Anti-fracking celebs Ono, Ruffalo, Sarandon, et al may be in violation of N.Y. disclosure law
The biggest penalty for failure to follow the lobbying law resulted in a $250,000 fine against Donald Trump and others over casinos in 2000, and the Philip Morris tobacco company was hit with a $75,000 fine in 1999.
Over the years, several celebrities or their groups have been required to register as lobbyists. But whether celebrities must register hinges on its specific circumstances. The line between lobbying and free speech isn’t bright or clear, and the Joint Commission on Public Ethics wouldn’t comment; it referred the AP to the law for clarification.
Under state law, a lobbyist is defined as any person or organization “employed, retained” in “any attempt to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation … or approval or disapproval of any legislation by the governor.” That can include nonprofit groups and their unpaid advocates.
In the fracking case, the Assembly and the Senate Independent Democratic Conference have introduced laws that would delay a pending decision on drilling by Cuomo.
Grandeau was in charge when, in 2005, the lobbying commission accepted a $5,000 payment to settle a case against a coalition that included hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, former NAACP head Benjamin Chavis and the former federal housing secretary – Andrew Cuomo.
The commission had insisted The Coalition for Fairness, which aimed at relaxing long sentences for drug offenses, was lobbying, while the coalition said it was exercising its right to free speech.
Earlier in 2005, an appellate court ruled Simmons and Chavis had failed to disclose how much they spent on a 2003 rally against the drug laws.
The ethics commission “does not comment on or confirm matters that may or may not be before it,” said spokesman John Milgrim. “But laws requiring lobbyists and their clients to publicly disclose their lobbying are well known and the commission expects compliance.”