"Big secretive campaign expenditures have the potential to do even more damage in local elections."
AG Eric Schneiderman
March 01, 2013New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman held a public hearing in Buffalo last Thursday, his second of three such hearings, relating to the disclosure of charity funds used in elections.
Schneiderman said during the last election almost $500 million in undisclosed funding "flooded the system."
The new rules would affect organizations with 501(c)(4) "social welfare" status to disclose what percentage of their spending is used in local, state and federal elections.
Groups spending more than $10,000 related to elections in New York state would be required to file and disclose itemized schedules of expenses and contributions.
Schneiderman's biggest concern is "dark money" being spent on politics.
Dark money is spending by individuals on elections that, under current law, does not have to be reported because it is considered a donation to a not-for-profit group. Schneiderman's concern is some groups with 501(c)(4) status are groups who solely perform electioneering and finance politicians and may be hiding behind their status as a "social welfare" group.
"I think the majority of people in New York state and the overwhelming majority of Americans would agree that what is referred to as dark money is really an unwelcome influence in our electoral process," Schneiderman said in his opening statement. "Big secretive campaign expenditures have the potential to do even more damage in local elections."
At the first hearing held in Albany, Sen. Joe Addabbo, D-Queens, and Sen. George Latimer, D-Rye, testified regarding the what they said were shady tactics employed by Common Sense Principles, a registered 501(c)(4) group that attacked both men in mailers. They were able to track down the headquarters of the organization to a P.O. Box in Virginia, but they were unable to track down the people operating the organization, they said.
"We really have to end secretive political activities," Schneiderman said.
He said while the proposed regulations would not end this type of funding on a federal level it would put an end to it in the state.
The public comment period ends March 6.