New York City Councilman Ben Kallos expressed interest in working with his colleagues on legislation that could regulate and limit the use of a political nonprofit class known as 501(c)4s that Mayor Bill de Blasio has used to promote his agenda.
“I’m actually working actively with colleagues,” Kallos said during a Friday press conference at City Hall to promote various ethics reforms. “We’re drafting legislation around disclosure and limits to what people can do with (c)4s and moving forward, and to the extent that anyone has (c)4s, making sure that they engage in voluntarily disclosure ahead of us engaging in our legislative advocacy and actually making it a legal requirement. Right now is a good time, if anyone has a (c)4, for it to cease and for folks to disclose. … We need to make sure that we lock down every single place that money and corruption can happen.”
Kallos said it would be inaccurate to describe the legislation as his, however. The councilman said he had discussed potential reform measures with others, but he would not name any potential sponsors. Still, he said he hoped legislation related to 501(c)4 nonprofits would come before the Government Operations Committee that he chairs.
His comments come amid several probes into whether donors to de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York, a 501(c)4 nonprofit, received favorable action at City Hall in exchange for the contributions. Kallos did not directly respond when asked whether the discussion about regulating 501(c)4s was a reaction to allegations againstde Blasio. Instead, Kallos said that he believed allegations of corruption stemming from such nonprofits had surfaced at all levels of government and that people want to know details about the money involved with these groups.
When pressed about whether he was comfortable with the mayor’s actions, Kallos said he would like more information.
“I’m still interested in learning about the mayor’s actions,” he said. “We have a number of hearings coming up where we hope to learn more. … Right now we just have the speculation and what’s been reported. And regardless of what’s happening there, we need to do what we need to do at the state level, the county level, the city level. … It’s a long road to hoe in many different places.”
De Blasio has repeatedly said he and his administration behaved legally and appropriately at all times and that he’s confident the investigations will bear this out. The mayor said he turned to 501(c)4s because he needed resources to fight those protecting the status quo and standing in the way of his progressive agenda.
The mayor’s stance has not quieted calls for ethics reforms. On Friday, Kallos joined Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, Paul Feiner, a town supervisor in Westchester County, Mark Davies, the former executive director of the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board, and other good government advocates on the steps of New York City Hall, where they called for a variety of ethics reforms in Albany and across the rest of the state.
In New York City, Kallos said one bill that he is sponsoring would disqualify campaign contributions bundled by people with business before the city from being matched under the city’s public campaign finance system.
“We’re working closely with Citizens Union, Dick Dadey, other good government groups to try to build the support we need,” he said. “You have balancing forces of light trying to clean up corruption. And when you shine a light, there’s always a shadow, and in those shadows, corruption can sneak in.”