PR Firms Partner to Sue New York Ethics Panel Over Lobbying Disclosure

By Shawn Paul Wood Comment

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The line between government lobbying and public relations has been getting regretfully blurry this year.

It all began with a study that came out in mid-January that basically said PR is the new lobbying. Despite that argument driving most of us crazy, it got some attention and started the conversation. Then, word came from New York State in Albany that PR professionals should register as actual lobbyists because of that already fuzzy line.

Now, a gaggle of those executives in PR got together and sued the state of New York over this misguided disclosure ruling:

The suit, filed in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, claims that the panel — the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, known as Jcope — overstepped its mandate in January when it adopted an advisory opinion that reinterpreted the definition of the lobbying.

“The commission’s action is a wholesale violation of the First Amendment’s speech and press provisions,” the lawsuit says, noting that while Jcope was cautioned by the public relations firms and others that the opinion was unconstitutional, “its response was to forge ahead, heedless of the impact.”

This is more than the Joint Commission on Public Ethics implementing a rule requiring disclosure of efforts to get editorial columns written for causes. This is clearly a freedom of speech issue — as in, limiting it within the industry because of lobbying on Capitol Hill.

The New York Post quotes it this way:

The PR people — who include the conservative November Team and the liberal Berlin Rosen — said the edict approved by the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics in January violates their free speech rights by “unlawfully subjecting public relations firms like the plaintiffs to a disclosure and punishment regime designed for true lobbyists, when all that they are doing is speaking to the press about public issues.”

We’re great at keeping our opinions to ourselves and only sharing them around the water cooler. This is not what of those times. Use your voice and let it be heard:

New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, 540 Broadway, Albany, NY 12207

(518) 408-3976

Or file a complaint here.

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