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Four Organizations, Including Two on Women’s Health, Should Be Exempt From N.Y. Donor Disclosure Rules, Judicial Hearing Officer Says

July 22, 2014 — New York's Joint Commission on Public Ethics must reverse its earlier ruling that forced New York abortion-rights advocacy groups to disclose information about their financial contributors, the North Country Gazette reports.

According to the Gazette, four groups had asked JCOPE for exemptions from a state requirement that they disclose the information. The groups included abortion-rights supporters Family Planning Advocates and the New York Women's Equality Coalition, as well as New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and the New York Civil Liberties Union. The organizations argued that identifying their donors could put the individuals' safety at risk.

JCOPE initially ruled that the groups could not be exempt from the requirements, and the organizations appealed the decision (North Country Gazette, 7/18).

On Friday, a judicial hearing officer reversed JCOPE's decision, ruling that the groups' evidence warranted the exemptions (Lucas, Northeast Public Radio, 7/19). The officer wrote in the ruling, "The groups provided 'specific evidence' of many and severe incidents extending over a period of years that show a 'pattern of threats' and 'manifestations of public hostility' ... because of their advocacy" (Lovett, New York Daily News, 7/19).

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said the group is "gratified and relieved at the decision ... in favor of what the hearing officer deemed 'proper deference to the constitutional requirement to protect the First Amendment rights of citizens to express their views on controversial issues by providing financial support to organizations'" (North Country Gazette, 7/18).