ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his political allies have launched New Yorkers United Together, a new and independent organization which released an ad featuring the governor and celebrities promoting tolerance after a series of highly publicized hate crimes.
New Yorkers United Together is composed of Cuomo allies like former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Steve Cohen, the governor's former top aide. For now, it doesn't appear the group is trying to lobby the state; rather, it appears the organization is in part promoting Cuomo himself.
Blair Horner of New York Public Interest Research Group says that means the group falls outside of lobbying and therefore, doesn't have to register. It's not clear who is funding the group or whether those donors will be disclosed.
"Why do people donate to the groups? Sometimes they have ideological interest. Sometimes they agree with it. A lot of times, and most of the time when it comes to campaign contributions, they're looking to influence the individual who is the beneficiary of their largesse," Horner said.
It's not uncommon for politicians to form parallel organizations to promote their agenda. The Committee to Save New York backed Cuomo's fiscal policies in 2011 and 2012 before disbanding.
"It's a way to a certain extent to circumvent campaign contribution limits, sometimes a way to circumvent disclosure requirements because they're no regulated the same way as independent groups or lobbying groups are," Horner said.
Cuomo's office referred questions to the New York City PR firm Sunshine Sachs. We asked:
- Who is funding the group?
- Will the names of the donors be released?
- Will the group register as a lobbying organization?
We did not get a reply.
The organization is gaining traction just as Cuomo is spoken of as a potential candidate for president in 2020. For now, Cuomo has insisted he's seeking a 3rd term next year and is not running for president.