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New York City Council Begins to Tackle Nonprofits Created by Elected Officials

The New York City Council passed a first-of-its-kind law to address concerns about nonprofits created by elected officials to promote their political agendas.

Just as single-candidate super PACs have become a must-have accessory for political campaigns, nonprofits created to promote an elected official’s agenda are gaining in popularity on both sides of the aisle.

Perhaps most prominent are the organizations linked with President Obama, and this month advisers to President-elect Trump reportedly discussed creating such a group of their own. Numerous governors and local officials have also adopted the strategy. The advantages: unlimited financial support from donors who are not required to be disclosed to the public, and the ability to promote officeholders’ agendas — and the officeholders themselves — even outside of campaign season. 

Allowing unlimited, dark donations to officeholders with power over policy and the public coffers poses a serious risk of corruption, conflicts of interest, and policy decisions that benefit big donors, not the public.  Recognizing this, the New York City Council yesterday passed a first-of-its-kind law to address some of these concerns.

If signed by the Mayor, New York City’s law would both limit the most troubling contributions and shed light on dark donations. The proposal limits how much people doing business with the City can contribute to nonprofits that promote elected officials and are closely tied to those officials. It also requires any nonprofit closely tied to an elected official to disclose its donors.

It’s a good first step toward tackling a growing problem.