August 2, 2019 1:07PM

New York Threatens Legislative Crusader With Unregistered‐​Lobbyist Fines

As part of a one-woman crusade to call attention to sexual abuse, with the goal of getting New York to ease its law on the filing of abuse lawsuits, Kat Sullivan bought billboards, started a website, and hired a plane to pull a banner. Now, according to press reports, New York's state ethics agency, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, has been after her with repeated warnings that she may have exceeded a $5,000 limit on expenditures for advocacy of legislation.  From Chris Bragg's reporting in the Albany Times-Union:

JCOPE staffers have left eight voicemails for Sullivan over the past year. She has taken part in often lengthy phone calls with investigators more than a dozen times, and has received three official letters. She's been part of a dozen more email threads with JCOPE staff, totaling 65 pages. She paid a lawyer $1,900 to speak to the agency....

Sullivan, who also made expenditures in Massachusetts and Connecticut in pursuit of her cause, denies that her New York-related spending exceeded $5,000.

On July 12, JCOPE sent Sullivan what's known as a "15-day letter" threatening her with the launch of a formal investigation that could result in fines of up to $25,000 per violation — and there could be many. While the letter says she has until Monday to respond in writing, commissioners "may vote to commence an investigation prior to receiving your written response."...

JCOPE spokesman Walter McClure....[said] that JCOPE has procedures for "handling potential unregistered lobbying" and treats all people and entities "allegedly involved in that unregistered lobbying the same way."

"We will enforce the law and pursue the required disclosure," McClure said.

Pssst! Lobbying is speech!