Common Cause/NY to JCOPE: It's an Abuse of Power to Mischaracterize a Private Citizen as a Lobbyist

NEW YORK, NY (10/25/2019) (readMedia)-- On Wednesday, a private citizen named Kat Sullivan filed a suit against the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), alleging that JCOPE is violating her free speech rights. Last year, Ms. Sullivan, who is a survivor of childhood rape, used her settlement money to pay for billboards in Albany-- and flew planes with banners above the school where she was raped -- in support of the Child Victims Act. Earlier this year, JCOPE determined that since she spent more than $5,000, she should have registered as a lobbyist and fined her.

In response, Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY, issued the following statement:

"JCOPE appears to be willfully misinterpreting the lobbying law, which as written, clearly should not apply to Ms. Sullivan or any private individual who takes it upon herself to petition her government. This is an abuse of power that smacks of retaliation, and violates our fundamental democratic rights. A person who is not retained to advocate on behalf of another entity is not a lobbyist, by definition under the New York Lobbying Act. It's clear that Ms. Sullivan's passion, not a paycheck, is what's driving her advocacy. It's an embarrassment that JCOPE can't tell the difference and continues to harass her rather than pursuing actual public corruption."


The New York Lobbying Act:

§ 1-a. Legislative declaration.

The legislature hereby declares that the operation of responsible democratic government requires that the fullest opportunity be afforded to the people to petition their government for the redress of grievances and to express freely to appropriate officials their opinions on legislation and governmental operations; and that, to preserve and maintain the integrity of the governmental decision-making process in this state, it is necessary that the identity, expenditures and activities of persons and organizations retained, employed or designated to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation by either house of the legislature or the approval, or veto, of any legislation by the governor and attempts to influence the adoption or rejection of any rule or regulation having the force and effect of law or the outcome of any rate making proceeding by a state agency, and the attempts to influence the passage or defeat of any local law, ordinance, or regulation be publicly and regularly disclosed.

§ 1-b. Short title.

This article shall be known and may be cited as the "Lobbying act".

§ 1-c. Definitions.

As used in this article unless the context otherwise requires:

(a) The term "lobbyist" shall mean every person or organization retained, employed or designated by any client to engage in lobbying.