A proposed New York regulation would force trade associations to disclose the full dues payment of any member who pays over $5,000 in dues – and trade associations are not happy about it.

Trade associations are joining forces to scale back proposed ethics regulations implementing ethics reform legislation New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law last year.  The law requires for-profit and tax-exempt groups that spend more than $50,000 a year and at least 3% of their budgets on New York lobbying to report the names and amount of all sources of funding over $5,000 to the state ethics commission, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE).

Many trade associations spend only a small portion of their assessed dues on lobbying activity.  However, the Proposed Source of Funding Regulations, which were intended to force 501(c)(4)s to disclose donors, would require the full amount of the dues payment to be reported to JCOPE rather than the portion that is actually used for lobbying activity.  For example, a trade association that collected $2 million in dues (over $5,000 from each source) and only spent 3%  of those funds ($60,000) on New York lobbying, would need to report the entire $2 million to JCOPE.  Disclosing the full amount of dues to JCOPE may misrepresent a trade association’s lobbying activity to the public.  Additionally, trade association dues are generally not public and many trade associations would like it to remain that way.

The proposed rulemaking is currently open for public comment.