The Associated Press reports that New York State is poised to loosen lobbying disclosure requirements and tighten gift restrictions. The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which has broad jurisdiction over New York state ethics and lobbying laws, has proposed new rules governing both lobbying disclosure requirements and ethical restrictions on gifts.
First, the lobbying disclosure rules: currently, lobbyists are required to disclose their sources of funding over a certain threshold. The Joint Commission “may” grant an exemption for this requirement if a lobbyist can show that there is a “substantial likelihood” that the disclosure will requirement cause “harm, threats, harassment or reprisals” to the source of the funding. The proposed change would lower the standard for the exemption, requiring (“shall grant”) the Joint Commission to grant it if there is a “reasonable probability” of harm. Joint Commission Executive Director Ellen Biben noted that the current standard might violate the state constitution.
Second, the proposed gift rules would generally ban gifts from lobbyists to public officials worth more than a nominal value (defined as more than $10), with various exceptions, including one for “awards, plaques, and other ceremonial items.” These proposed rules would supersede earlier regulations implementing the same statute.
Before they go into effect, the Joint Commission must approve the changes.
Yet another reminder that the rules are always changing for lobbyists, especially at the state level.