New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang is making volunteers for his campaign sign confidentiality contracts that threaten stiff legal repercussions for any violators — even though he put his name behind an effort to purge nondisclosure agreements from politics last year, the Daily News has learned.
Before running for mayor, Yang was among a half dozen 2020 presidential candidates who made a commitment to “Lift Our Voices,” an advocacy group that pushes for an end to NDAs in business and politics because they’re often used to suppress allegations of wrongdoing.
Nonetheless, Yang’s mayoral campaign requires volunteers to sign a “conduct and confidentiality affirmation” before they can get to work.
The 11-point contract, a copy of which was obtained by The News, requires Yang staffers to promise they won’t “disclose” or “otherwise misappropriate any confidential information either during or after volunteering for the campaign.” A footnote to the document sweepingly defines “confidential” as any “nonpublic information” that pertains to the Yang campaign, its employees, affiliates, and agents.
“I recognize the campaign’s right to proceed directly against me to obtain both injunctive relief and reasonable monetary damages if I violate the commitment listed above in any way,” the contract concludes.
Former Fox News anchors Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky — who founded “Lift Our Voices” after alleging sexual harassment at the conservative media outlet — said Yang’s confidentiality requirements run counter to the pledge he made to them in 2020.
“One year ago, Andrew Yang joined our mission by stating that, ‘Women and other workers should not be systematically silenced. Let’s do better,’” Carlson and Roginsky said in a joint statement. “We strongly urge Mr. Yang to amend this agreement to specify that silencing mechanisms can never be used to prohibit campaign workers from speaking out about toxic work issues such as harassment or discrimination.”
Yang campaign spokesman Jake Sporn pushed back against Roginsky and Carlson’s assessment.
Sporn said the agreement doesn’t preclude volunteers or staffers from coming forward with allegations of wrongdoing and pointed to a provision that states personnel must refrain from “all forms of unlawful harassment.”
“This agreement would not — and could not, as a matter of New York law — ever be used to stop anyone from bringing such a claim,” Sporn said. “In fact, one of the primary goals of the agreement is to ensure that our volunteers clearly understand that such conduct will not be tolerated by the campaign. The remaining sections are there to protect all staff and volunteers from inadvertently running afoul of any rules regarding campaign finance or restrictions on coordination with any outside groups.”
Still, at least one of Yang’s competitors in the crammed mayoral race said she uses more direct wording in her hiring contracts.
“Our campaign contracts have language that explicitly allows people to speak about negative experiences if they believe they’ve encountered them,” former de Blasio adviser Maya Wiley’s campaign said. “We have a zero-tolerance policy and would never stop a staffer from speaking out about their time on the campaign.”
Evan Thies, a spokesman for Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ mayoral campaign, was vaguer when asked about nondisclosure agreements. “Pretty sure we don’t do those,” Thies said.
Aaron Foldenauer, another candidate in the race, drew an unflattering parallel between Yang and former President Donald Trump.
“Trump was widely criticized for requiring his staff to sign nondisclosure agreements,” Foldenauer said. “I am amazed that the Yang campaign would go to such lengths to find rats within the Yang gang. What is Andrew trying to hide?”
Yang has criticized other politicians over NDAs in the past.
Shortly after dropping out of the 2020 presidential race, Yang took a swipe at Michael Bloomberg for defending his company’s usage of NDAs during a heated exchange with Elizabeth Warren in the ninth Democratic primary debate.
“Elizabeth doesn’t let Bloomberg off the hook re: women and non-disclosure agreements,” Yang tweeted during the debate on Feb. 19, 2020. “She is well-prepared. Mike with a tone deaf answer saying ‘we’ll live with it.’”