Note: The following ran in the May 1, 2015 edition of The Albany Times Union. We wanted to post it here for readers who are unable to access it behind the Times Union’s paywall.
We read with interest your recent editorial, “Board of Elections Shame” (April 19, 2015) regarding contributions by limited liability companies. Unfortunately, you misstated our position and ignored the much broader issue of securing a level playing field for political advocacy.
Contrary to your comments, The Business Council was not providing cover for the Board of Elections, or anyone else. A careful reading of our letter would show that we advocated neither for nor against the so-called LLC loophole. We merely stated that redefining limited liability companies as corporations under state election law is beyond the regulatory authority of the board of elections.
We believe that donations by businesses, whether as corporations or LLCs, are a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. As an organization, the bigger issue here is whether state laws pertaining to campaign fundraising and contributions are skewed to favor one set of interests over another. We would argue they are, and that unions are coming out on top. The LLC issue has gained focus as part of a broader effort by special interests and “good government” groups seeking to further restrict political spending by business. They do this while ignoring other provisions of the election law that give inherent advantages to employee unions and other special interests. These advantages include the lack of aggregate spending limits, the use of payroll withholding to fund union PACs, and the ability to make non-monetary contributions in terms of volunteers and other campaign apparatus to political causes they support.
A review of campaign filings in New York shows significant contributions by labor unions and notable left of center advocates that rival those by LLCs. Yet for some reason, those high contributions never seem to draw the ire of the aforementioned “good government” groups.
It is The Business Council’s contention that any election law reform should be broad-based, and provide a level playing field for divergent political viewpoints.
Heather C. Briccetti, Esq.
President and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc.