A Place at the Table
The A Place at the Table campaign seeks to increase access for smaller, grassroots nonprofits to engage in the policymaking process. According to national data, only 3% of nonprofits lobby.1 Despite having a legal and constitutional right to lobby,2 many under-resourced organizations3 choose not to engage in permissible advocacy because they fear they are ill equipped to handle the administrative burden that comes with lobbying rules, regulations, reporting, and penalties.4 This effectively takes the voices of organizations closest to communities out of the legislative process in New York. A Place at the Table wants to expand the range of voices heard by legislators by raising the state’s lobbying expenditure threshold for 501(c)(3) not-for-profits required to register as a lobbyist from $5,000 to $10,000.
History of New York’s Lobbying Law: Expenditure Threshold Unchanged Since 2006
In 1981, New York enacted the Lobbying Act, establishing a $1,000 expenditure threshold required for entities to register as lobbyists with the state.5 In 1999, the Lobbying Act established a $2,000 expenditure threshold.6 The lobbying expenditure threshold increased from $2,000 to $5,000 in 2006, pursuant to legislation passed in 2005.7 According to the sponsor’s memo, the increased expenditure threshold was intended to “reflect inflation and to require that all thresholds shall be computed cumulatively for all lobbying activities.”8
The State At Least Doubled the Threshold with Each Change
The expenditure threshold was doubled to $2,000 in 1999. Seventeen years later in 2006 the threshold increased by 150% from $2,000 to $5,000. Sixteen years later, in 2022, a 150% increase in the lobbying expenditure threshold would be $12,500.
In the period since the threshold was raised, the inflation rate was approximately 45%,9 and the current inflation rate is at a 40 year high.10
Bureau of Labor Statistics, CPI for All Urban Consumers 2006 to 2022
99% of Lobbying Activity Expenditures Would Still Be Reported with a $10,000 Threshold
Based on 2020 lobbying filing data, if the state raised the threshold from $5,000 to $10,000, 99% of all expenditures would still be reported.11
Data from JCOPE’s 2020 Annual Report Dataset for Clients
|Filers that Spent Under $10,000||Filers that Spent $5,000 to $9,000||All Filers||Filers that Spent Over $10,000||Top100 Spenders||Top200 Spenders|
|Percent of Total Number||13%||6%||100%||87%||3%||7%|
|Percent of All Spending||0.70%||0.57%||100%||99%||23%||33%|
Raising the lobbying expenditure threshold to $10,000 after sixteen years is a reasonable policy proposal. This policy would ensure policy makers hear from the full range of their constituents and create greater access for under-resourced nonprofits, without reducing transparency and oversight of lobbying activities.
- The state should enact S6398 (Biaggi)/A6943 (González-Rojas), which would raise the expenditure threshold for 501(c)(3) not-for-profits required to register as a lobbyist from $5,000 to $10,000.
- The state should enact legislation that would adjust the expenditure threshold to the Consumer Price Index, similar to the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act.12
- The state should regularly hold hearings and listening sessions on challenges for under-resourced community based organizations to engage in the policymaking process.
1 National Council of Nonprofits. (2019). Nonprofit Impact Matters.
2 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3)
3 BIPOC-led nonprofits have less access to resources compared to white-led organizations and may be particularly burdened. The Bridgespan Group and Echoing Green. (May 2020). Racial Equity and Philanthropy: Disparities in Funding for Leaders of Color Leave Impact on the Table.
4 Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Lobbying Laws and Regulations. 19 NYCRR Part 943
5 § 1 of Ch. 1040 of 1981. N.Y Legis. Law § 1 (McKinney)
6 Ch. 2 of 1999 § -e. 1999 Sess. Law News of N.Y. Ch. 2 (A. 9094) (McKinney)
7 Section 5 of Ch. 1 of 2005 § 5(3)(i)(b). N.Y. Legis. Law § 1-e (McKinney)
8 Sponsor Memo - Ch 1 of 2005. Purpose (iv)
9 Bureau of Labor Statistics, CPI for All Urban Consumers January, 2006 to March, 2022.
10 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (April 2022). Economic News Release: Consumer Price Index Summary.
11 Joint Commission on Public Ethics 2020 Annual Report Dataset for Clients. Available at jcope.ny.gov/2020-annual-report-and-related-data
12 The federal Lobbying Disclosure Act updates the expenditure threshold every four years to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index. Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.