New York State Attorney General Orders Nonprofits to Take Back Political Donations

As part of a probe into "pay-to-play" donations made by nonprofits in the state, New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo has ordered dozens of groups to take back illegal contributions they made to politicians — or lose their tax-exempt status, the New York Post reports.

Cuomo's office has uncovered improper campaign donations made by dozens of nonprofits to state and city lawmakers at various levels of government, including the state legislature and city council. The donations were made despite federal and state laws barring nonprofits from giving money to candidates or officeholders or from participating in their campaigns. Organizations that break the law risk losing their tax-exempt status.

Still, many nonprofits have long quietly made donations to the campaigns of friendly politicians 8212 often after receiving funding from some of the same lawmakers. For instance, Brooklyn assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs is reported to have received $2,500 from Maimonides Medical Center in 2006, while later that year she arranged for a grant to the hospital for a CAT scanner.

One of the nonprofits being targeted by Cuomo's office is the Brooklyn Italian Youth Soccer Club, which is said to have made nine contributions totaling $1,075 to Brooklyn assemblymen Peter Abbate and Bill Colton since 2004. Earlier this month, the attorney general's office sent a letter to the director of the soccer club ordering the organization to take immediate steps to recover the money and to list all other contributions it made to candidates from 2003 to the present.

"The issue of charities or not-for-profits giving political contributions is a matter we are currently investigating," a spokesman for Cuomo told the Post. "It is not appropriate, and it is not legal, and we want to make sure it doesn't happen anymore."

Fredric U. Dicker. "Cuomo's Pay-to-Play Rap for Nonprofits." New York Post 10/23/2009.