Fighting for the 1st Amendment

New lobbying rules are a ‘significant burden’ for PR executives
Marie J. French, Reporter, Albany Business Review
Feb. 5, 2016

Sending press releases advocating for or against the minimum wage and setting up meetings with editorial boards may now force public relations experts to register as lobbyists.

If the decision holds up to expected legal challenges, it would be a sweeping expansion of the state ethics commission’s authority.

Executives at public relations firms described the new rules as another regulatory burden on small business — and one likely to be fought in the courts.

“There’s no way that any state entity can declare that organizing people is somehow lobbying,” said Andre Claridge, managing partner of Latham-based PC Public Affairs. “I don’t think (the ethics commission) understands what their own definition of what lobbying is. They’re trying to regulate free speech, freedom to assemble.”

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, regulates lobbying activity in New York. On Jan. 26, it expanded the types of activities triggering disclosure and filing requirements.

Public relations firms are concerned about wording defining grassroots advocacy that could include activity ranging from talking with editorial boards to training sessions on how to advocate. Some have publicly declared they won’t comply and questioned the rules’ clarity…to read more subscribe to the Albany Business Review.

Marie French covers health care and government.

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