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Editorial: NARAL shouldn't have exemption on donor disclosure

A woman holds a sign during a women's

A woman holds a sign during a women's rights rally at the Capitol on Tuesday in Albany. (June 4, 2013) Credit: AP

While it's true that abortion is one of the most emotional and divisive political topics of our times, there's no reason for the exemption abortion-rights lobbying group NARAL Pro-Choice New York has been granted that allows it to keep its donors secret.

NARAL is the first group to go through the exemption process with the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, but its approval has opened the door to several other organizations that have applied. NARAL sought the exemption based on the JCOPE law, that created the carve-out for organizations whose lobbying is controversial, and whose donors, if identified, might face retaliation. But any issue that inspires lobbying is controversial: People get irate about everything from income tax rates to gun laws to standardized testing in the schools. Donors supporting points of view in any high frequency political battle could face harm or harassment, the standard on which granting the exemption is based.

The problem, as pointed out by Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, of Rockville Centre, is that it allows NARAL and other groups that may be approved to garner political contributions outside of public view and free of campaign finance restrictions. That lack of transparency presents a real danger to our system, while the danger that donors to unpopular causes will be seriously targeted is highly unlikely. JCOPE shouldn't issue any more such exemptions, the law should be changed to eliminate them, and NARAL's legal and exclusive lack of transparency should end.