New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is targeting new disclosure requirements for non-profits engaging in electioneering, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates for spending unlimited funds on political campaigns.
Schneiderman said that he is proposing new regulations that would apply to most not-for-profit groups and prohibit intervention in political campaigns through "electioneering activities" that express or issue advocacy through television, radio, print, telephone or Internet advertising.
He also stated that many non-profits have become vehicles for political activity since the Citizens United decision because they are able to conceal their funding sources and can raise and spend unlimited funds while avoiding corporate taxes on donations.
"When people spend money to try to influence our elections, the public needs to know where that money is coming from, and how it is being spent. Nonprofits should not be used to subvert that basic principle," Schneiderman said in a statement released Wednesday. "Simply put, transparency reduces the likelihood of corruption."
Schneiderman added that he has concerns over what he framed as misleading solicitations and abuse of charitable assets for electoral purposes that he deems as undermining public confidence in the nonprofit sector and groups engaging in electioneering in secrecy without disclosures to either regulators or the public.
The Citizens United decision has been widely criticized, largely by Democrats, including President Barack Obama, who view the ruling as a threat to the Democratic process.
Schneiderman's proposal would have non-profits that spend $10,000 or more in a year in connection with New York state and local elections to file an itemized schedule with its annual financial report disclosing expenditures and contribution of more than $100.
The state Attorney General's office submitted the regulations to the Department of State for publication in the New York State Register on Tuesday.
After the comment period has closed, the Attorney General's office expects to adopt the regulations early next year, subject to any changes that may be warranted by public comments. The regulations will become effective immediately upon adoption.
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