Friday, April 24, 2009
Changes To Nonprofit Disclosure?
By Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writer
The debate over whether to impose new disclosure requirements on nonprofit groups is headed to the City Council.
A task force suggesting revisions to the Albuquerque City Charter took up the question late Thursday but was unable to agree on what to do.
The discussion centered on whether nonprofit groups that weigh in on political issues or candidates should be subject to the same financial-disclosure requirements that apply to political action committees.
It came up after Chuck Gara, a member of the task force, proposed that financial-disclosure rules apply to any corporation or similar group communicating in favor or against a candidate or ballot measure within 120 days of a city election. He said it was simply intended to ensure that people knew who was paying for electioneering.
"We need transparency," said Gara, who is a local business leader.
But the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, several nonprofit groups and others said Gara's proposal was too broad. Of 13 public speakers, 12 spoke against the idea.
Carter Bundy of AFSCME, the union that represents thousands of city employees, said the provision could apply to a newspaper covering City Hall or even internal newsletters.
"It really is overreaching," he said.
Lisa LaBrecque of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness said the amendment "would effectively silence our organization for four months."
The discussion took a confusing turn when city attorneys addressed the issue. They said the Gara proposal wasn't materially different from what's already in place.
Gara said he was open to altering his proposal to address legal questions or some of the criticism. But several other members said it was simply too complex to deal with late Thursday.
Former City Councilor Steve Gallegos, a member of the task force, suggested the group's report include a section saying it had struggled with the disclosure issue and believes it's an important one for the council to discuss itself.
Gallegos' motion passed 9-4. Joining Gallegos in favor were David Campbell, Dan Silva, Gara, Herb Hughes, Diana Dorn-Jones, Laura Horton, Vickie Perea and Gloria Valencia-Weber.
Opposed were Susan Jones, Michael Passi, Eli Il Yong Lee and David Standridge.