Watchdog: City-Affiliated Nonprofits Need Greater Transparency


At today’s Conflict of Interest Board hearing, Reinvent Albany called for the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) to create greater transparency for city-affiliated nonprofits.

At the hearing, Reinvent Albany asked that COIB:

  • establish and publish the formula city-affiliated nonprofits must use to calculate the percentage of expenses used to promote an elected official.
  • release in the city’s Open Data portal a list of city-affiliated nonprofits, their affiliated agency or elected official, and information about expenditures promoting elected officials.

The hearing was in regards to rules proposed by the Conflicts of Interest Board in response to Int. No. 1272-A, which passed the City Council in July. The bill, which Reinvent Albany opposed, limited nonprofit disclosure requirements that would have gone into effect under Local Law 181 of 2016

Under the 2016 law, all city-affiliated nonprofits connected to an elected official would have been required to disclose their donors giving $1,000 or more and identify which donors were doing business with the city. They are also limited to donations of no more than $400 annually from doing-business entities. 

Through the bill passed by Council, this disclosure will now only apply to city-affiliated nonprofits like the Mayor’s Fund that spend 10 percent or more of their expenditures on communications promoting an elected official. City-affiliated nonprofits that do not meet the 10 percent threshold will still have to report all donors giving $5,000 or more.

Recent events have shown that city-affiliated nonprofits are in dire need of greater transparency. Currently, the public has no way of knowing how city-affiliated nonprofits calculate whether or not they meet the threshold. In a New York Daily News article in August, Brooklyn Eric Adams’s staff said that One Brooklyn Fund, the nonprofit affiliated with the Brooklyn Borough President’s office, spent 5.5% on communications promoting Adams. More recently, in the New York Post, it was reported that One Brooklyn Fund ​has raised over $2 million to help cover its events, which promote Adams and call the 5.5% number into question. But ​with the lack of information currently available, the public can only take Adams’s office at its word. COIB can remedy the gap by establishing and publishing the formula.