For the past few days, New York State news has been dominated by the Legislature's approval of new gun laws and Congress's approval of a Superstorm Sandy aid package.
Another important issue has flown below the radar. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has begun holding public hearings about new campaign finance disclosure requirements for nonrofits, specifically 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations. FRONTLINE has a webpage that gives a basic rundown of the organizations and their role in politics.
The Attorney General's Office has developed some draft regulations, and the hearings are meant for the public, nonprofit officials, and elected officials to provide input. (Comments can also be made via the office's website, www.ag.ny.gov.)
During a hearing on Tuesday in New York City, Schneiderman said that nonprofits funneled $400 million to $500 million into the political system during the 2012 elections. Because the organizations don't have to disclose their donors, there is no way for the public to know who's providing the funding.
“As we begin the new year, most of us and I’m sure most people in the United States would agree that what is now referred to as 'dark money' was an unwelcome influence in the recently completed campaign cycle and we are here today to say 'Not in New York State,'" Schneiderman said during his opening remarks.