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Will Kathy Hochul Kill the State’s Biggest Transparency Measure?

Because big money does not like you taking a look at who's behind it.

9:29 AM EDT on October 23, 2023

Kissena Corridor Park, connecting Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to Cunningham Park, as seen on the Queens Museum’s Panorama (Hell Gate).

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has not been shy about vetoing legislation. Last week, she killed a bill meant to make building wind power easier, and now transparency advocates are worried that a long-stalled gubernatorial signature means another piece of progressive legislation is marked for execution. 

The "Corporate Transparency Act" would shine some light on the famously murky world of Limited Liability Corporations, which allow financial institutions, real estate companies, and generally businesses of all sorts to launder money and evade taxes and accountability. Walk past a construction site in New York City and wonder who is funding that new condo? Good luck finding out! By searching the name of the company listed, you'll almost certainly be sent down a rabbit hole of various LLCs with names seemingly picked randomly, none of which give you any idea who owns them. 

According to a recent Reinvent Albany analysis, 37 percent of the 5.5 million properties in Manhattan are owned by LLCs—five times higher than the state average. In 2021, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen remarked that "the best place to hide and launder ill-gotten gains is actually the United States. And that’s because of the way we allow people to establish shell companies."

Unmasking LLCs is a simple way to allow the public to know who their landlords are, or which billionaires are parking their cash in a skyscraper, and the bill is supported by the state comptroller and the state attorney general, along with a slew of lawmakers.

Hochul has not said whether she'd sign the legislation, but her big donors are certainly voicing their concerns. According to a Guardian report, "A corporate lobbying group backed by Koch Industries is quietly pressing the Democratic New York governor, Kathy Hochul, not to sign a landmark transparency bill unmasking the owners of shell corporations involved in financial crimes, wage theft and tenant abuses." The Real Estate Board of New York told the Guardian that the bill would create "privacy and identity theft risks for New Yorkers and risks weakening New York’s economy."

The Corporate Transparency Act is one of many bills that passed the state legislature earlier this year, and have not been signed into law by the governor. New York, like many other states, allows the governor to wait until the end of the year to make a decision, and sometimes that decision is an outright veto. The governor could also just choose to not say anything at all about the bill, and then it gets vetoed anyway—this is what happened last year to wrongful death legislation that passed in 2022. Pissed that the legislature wasn't rubber-stamping her judicial nominee, Hochul pocket-vetoed the law, which is up again this year for consideration.

To give Governor Hochul the bit of courage she might need to sign this bill into law, we'll get the ball rolling with some transparency of our own. Hell Gate is an LLC, and while the company is (currently) under no obligation to disclose the LLC's actual owners, it's prepared to so anyway: We are owned by us, the writers! 

See, that wasn't so hard.

Some links, brought to light: 

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