Campaign Finance Board: Strengthen Disclosure Requirements for Ballot Proposals
City charter does not require independent spenders on ballot proposals to disclose their contributors or provide “paid for by” notices on their communications, as it requires for independent expenditures about candidates.
The New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) asks the New York City Council to consider legislation to strengthen disclosure requirements for independent expenditures on city ballot proposals. Unlike independent expenditures supporting or opposing candidates, city law does not require independent spenders on ballot proposals to:
- Disclose contributors via the CFB’s Follow the Money portal;
- Publish a paid-for-by notice on communications that lists their top three donors and directs city voters to nyc.gov/followthemoney to learn more
For the 2019 general election, three groups spent more than $1 million in total on the five Charter Revision questions that appeared on the back of the ballot.
However, visitors to the CFB’s Follow the Money portal could not find information about contributors to these groups. Due to this gap in the disclosure requirements in the City Charter, contributor information was available only on the state’s Board of Elections website. Voters should not have to refer to two different websites to find complete information about independent expenditures in city elections.
Current law also does not require independent expenditures on ballot proposals to carry the detailed paid-for-by notice that is required for similar communications directed at candidates. The enhanced “paid for by” notice includes two key pieces of information:
- The names of the top three donors to the organization responsible for the advertisement
- A line directing voters to find more information at nyc.gov/FollowTheMoney
The City Charter also requires more complete disclosure from organizations making large contributions to fund independent expenditures about candidates. If an organization contributes $50,000 or more to an independent spender, that organization must disclose any of its own donors who gave $25,000 or more in the last 12 months.
The paid-for-by notice requirements and large-donor disclosure above were added to the Charter by Local Law 41 of 2014, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander and signed by Mayor de Blasio in August, 2014.
“New York City has the country’s strongest disclosure requirements and resources for independent expenditures. Unfortunately, when it comes to ballot proposals, our law has a blind spot. Bringing the disclosure for ballot proposals in line with the requirements for independent expenditures about candidates will provide voters with important information that will help them cast informed votes, and we urge the Council to take action,” said Amy Loprest, Executive Director of the New York City Campaign Finance Board.
For more information about independent expenditure disclosure in New York City, read our “Guide to the CFB Independent Expenditure Disclosure Rules”.
More information about city campaign finance data is available on the CFB website in the Campaign Finance Summary portal. Individual contribution data is available in the Follow the Money database.