The next New York attorney general needs to fight for nonprofits

Sharon Stapel and Eric Schneiderman
Sharon Stapel and Eric Schneiderman
Shutterstock, NPCCNY, illustration by Zach Williams
Sharon Stapel is the president of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York.

The next New York attorney general needs to fight for nonprofits

The attorney general’s office must help defend the sector from harmful federal policies and support its work.
May 15, 2018

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s resignation this week, amidst allegations of physically assaulting women, shocked New York. These allegations are abhorrent to the nonprofit sector, particularly those organizations working to prevent violence. Schneiderman’s abrupt departure leaves open many questions about the future and priorities of the attorney general’s office, including those that impact the nonprofit sector.

The attorney general’s office is both the lawyer for the people of New York and, through its Charities Bureau, the state regulator of nonprofits. In both capacities, the attorney general’s work intersects with that of the nonprofit sector. By enforcing civil rights law, and challenging discriminatory practices, the attorney general supports the work of nonprofits in our communities. By regulating nonprofit practices, the attorney general assures that our sector remains focused on the public good.

The Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York, through our Government Relations Council, works closely with government regulatory bodies. NPCC offers expert commentary on laws affecting the nonprofit sector, such as the Nonprofit Revitalization Act. And we also advocate against those laws that we think unfairly burden nonprofits, including those the attorney general is charged with implementing, such as the governor’s so-called “ethics law.” We know that the regulation of the attorney general’s office is important, not just to regulate bad actors, but also to create an environment where nonprofits can operate effectively and efficiently. As the New York state Legislature considers whom to appoint to the position, we urge them to consider the needs of the nonprofit sector.

At a time where it appears that the federal government is creating policies that harm nonprofits, and the communities we serve, we need an attorney general who will aggressively fight these policies. This includes threats to DACA, the “travel ban,” and healthcare. This also includes policies that will weaken the nonprofit sector, such as the threat to repeal nonprofit nonpartisanship or tax reform that imposes a tax on tax-exempt organizations.

We also need an attorney general that recognizes the significance of the nonprofit sector, and all that we contribute. Nonprofits are an important part of New York’s economic engine and we lead the nation in both the number of people employed in the nonprofit sector (1.3 million) and the total wages paid to nonprofit employees ($62 billion). Nonprofits help New York solve societal problems through our issue expertise, hands-on experience, and innovative approaches. The next attorney general must value and include the sector in their work.

We need an attorney general who continues to support and provide resources for the Charities Bureau. The Charities Bureau must be able to continue its efforts to streamline nonprofit compliance, audits, and reporting to provide greater transparency about the work of nonprofits while eliminating unnecessarily burdensome or duplicative practices.

Finally, we need an attorney general who understands the ways in which nonprofits work – ideally because of their own experience in the sector - and who has dedicated their career to seeking justice and equity.

The next attorney general will have many priorities they’ll need to focus on. For a stronger New York, nonprofits must be one of them.

Sharon Stapel, president of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York
Sharon Stapel
is president of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York.