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Ethics panel rejects donor privacy requests from abortion groups

A state ethics board has denied applications from groups on both sides of the abortion debate a request to keep private their donor lists.

The groups, including the pro-choice Family Planning Advocates, and the Christian conservative New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, had argued that making their donor lists public could pose a danger to their contributors because they lobby on controversial issues.  The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, rejected the request from both groups, along with the request by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Women’s Equality Coalition.

After the vote, commissioners argued over the next step. Under law they are required to present a written reason for denying the exemptions, but some commissioners complained that since there had been no actual discussion before the vote, they did not know what to tell the groups.

“I don’t think we have done our jobs,” said Commissioner Renee Roth.

The ethics commission also voted to modify the lone donor disclosure exemption that they had approved, for NARAL.  The time frame was shortened, and the group will now have to reapply in July.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom called the vote a flawed result in a “lengthy, unfair, and dysfunctional” process.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.