In a move designed to counter outside spending protected under the Citizens United decision, the new state budget agreement will require campaign finance disclosure statements to be filed for outside groups targeting voters beyond their own membership.
That is, except for Democrat-friendly unions.
The state budget agreement passed late Monday evening in Albany requires more disclosure of the outside election spending that has skyrocketed following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010Citizens United decision. But not all outside groups will have to disclose equally.
Spending by labor unions on campaign messages targeting their members and union retirees will remain exempt from disclosure under the state law, mirroring the carve-out that New York City Council members recently granted when they reformed the city’s campaign finance laws. Spending by corporations targeting their own members, or by trade and professional organizations, will also be exempt, according to budget documents.
On balance, the move is likely to help labor unions. For instance, in last year’s city elections the health care workers union 1199 SEIU, which spent heavily to support Mayor Bill de Blasio, did not have to disclose much of its outlays.
Labor unions in New York steered millions of dollars in member dues toward political campaigns last year, a majority of which went to Governor Cuomo’s reelection campaign and the state Democratic party.
The Post reports:
New York’s powerful labor unions steered millions of dollars in members’ dues into campaign coffers.
Health Care Workers Union Local 1199 East-SEIU donated $733,500. The fifth-largest contributor was the New York State United Teachers union, which distributed $717,343, while the city teachers union kicked in additional $347,800.
Cuomo’s office said he’s battling for changes.
Cuomo may be battling for changes, but apparently didn’t battle hard enough for his union buddies to also comply to new campaign finance disclosure requirements.
Chief Justice John Roberts has explained how any infringement on the Citizens United decision would be an attack on First Amendment freedoms, union, corporation, or otherwise.
“The government urges us in this case to uphold a direct prohibition on political speech,” wrote Roberts. “It asks us to embrace a theory of the First Amendment that would allow censorship not only of television and radio broadcasts, but of pamphlets, posters, the Internet, and virtually any other medium that corporations and unions might find useful in expressing their views on matters of public concerns.”
Chuck Schumer (D-NY) disagrees however, stating that “I believe there ought to be limits because the First Amendment is not absolute.”
It is absolute Mr. Schumer, and continues to be for unions. Just not certain unfriendly corporations.