Testimony to
Joint Commission on Public Ethics

Staff Proposal for Comprehensive Lobbying Regulation

Presented by
Ken Pokalsky, Vice President

December 7, 2016

On behalf of The Business Council of New York State, Inc., we appreciate this opportunity to address the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (“Commission”) regarding its proposal for “Comprehensive Lobbying Regulations” and for amending your existing source of funding rule.

Previously, we submitted detailed written comments to JCOPE’s draft amendments to 19 NYCRR Part 938 and its proposed Part 942.

Today, I would like to highlight and expand upon several issues raised in our written testimony.

The Business Council is in a unique position to provide comment on these regulations. As a state-wide employer advocacy organization, we represent about 2,400 private sector employers of all sizes and in all sectors across New York State, many of whom engage in legislative, regulatory and procurement lobbying and are subject to JCOPE oversight. On behalf of our membership, The Business Council has been long engaged in responding to legislative and regulatory proposals impacting business activities, including those governing advocacy.

In addition, as an advocacy organization, The Business Council is directly subject to the state’s Lobbying Act, and has first-hand experience in interpreting and complying with the state’s lobbying rules. As a trade association with several thousand members, we also face unique compliance obligations not faced by most clients and lobbyists.

In general, we appreciate and support the sentiment expressed in JCOPE’s initial October 13, 2016 email seeking input on these draft rules, which cited, among other things, JCOPE’s intent to “...streamline reporting requirements, providing more clarity about the requirements related to consultants, grassroots lobbying, sources of funding, and the use of new media for lobbying purposes.”

Several provisions of the draft rules are particularly helpful in this regard. For example:

Other provisions of the JCOPE draft rules were of concern to us. These include regulatory proposals that were inconsistent with underlying statutory requirements as well as proposals that failed to provide clear compliance standards – an outcome contrary to one of your main objectives.

Among our most significant concerns were the following:

In several instances, draft §942.4 proposes extra-statutory limitations on exemptions from what constitutes lobbying. For example, §942.4(f) would impose limitations to the statutory exemption for responses to requests for comments, saying that the statutory exception would only apply if “the response is directed only to the requesting party,” and “The information contained in the response is not more than what was sought in the request,” among other things. Not only are these restrictive provisions not in statute, they make the standard and compliance far more ambiguous.

In comments on JCOPEs two current regulatory proposals, we also reiterated concerns that we previously raised with JCOPE as to compliance mandates that depart significantly from statutory authority, and in doing so add unnecessary to compliance and reporting requirements:

In closing, let me say that The Business Council appreciates the public’s interest in meaningful and timely information about, to use JCOPE’s language, “the people and entities behind those attempts at influencing decisions that can affect us all.”

We devote substantial time and effort to meeting the requirements of the Lobbying Act. In doing so, we ask for clear compliance standards, regulations that are squarely based on statutory provisions, efficient reporting processes and technology, and a focus on meaningful information.

We look forward to working with JCOPE in achieving those objectives.