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NY fracking foes: will become lobby if necessary

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm •  Published: March 18, 2013
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The commission can't confirm or deny it will take on any case, spokesman John Milgrim said.

Ravi Batra, a former member of the commission board, called it an important issue.

"When celebrities get involved in influencing public opinion, it behooves everyone to make sure the law is followed to the letter," he said.

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.

Under New York law, however, it appears Artists Against Fracking is required to be a registered lobbyist because the law hinges on spending over $5,000. The group hasn't filed lobbying reports, so the amount it has spent and what it was spent on isn't known publicly. Experts in Albany say the website and public events appear to have cost well over $5,000.

The widow and son of musician John Lennon recently attended an anti-fracking event in Albany with Ruffalo, actors Zooey Deschanel, Alec Baldwin and Hugh Jackman, and singer Lady Gaga, along with other longtime activists such as David Crosby and Paul McCartney.

A week ago, Artists Against Fracking widely released a music video done through Skype from various locations featuring dozens of entertainers singing a Sean Lennon song, "Don't Frack My Mother." In it, Ono sings part of the chorus, "Don't frack me!"

Failing to register as a lobbyist is not a criminal offense. Commonly, when a person new to lobbying is believed to have failed to lobby as required by law that person is given a chance to submit a lobbing form and pay a $200 fee.

One of the main players supporting fracking, the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, is registered.

Lobbying is big business in New York. The New York Public Interest Research Group reported that more than $220 million was spent lobbying in 2011 — and that was before the fracking debate really heated up.

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.