Political groups that use millions of dollars in so-called “dark money” provided by unnamed donors will now have to disclose how they raise and spend their increasingly influential cash, according to New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Schneiderman said he will require nonprofit groups to disclose their political spending, identify donors and detail expenditures such as broadcast and print advertising used in New York campaigns and to push certain issues.
The Democrat is using his power as a regulator of charities and other nonprofit groups to force the transparency. Good-government groups have argued these organizations are significantly influencing voters through their ad campaigns, with little or no accountability. The government advocates call the cash “dark money.”
“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,” Schneiderman said. “Simply put, transparency reduces the likelihood of corruption.”
Under his new directive effective Wednesday, nonprofit groups — including those defined by their tax code number as 501(c)(4) organizations and so-called social welfare groups — will have to report details of their activities if they spend at least $10,000 to influence New York campaigns at any level.
The groups will have to report the share of spending that goes to federal, state and local electioneering and file itemized expenses and list contributions. Expenses will include broadcast, Internet and print advertising, but won’t require disclosure of costs involved in “town hall” events and forums involving several candidates.
The data will be posted on the Attorney General’s Office website.
The influence of these groups has grown since 2010 and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. That ruling allowed well-financed groups to engage in political activity without disclosing their donors.
Schneiderman’s action will require these groups to start providing some of the information political candidates, political parties and political action committees are required to give to the state Board of Elections. The data give the public and news reporters a way to track the money flowing to a candidate or party and to trace influences that may have contributed to politicians’ actions.