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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Report asks why Franklin Club isn’t filing

By Adam Wisnieski
Posted

Good government group Citizens Union released a report Monday, detailing its investigation into alleged illegal campaign activity on the part of the state’s political clubs.

It claims that “at least 224 clubs in New York State are hidden from public view because they have not registered as political committees or filed needed disclosure reports detailing their receipts and expenditures.”

Among the clubs listed as part of this “shadowy world of political activity” is local political powerhouse, the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club. 

The 122-page report says the club’s political activities mean it “is not in compliance with the law regarding disclosure of its contributions and expenditures,” and that more transparency is necessary to determine whether the club may be using money it receives from members, elected officials and unions in order to campaign for candidates.

Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, said in an interview that the group’s interpretation of state law is that any political club that makes endorsements and engages in transactions of $1,000 or more annually needs to register with the state BOE as a political committee. But the BOE hasn’t been enforcing the law, Mr. Dadey argues.

“It’s a failing of the state Board of Elections not to make it clear,” Mr. Dadey said.

The Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club says it does not use funds for campaigning and therefore does not need to register, but if the BOE were to require it to file, it would comply. 

Citizens Union began digging into the messy filings in light of Councilman Larry Seabrook’s corruption trial. Mr. Seabrook was convicted of using the political club he founded as his personal piggy bank, but it went unnoticed because the club did not file with the state Board of Elections and therefore did not file expenditure reports. 

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