ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A formal complaint filed with New York's lobbying board asks it to investigate whether Artists Against Fracking, a group that includes Yoko Ono and other A-List celebrities, is violating the state's lobbying law, according to the document obtained by The Associated Press.
The Independent Oil & Gas Association, an industry group that supports gas drilling, filed the complaint Tuesday with the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
The complaint is based on an AP story that found that Artists Against Fracking and its members, including Ono, her son Sean Lennon, actors Mark Ruffalo and Robert De Niro and others, aren't registered as lobbyists and therefore didn't disclose their spending in opposition to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to remove gas from underground deposits.
"The public has been unable to learn how much money is being spent on this effort, what it is being spent on, and who is funding the effort," said Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York. "I understand the power of celebrity that this organization has brought to the public discussion over natural gas development, but I do not understand why this organization is not being required to follow the state's lobbying law."
The group confirmed it filed the complaint but didn't comment further.
Artists Against Fracking, formed by Ono and Lennon, says its activities are protected as free speech. The group was created last year amid the Cuomo administration's review to determine whether to allow hydraulic fracturing to remove gas from vast underground shale formations in southern and central New York.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues his review as public opinion has shifted from initial support based on the promise of jobs and tax revenue from drilling in economically depressed upstate New York to mixed feelings because of concerns over potential environmental and health effects.
Seven months after Artists Against Fracking was formed, the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute on March 20 found that New York voters were for the first time opposed to fracking, 46 percent to 39 percent.
"There's no doubt the celebrities had an effect," Quinnipiac pollster Maurice Carroll said. "As far as I can tell, they made all the difference."