Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2016 nonprofit donor disclosure law has been struck down in federal court.
In typical Albany fashion, the law was passed at 3:00 A.M. on the final day of the 2016 legislative session. According to the Albany Times Union, the law was perceived as an attack on good-government groups that have criticized the Governor. It also had a potential impact on advocacy-oriented nonprofits like New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. Specifically, the law would have mandated that “501(c)(4) nonprofit groups that spend more than $10,000 a year on any public policy communications report the name and address of donors who give $1,000 or more.”
U.S. District Judge Denise Cote of the Southern District of New York ruled that the law violated the First Amendment and was excessively broad; Judge Cote added that the law “‘sweeps far more broadly than any disclosure law that has survived judicial scrutiny.’”
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms is pleased with the court’s decision. While transparency in politics is generally a good thing, laws requiring advocacy nonprofits to disclose the identities of their donors are an exception to that general rule. In the past, such laws have been used to shame and harass donors to conservative groups. Such harassment should not be the price of involvement in advocacy.