Thursday, February 07, 2013

Groundbreaking Lobbying Donor Disclosure Reports from NYS Now Online

Posted by Kelly Williams

As part of the Public Integrity Act of 2011, New York State implemented the nation’s firstsystem of disclosure for funding sources of specified lobbying entities spending in excess of $50,000 per year on lobbying expenditures. This requirement seeks 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 first reports on large donors to these types of lobbying campaigns, covering the period July 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012, were due on January 15. They are now available on the website of the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The Commission has said they did not have time to add this disclosure to their online filing system, so these reports are only available as PDF’s for now.  So far, 54 reports are available on JCOPE’s website
Although we have not been able to review all of them, it appears that the new disclosure law will serve its intended purpose of providing the public, the media, and policymakers with better information about who funds the state’s large lobbying campaigns. It takes time for everyone to adjust to new disclosure requirements. We anticipate an analysis will reveal more once we have an entire year of source funding disclosures to look at. We especially note that the reporting period for the disclosure reports due on January 15 did not include the regular legislative session.
Moving forward, the Commission may want to ask whether additional disclosures are necessary when, for example, a source of reported funds has the same street address as the client filer (we noticed one such instance in our preliminary review of the reports) or all sources consist of unrecognizable entities such as LLC’s.  

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