Gov. Kathy Hochul was New York’s most successful political fundraiser last year, according to campaign finance disclosures filed last month with the state elections board. Her campaign committee raked in $21.6 million in just five months.
But Hochul’s campaign “flouted the law,” according to an analysis by New York Focus, by failing to identify the owners of 130 limited liability companies, or LLCs, that gave money to her committee.
Since 2019, candidates running for office have been required to identify the owners of LLCs that donate to their campaigns. An LLC’s donation is divided among the owners; each owner’s share counts against the cap on how much an individual can give a candidate. (In the governor’s race this year, the cap is $69,700.) The law’s intent is to close a loophole which saw wealthy donors using the anonymity of LLCs to skirt those donation limits.
Last year, 170 LLCs donated to Hochul, according to the New York Focus analysis, which was aided by the Public Accountability Initiative, a Buffalo-based public interest research organization, and co-published with The City.
Fewer than a quarter of those donations identified the LLC’s owners, effectively rendering the donors anonymous.
“We don’t know who is funding Governor Hochul, despite her pledges of transparency,” PAI’s Robert Galbraith told New York Focus. Hochul said last August her administration would open a “new era of transparency” in Albany.
The report identified a number of other state elected officials who also failed to list owners of the LLCs that support them, including Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt of Niagara County.
We saw this happen locally with @MayorByronBrown, who failed to disclose his donors hiding behind LLCs until his 2021 primary loss. Then in one filing, he disclosed the owners of every LLC that gave to him except one owned by Carl Paladino, whose money Brown pledged not to take.
— Rob Galbraith (@RobCGalbraith) February 9, 2022
The LLC violations and other apparent illegalities in Brown’s filings were the subject of a formal complaint filed Aug. 20 with the state elections board by Peter Rizzo, who analyzed Brown’s campaign finances.
The elections board’s enforcement division acknowledged receiving his complaint, Rizzo told Investigative Post, but he hasn’t heard from them since.