Originally Published: November 7, 2012
501c4 Organization that sent political mail against Addabbo, Latimer, O’Brien senate races has not registered with the charities bureau, avoiding disclosure of financial information mandated by law
Citizens Union today made public a complaint filed with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman calling on his office to investigate whether Common Sense Principles, a 501(c)(4)organization that has sent campaign attack mailers in three state senate districts under the pretense of lobbying for low taxes and small government, should have registered with the Charities Bureau before first becoming active in New York State in 2010.
“New Yorkers should be informed about who is behind the campaign communications they receive,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director. “Registration with the Charities Bureau is one existing mechanism that can help shed light on 501c4 organizations engaging in this political activity, though campaign communications and expenditures by veiled third-party entities and individuals should be disclosed in a manner similar to candidate campaign committees.”
According to the Attorney General’s own rules, “Article 7-A of the Executive Lawrequires registration of charitable and other nonprofit organizations that solicit contributions from New York State (including residents, foundations, corporations, government agencies and other entities). Section 8.1-4 of the Estates, Powers and Trust Law requires registration of charitable organizations that are incorporated, are formed, or otherwise conduct activity in New York State.*”
The Charities Bureau’s searchable registry returns no matches for Common Sense Principles or organizations with the same federal ID number. Had Common Sense Principles registered with the Charities Bureau, its organizational structure, activities, by-laws and certificate of incorporation would be made known to the people of New York. Common Sense Principles may also be required to file annually detailed financial information including any professional fundraisers hired, contact information for such fundraising professional(s), the services provided and the terms of the contract and fees paid.
Little is known about the veiled political actor that has recently sent political mailers to voters attacking Democratic state senate candidates Joe Addabbo in Queens, George Latimer in Westchester, and Ted O’Brien in Rochester, following a blizzard of similar attack mailers in key senate districts in 2010. By organizing itself as a charitable organization rather than a political committee, and sending mailings that do not explicitly support or oppose the election or defeat of candidates, Common Sense Principles has avoided greater transparency candidate and other political committees are subject to.
*While Title 13 of the New York Code of Rules and Regulations for Registration of Charitable Organizations, Trusts and Estates, Part 91.2 states that the standard for registering a charitable organization pursuant to 8.1-4 of the Estates, Powers and Trust Law is “conducting activity” in the law itself the standard is “doing business.”
Letter to the Attorney General.
Official complaint to the Attorney General.