Reinvent Albany recommended comprehensive reforms to the countless city-affiliated nonprofits in testimony to the City Council today.
City-affiliated nonprofits, including the now defunct Campaign for One New York (CONY) and the Mayor’s Fund, have been criticized in recent years for receiving very large contributions from donors doing business with the city. Government-affiliated nonprofits have been involved in corruption scandals in NYS and in other cities, and have across the country stymied Freedom of Information, public meeting, and open and fair procurement laws.
Receiving less scrutiny are over 100 nonprofits affiliated with city agencies which also receive private contributions like the Fund for Public Schools, The Police Foundation, FDNY Foundation, the Fund for Public Health, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), among many others.
Reinvent Albany, in testimony today and previously to the 2018 and 2019 Charter Revision Commissions, called for sweeping reforms of city-affiliated nonprofits including:
- Providing an online listing of all city-affiliated nonprofits and their associated city agency.
- Creating procedures for creating, dissolving and providing Council oversight of city-affiliated nonprofits.
- Requiring city-affiliated nonprofits follow the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and the Open Meetings Law.
- Mandating city-affiliated nonprofits follow procurement procedures of city agencies with rare exception.
- Requiring city-affiliated nonprofits report revenues and expenditures to the public, City Council and City Comptroller.
- Limiting contributions to all nonprofits affiliated with elected officials. Under Local Law 181 of 2016, donations to nonprofits affiliated with elected officials are limited to $400, but only if the nonprofit spends 10 percent or more annually on public-facing communications featuring the elected official. We believe donations should be limited at some level by donors doing business even if the public facing communications do not feature the elected official.
- Limit donations by donors doing business with the city entities beyond affiliated nonprofits to agencies, public authorities, public benefit corporations and local development corporations. Local Law 181 of 2016 does not restrict donors doing business with the city from making contributions directly to government agencies and entities. A donor can give unlimited sums directly to an agency even while bidding on a contract or seeking a favorable determination on a matter before the agency.
- Publish as open data all donations by donors doing business with the city to affiliated nonprofits and all government entities (city agencies, public authorities, public benefit corporations and local development corporations). Donations should be disclosed in a machine readable, tabular dataset in the city’s Open Data Portal. Currently, donations to government entities and nonprofits are made available to the public in a 500-plus page PDF every six months in broad ranges showing the dollar amount. Local Law 181 of 2016 requires the exact dollar amount of contributions to nonprofits affiliated with elected officials, along with additional identifying information, be made public beginning in January 2019, but does not explicitly require disclosure of the exact dollar value of contributions to city agencies, public authorities, public benefit corporations, local development corporations, and city-affiliated nonprofits not affiliated with elected officials.
- Require “volunteers” doing major policy work or senior level appointments for the city follow city ethics laws. The city has had individuals who are not on the city payroll do policy work or assist in appointments while they are also fundraising for nonprofits affiliated with elected officials. We do not oppose per diem or unpaid volunteers serving on city boards, task forces and commissions. But they should not also be fundraising simultaneously for nonprofits affiliated with elected officials. If they do, they should follow city ethics laws in some form.