Gov. Cuomo includes donor disclosure requirements in New York state budget proposal

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has included amendments to New York’s nonprofit donor disclosure laws in his fiscal year 2021 budget proposal.

Part UU of the executive budget proposes that a nonprofit group disclose the following for any donation of $1,000 or more earmarked to pay, in whole or in part, for political communications: the name and address of the donor, the date and amount of the donation, and a description of any restriction placed on the donation.

The amendments come in response to a federal court order striking down portions of A10742, donor disclosure laws enacted by the state legislature in 2016. On Sept. 30, 2019, Judge Denise Cote, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, struck down Section 172-f of the law, which required nonprofits to disclose the identities of donors who contributed more than $1,000 if the nonprofit spent $10,000 or more per calendar year on political communications. Cote wrote, “Section 172-f sweeps far more broadly than any disclosure law that has survived judicial scrutiny.” President Bill Clinton (D) appointed Cote to the court in 1994.

What are the reactions?

  • Jason Conwall, a spokesman for the governor, said, “The public has a right to know who is backing these organizations so voters can better understand the sources for their positions and make decisions with full knowledge of the facts. Everyone supports transparency until it shows up at their own front door. The proposal advanced in the Executive Budget is more narrowly tailored [than the 2016 law] and we are confident it will withstand judicial scrutiny.”
  • Chai Jindasurat, policy director at Nonprofit New York, said, “Donors have legitimate and personal reasons for why they wouldn’t want to be disclosed or labeled [and] why they would want to give anonymously. If it is a problem, we’re happy to try and figure out a way to address transparency for all types of nonprofits. We just don’t know if it’s actually an issue.”

What comes next? Cuomo’s proposal is part of the larger budgeting process. With the governor having submitted his executive budget proposal, it now falls to the state legislature to assemble and adopt a final budget. The governor can execute line-item vetoes on the budget adopted by the legislature. New York’s new fiscal year begins April 1. Negotiations between lawmakers and the governor are currently ongoing. New York is a Democratic trifecta; Democrats hold the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 45 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

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Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

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Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken on relevant bills since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Connecticut HB05406: This bill would establish disclosure requirements for independent expenditures supporting or opposing incumbents before they form committees.
    • House Government Administration and Elections hearing scheduled March 6.
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • Connecticut HB05410: This bill would increase disclosure of independent expenditures and prohibit such expenditures by foreign-influenced entities.
    • House Government Administration and Elections hearing scheduled March 6.
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • New Hampshire HB1525: This bill would alter the definition of a political advocacy organization for the purposes of campaign finance reporting.
    • House Election Law Committee approved March 4.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship.
  • Oklahoma SB1491: This bill would prohibit public agencies from requiring 501(c) entities to furnish them with personal information about donors.
    • Senate approved March 3. First House reading March 4.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB979: This bill extends the applicability of the state’s campaign finance disclosure act to candidates for directors or soil and water conservation districts.
    • House approved March 7 (Senate approved Jan. 27) .
    • Republican sponsorship.