Board of Elections (NYC)

Governor Cuomo Proposes More Disclosure for Online Political Ads in New York

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All told, the New York bills would “combat unscrupulous and shadowy threats to our electoral process,” according to a statement from Mr. Cuomo, after “a systematic effort to undermine and manipulate our very democracy” during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The governor’s push for new internet laws is expected to be a part of raft of other election-related proposals in 2018, which is an election year for every state legislative office and statewide position, including Mr. Cuomo’s. That will include another effort to legalize early voting, a practice that is already in place in many states, as well as same-day voter registration and automatic voter registration. Mr. Cuomo and the Democrat-led State Assembly have expressed support for such ideas as recently as last year. But they have foundered in the Republican-led Senate.

Photo

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will propose legislation next year to close legal loopholes in New York regarding political ads on the internet. Credit Bryan Bedder/Getty Images For Unicef

On the issue of online ads, Mr. Cuomo, a second-term Democrat who is a purported presidential contender, has lined up statements of support from Mr. Warner and Ms. Klobuchar. And initial reaction from election law experts suggested that such ideas would be an improvement on current disclosure requirements.

“The more transparency we have as far who is putting out ads and messages, the better informed the voter is,” said Jerry H. Goldfeder, a veteran New York elections lawyer.

The federal effort has been met by a significant lobbying effort by the tech industry to help shape possible regulations. Whether such an effort would be mounted in Albany is unclear, though giants like Google and Facebook keep lobbyists on retainer in the state capital.

Paul Seamus Ryan, the vice president of policy and litigation for Common Cause, a nonprofit that pushes for government accountability and supports the federal bill, says that expanding disclosure rules to online advertisements is an idea that states like New York should embrace. “It makes good sense at federal level and makes good sense at a state level, too,” Mr. Ryan said.

The public-filing requirement, however, might be trickier to implement, said Mr. Ryan, who wondered how strong enforcement of the “reasonable efforts” clause would be at a state level, which he called “pretty weak tea.”

“There are stronger ways to address foreign meddling in U.S. elections,” he said. “But its an improvement on the status quo.”

According to the governor’s office, violations of the proposed rules would carry fines of up to $1000 per incident. Mr. David said that enforcement for such proposals would fall to the state Board of Elections, whose performance has not been immune to controversy in years past.

Mr. David added that the proposals were meant to address “a huge gaping hole” in state election law and require billion-dollar internet companies to exercise “due diligence in posting political advertising.”

“Why is it that individuals have to register to place a political ad in the newspaper,” he said, “but not if they are posting it online?”

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Wendy Pettit

Wendy Pettit is a writer for NYT and writes for other publications on her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog Zuko.

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