At its meeting today, the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) revised rules governing disclosure of sources of funds for lobbying campaigns. The Brennan Center released the following statement from Corporate General Counsel Kelly Williams.
“Everyday New Yorkers deserve to know who is influencing lawmakers in Albany. When groups with vague and unrecognizable names conduct expensive lobbying campaigns, voters can’t tell who is trying to influence the legislative process. Today, the Commission took an important first step toward real disclosure, by requiring vague spenders to disclose either the name of a natural person who controls them, or an additional layer of corporate control. We look forward to working with the Commission throughout the upcoming public comment period to ensure the media, citizens, and policymakers in New York receive full and complete information on who is funding lobbying campaigns.”
As part of the Public Integrity Act of 2011, New York state enacted the nation’s first system of disclosure of funding sources for entities spending more than $50,000 per year on lobbying expenditures. The purpose of this requirement is to end the practice of black box lobbying in the state — that is, expensive lobbying campaigns conducted by entities with names that are not readily recognizable. The new law requires organizations that spend more than $50,000 per year on lobbying in New York state to disclose all sources of funds in excess of $5,000.
The first reports on large donors to these kinds of lobbying campaigns, covering the period July 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012, were due on January 15 and made available on JCOPE’s website. However, several lobbying campaigns disclosed funding sources with unrecognizable names, such as limited liability companies not obviously engaged in a regular trade or business, thus circumventing the purpose of the law.
To address this concern, the Brennan Center recommended to the Commission that all reportable sources of funds for lobbying campaigns should be required to include the name of a natural person who exercises executive authority. We note that all registered lobbyists and their clients are required to include the name of their principal officer on their filings. Omitting the requirement of natural person identification on sources of funds is an obvious loophole that should be closed. We continue to urge the Commission to adopt this recommendation.