New York State

Somos conferences paying off for students and sponsors

Somos, the biannual Hispanic conference will take place in Albany this weekend.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo at the 2015 Somos conference in Albany.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo at the 2015 Somos conference in Albany. Shannon DeCelle

New York legislators are getting their dancing shoes – and, perhaps, their notepads – ready for the annual Somos spring conference in Albany this weekend.

The conference, which aims to promote Hispanic political power in New York, is remarkably similar to an annual February weekend conference hosted by the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, commonly known as Caucus Weekend. But while that event has faced criticism for questionable spending and failure to fund promised scholarships, experts say Somos has been living up to its mission.

“In looking at the numbers, they look reasonable,” New York Council of Nonprofits Chief Operating Officer Kelly Mathews told City & State after reviewing Somos Inc.’s tax forms. For the fiscal year from July 2016 to June 2017, Somos took in $1.12 million in revenue and spent the majority of that, $730,000, on its two annual conferences – one in Albany in March, and one in Puerto Rico in November. That year, Somos delivered $94,000 in total scholarship money to 90 recipients. Somos also helps fund attendance at the Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute, or PRHYLI, a youth conference in Albany running alongside the main Somos Albany conference.

Somos Inc. had similar spending figures the previous fiscal year, from 2015 to 2016. The nonprofit took in $930,000, spent $470,000 on conferences and paid out nearly $80,000 in scholarships to 92 people.

Those scholarships are secondary to the organization’s primary mission. According to the tax filings, Somos aims to put on conferences where stakeholders in New York’s Hispanic population can “address various concerns pertinent to this community.” Additionally, it funds academic financial awards and college internships.

These figures come from Somos Inc.’s publicly available Form 990s, filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Somos did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the group’s finances or mission, and would not directly provide the Form 990s, despite being required to do.

The conferences are organized by Somos Inc., but the policy panels are set up by the New York State Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, which is made up of New York state senators and Assembly members. For the last four years, Bronx Assemblyman Marcos Crespo has chaired the task force and served as the de facto host of the biannual Somos conferences. Brooklyn Assemblywoman Maritza Davila took over as task force chairwoman in December, and will be hosting her first conference this weekend.

The mixing of a tax-exempt, nonpartisan not-for-profit with political players has raised some eyebrows, said Gerson Borrero, a journalist who has been covering Somos conferences since they first began in 1987. But Somos’ current 14-member board of directors, none of whom are elected officials, has been good at keeping up the firewall. “These people are playing it pretty straight,” Borrero said. “Out of fear or stupidity, they don’t fuck around, as far as I’ve been able to tell.”

Still, Borrero is one of a number of Latinos involved in New York politics that have criticized the Somos conferences for being weak on policy. Before his death last year, Puerto Rican advocate Angelo Falcón had been calling for a formal report on Somos’ results, both legislative and financial. Borrero said while he has heard Crespo may have written such a report, it has yet to be publicly released. Crespo wasn’t immediately available for comment.

One metric has been clear though – Somos Inc. is bringing in more money. The organization’s revenue increased in each the past five reported fiscal years, from $540,000 in 2012 to $1.12 million in 2016. Presumably, this revenue reflects an increase in sponsor support for Somos. Each conference is backed by a long list of sponsors who pay for access to the politicians and policymakers in attendance. Past attendees have included Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and dozens of other lawmakers. Somos lists more than 50 sponsors on the website for this weekend’s conference, most if not all of which are also actively lobbying the state Legislature. Top sponsors include Uber, the Greater New York Hospital Association and the labor union DC37. City & State has previously written about another major Somos sponsor, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which also gave $2.5 million to a pro-Trump political action committee in 2017.

But with charitable giving and a message of uplifting Hispanic New Yorkers’ political priorities, it’s hard to find direct criticism of the organization in Albany. The conference is known for its parties and socializing, Crespo admitted to City & State ahead of the 2018 conference, but it’s about more than that.

“Powwows do take place,” he said, “but so does a lot of very substantive and worthwhile networking that strengthens the Latino agenda.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.