March 13, 2013 •
Law loosening disclosure requirements to take effect immediately
The New York City Council has overridden Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of a campaign finance bill loosening the disclosure requirements. The law, which will go into effect immediately, was fiercely opposed by both Bloomberg and New York City Campaign Finance Board Director Amy Loprest, but the City Council has nearly unanimously supported it from the outset.
The law will allow labor or other membership organizations, as well as corporations, to send campaign communications to its members, executive and administrative personnel, and stockholders without having to disclose that information to the Campaign Finance Board. According to Loprest, $35,000 in outside spending on mass mailers was spent in the two special elections since the city adopted its stringent rules.
In a statement Loprest said, “Disclosure helps voters understand who is speaking and trying to influence the outcome of their election. Just as important, disclosure helps voters hold candidates accountable for their supporters during an election and for the policies they pursue. New Yorkers want and deserve access to complete information about the interests supporting candidates for city office. The legislation approved by the Council today will hide some of that information from public view.”
Councilwoman Gale Brewer disagreed with this notion, saying “Member-to-member communications are not intended to influence the public. So, the public’s interest in source disclosure is significantly reduced.”
With city elections upcoming in November, both sides will see how these new rules actually affect the elections and spending.
Photo of the New York City Hall by Howrealisreal on Wikipedia.
December 11, 2012 •
Mixed reactions amongst city leaders concerning possible new rules
The city council has introduced a bill that would change the way unions and corporations, among others, could contribute to elections. The bill, introduced by Councilmember Rosie Mendez, would remove contribution limits on unions or other membership organizations and corporations for communications aimed at its members, stockholders, or employees. The only catch would be that the union or corporation must use reasonable efforts to restrict the communication to its members, employees, or stockholders.
Those in favor say that it will allow a small non-profit group to disseminate a candidate’s photograph in its newsletter. Councilmember Gale Brewer said, “You cannot put a television ad, you cannot do that now, and have a communication. This is just member to member.”
However, not everyone agrees. Amy Loprest, executive director of the city’s campaign finance board said, “I think we have one of the best campaign finance laws in the country, and this is a big step backwards.”
The bill was sent to the council’s committee of governmental operations where a hearing will be held on Thursday. A full city council vote could come as soon as next week. At this point, it is impossible to tell whether the council will pass the bill. But, either way, it is sure to drum up some strong emotions during debate.
Photo of the New York City Hall courtesy of Howrealisreal on Wikipedia.
December 19, 2011 •
Council Considers Resolution to Reverse Citizens United with Constitutional Amendment
Amy Loprest, Executive Director of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, testified last Friday before the City Council about the effects of the Citizens United decision on New York City’s campaign finance regulation.
According to their press release:
“Campaign Finance Board Executive Director Amy Loprest testified before the City Council Committee on Governmental Operations regarding the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision earlier today. The Council is considering a resolution that calls for a Constitutional amendment to reverse the decision and establish that corporations are not entitled to the same rights as natural persons.”
“Recognizing a First Amendment right where none had previously been found, Citizens United opened the floodgates to allow massive amounts of unlimited—and too often, undisclosed—independent spending by corporations, unions, and other groups,” Loprest said.
Here is a link to a pdf file of the entire testimony.
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