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Attorney General’s Project Sunlight Presented to Port Chamber of Commerce

At a meeting of the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce held at Ayhan’s Fish Kebab restaurant on Aug. 11, a representative of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s office outlined an Internet program relating to governmental affairs known as Project Sunlight. The presentation was made by Mr. Brian Harrington, assistant director of government affairs, the office of the New York State Attorney General.

Mr. Harrington spoke of the Project Sunlight website as the first of its kind in New York State, which provides easy access to campaign finance, lobbying, agency contracts, member items, and legislative databases. The website is accessible on the Internet at New Yorkers can go on this website to see whether tax dollars are being spent and how their representatives are voting on key issues. This event is part of the attorney general’s statewide outreach efforts to inform the public about Project Sunlight and how it can be used. A brochure, which was distributed, outlined the goal of Project Sunlight as the promotion of the public’s right to know and monitor government decision-making. Mr. Harrington pointed out that Project Sunlight is an ongoing initiative and will be continually updated. The brochure described the following potential uses of the program:

Research any bill: Project Sunlight allows you to easily research any bill or its sponsors simply by using the bill number, name of the specific lawmaker, or a keyword search for the topic of interest to you. You can also learn more about the bills, their status, whether it is in committee or signed by the governor and the cost to taxpayers.

Learn more about lobbyists: Under New York law, lobbyists and their clients who spend or paid more than $5,000 per year to influence government must file disclosure reports with the Commission on Public Integrity. You can access these reports on Project Sunlight and identify the issues that involve lobbying. You can also get lobbyists phone numbers, addresses, and discover how much the lobbyists were paid.

Follow your tax dollars: Constitutional standards require that all member items, which are state funds should be allocated for public purposes. For the first time, Project Sunlight allows you to view member items on a New York State map. Simply by clicking on the county or selecting the name of an elected official, you can see how tax dollars are being spent in your area.

Retrieve campaign finance records: In New York State, nearly all candidates for local or statewide offices who have raised or spent more than $2,000 are required to disclose their campaign finance activities. Project Sunlight allows you to search candidates campaign finance records and find out who raise the contributions and how much they are..

Monitor charitable contributions: Under New York law, charities must file financial reports with the attorney general’s office and the Internal Revenue Service disclosing how funds are raised and spent. Project Sunlight offers easy access to financial reports filed by charities across New York State. You can search for a charity of interest and review a wide range of information including its purpose, sources of income, and the amount spent on compensation for directors and fundraisers.

In addition to the normal business of Port’s Chamber of Commerce a number of other matters of interest were also discussed. The Pride in Port parade is scheduled for Saturday, October 3. Installation dinner for the 2009-2010 Board of Directors will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 7 p.m. Ayhan’s. The chamber will also honor Eli Schefer and Andrea Watson for their contributions to the HarborFest Model Boat Regatta. Invitations will be going out shortly

The executive director of the chamber, Roberta Polay, spoke on pursuing the idea of a Port Washington cookbook compiled by the chamber. While the project is still in the planning stages Polay is asking that anyone interested in working on the project, including restaurants and/or individuals, should contact her.

The next meeting of the chamber is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 15.