New York State Wants PR Pros to Register as ‘Lobbyists’

We'd all like to register a complaint with New York State. At least we should.

Just let that headline soak in because it’s all true.

If you work in New York, your job is about to be minimized to grandiose politicking, “spin doctoring,” and flat-out lying. This is what most people think of government lobbyists who live on the Hill to schmooze representatives for the benefits of huge organizations (i.e., big tobacco, NRA, defense contractors).

We all know this is not what most of us do. In fact, it’s not even what public affairs professionals do. However, the memo never made it to Albany, N.Y., where this decision is seriously being considered.

The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) will vote next week on regulations that would require all PR consultants and their clients to disclose communication they have with the media and government officials in the state, as lobbyists have to do.

Why? JCOPE ascertains that public relations agencies have “an influence on public officials” when it comes to the media. And that’s why disclosing should happen.

“Any attempt by a consultant to induce a third-party — whether the public or the press — to deliver the client’s lobbying message to a public official would constitute lobbying under these rules,” JCOPE’s advisory opinion document states.

Think about it: That think you do all day — pitching — is now going to be considered “lobbying” because you are influencing the public. This is a complete mockery and misunderstanding of public relations, and frankly, it’s lunacy.

We share stories that benefit a community. Think of it as promoting a cause rather than pushing a client. This isn’t about agendas; it’s aspiration. And for the New York JCOPE to assume we are on the same level as lobbyists is completely erroneous and detrimental to what we do.

This potential ruling is bathed in such crap that even the state branch of the ACLU is opposed to the new rule. Yeah, the ACLU!

“The idea of requiring anyone to have to report to the government before they talk to the press is a very dangerous proposition,” New York Press Association Executive Director Michelle Rea earlier told Crain’s New York Business. CNYB also reported that The New York Civil Liberties Union is siding with PR agencies on this one.

JCOPE thinks all agencies are being “paid to lobby,” which means the public has a right to know. I know reporters in New York who would strongly disagree with that stance.