July 23, 2014
Under New York ethics regulations, a registered lobbyist, under certain circumstances, must report the names of each source of funding of more than $5,000 from a single source used to fund the lobbying activity reported and the amounts received from each identified source. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) can grant an exemption to this disclosure requirement if such disclosure would put contributors at risk of harm, threats, harassment, or reprisals.
Recently, the JCOPE denied an exemption to Family Planning Advocates, the New York Women’s Equality Coalition, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, and the New York Civil Liberties Union. The groups appealed the ruling to an independent judicial hearing officer who must determine whether the denial of an exemption was clearly erroneous in view of the evidence of record.
On July 11, 2014, George C. Pratt, the presiding judicial hearing officer, reversed the JCOPE’s denial of the exemption, finding the commission’s decision to be clearly erroneous in light of the specific evidence presented. In his decision, Pratt stated the advocacy groups had experienced several incidents over a period of years showing a pattern of threats and manifestations of public hostility. As a result of Pratt’s ruling, all four groups will be granted an exemption from the donor disclosure requirement.