to intimidate and discourage the funders for watchdog groups like Common Cause NY, Citizens Union and NYPIRG, all of which have affiliated non-profits registered with the IRS as both 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 non-profits. (Reinvent Albany is a (c)3 group and has no related c(4).) The difference between the types of groups is that contributions to c(3) groups are tax deductible, contributions to c(4) groups are not, but those groups can engage in more political activity, including endorsing candidates.
In theory, the bill is intended to stop tax deductible contributions from going to political activity — which is already banned by the IRS and state charity rules, and has not been a real problem in New York. In reality, this bill is an attempt to create a distraction from the governor and legislatures failure to pass meaningful reforms to stop the pay to play that has made Albany an ugly symbol of political corruption.
August 22, 2016
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Albany, NY 12224
Re: Please veto A.10742/S.8160. Parts F and G are excessively vague, broad and this section would impose an unwarranted and onerous burden on NY charities.
Dear Governor Cuomo,
Reinvent Albany urges you to veto A.10742/S.8160, a bill that restricts Independent Expenditures and imposes broad new reporting requirements on 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(3) charitable organizations.
Reinvent Albany strongly supports pragmatic efforts to increase government transparency and reduce the role of money in politics and in government decision-making. However, we agree with other government watchdog groups that Parts F and G of this bill are ill-conceived, seek to address a problem that has not been shown to exist, and do far more harm than good.
Disturbingly, Parts F and G of the bill were drafted and rushed through the legislature at the very end of the legislative session without public hearings or robust consultation with charity groups. New York’s charitable organizations are already subject to comprehensive and complex federal, state, and local regulations, and their lobbying activity is strictly limited and must be carefully recorded.
We agree with other major charitable organizations that the language in Parts F and G, which increases the reporting requirements of charitable organizations engaged in various lobbying and communications with the public, is extremely vague and broad, and would impose an unwarranted and onerous reporting burden on many charities.
Accordingly, we ask you to veto this bill and instead convene a working group of charitable organizations, legislators, and regulators—including JCOPE and the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau—to review the concerns that inspired this bill and thoughtfully craft whatever new regulations and legislation is called for.
Click here to view the letter as a PDF.