Celebrity Anti-Fracking Group May Be in Trouble for Failing to Register as Lobbyists
An influential group of celebrity anti-fracking advocates, known as Artists Against Fracking, may be running afoul of New York State law, according to the AP:
Artists Against Fracking opposes hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and boasts members including Yoko Ono and actors Mark Ruffalo and Susan Sarandon.
The group says forcing water and chemicals deep into shale deposits to extract gas threatens drinking water and the environment. The group’s website implores, “Tell Governor Cuomo: Don’t Frack New York.”
But the group and nearly 200 entertainers who are gaining attention and support in the dispute, which is splitting New Yorkers, aren’t registered lobbyists, according to a search by The Associated Press of the database of the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics. State law is designed to disclose who is trying to influence government action, how much money they are spending and where the money’s going.
“You spend money lobbying, you have to register,” said David Grandeau, former executive director of the state lobbying commission and now an attorney representing lobbyists and clients.
There’s no public record of how much money Artists Against Fracking has spent, but its website contains links for visitors to make donations, which are directed to the Sustainable Markets Foundation. Although the foundation is an established charitable organization and its donations are recorded publicly, it isn’t registered with New York as a lobbying client, either.
The AP notes that failing to register as a lobbyist is not a criminal offense. Typically someone is given the opportunity to pay a $200 fee and fill out the proper paperwork.