Tue., 12:22pm: NY fracking foes: will become lobby if necessary
ALBANY, N.Y. — Artists Against Fracking said neither the group nor supporters Yoko Ono or Sean Lennon have been told to register as lobbyists in their campaign against gas drilling in New York, but will if necessary to continue their work.
A good-government advocate and two lobbying experts said the state should review whether Artists Against Fracking and its supporter-celebrities should be registered as lobbyists.
The group and nearly 200 entertainers connected with it aren’t currently registered lobbyists, a search by The Associated Press of the database of the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics shows.
Registration would require disclosure of how much money the group has raised and how it’s been spent – a measure intended as a way for the public to know who is influencing public policy.
David Fenton, a spokesman for the group, said Monday it would have no objection if required to register.
“Yoko and Sean, as true with many New Yorkers, have expressed concerns about fracking, participated in the submission of comments to the Department of Environmental Conservation, and visited Albany with their own resources,” Fenton said. “As such, neither Yoko, Sean, nor their Artists Against Fracking endeavor have been required to be registered lobbyists. If there is a need to register, of course, that will occur.”
Over the years, several celebrities or their groups have been required to register as lobbyists. But whether celebrities must register hinges on specific circumstances. The line between lobbying and free speech isn’t bright or clear.
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.
The activists, among them actors Mark Ruffalo and Susan Sarandon, are trying to protect the environment from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The group says forcing water and chemicals deep into shale deposits to extract gas threatens drinking water and the environment.