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Advisory Opinion 2014-1

FACTS
A committee of the New York City Council published notices of public hearings on recently introduced legislation; the notices invited testimony from members of the public.  A not-for-profit organization hired a lobbying firm to testify at one of the public hearings on its behalf regarding the legislation’s possible effects on its organization. An officer or employee of the lobbying firm testified on behalf of the not-for-profit at the public hearing.

ISSUE
Whether the officer or employee of the lobbying firm who testified at a City Council committee hearing engaged in “lobbying” or “lobbying activities” pursuant to New York City Administrative Code (“Administrative Code”) §3-211(c) et seq.?

OPINION
Pursuant to the Administrative Code, every person or organization retained or designated by any client to attempt to influence any determination made by the Council or any member thereof with respect to “the introduction, passage, defeat, or substance of any local legislation or resolution” is engaged in lobbying.  See Ad. Code §3-211(c)(1)(i). Therefore, lobbying firms that attempt to influence any step in the legislative process are engaged in lobbying unless their specific conduct is exempt under the Administrative Code.

The Administrative Code provides an exemption from the definition of “lobbying” or “lobbying activities” for “persons who prepare or submit a response to a request for information or comments by the city council or one of its committees, the mayor, or other elected city official or an agency.”  See Ad. Code §3-211(c)(3)(v).  Thus, because an officer or employee of the lobbying firm testified at a public hearing in response to a City Council committee’s request for such testimony, the lobbying firm was not engaged in “lobbying” or “lobbying activities” pursuant to the Administrative Code.  See id.

CONCLUSION
It is the determination of the City Clerk that an officer or employee of a lobbying firm who testifies on behalf of the firm’s client at a public hearing held by a City Council committee is not engaged in “lobbying” or “lobbying activities.”  Such conduct is merely a response to a request for information by a Council committee and is excluded from the definition of lobbying pursuant to Administrative Code §3-211(c)(3)(v). 

MICHAEL MCSWEENEY, City Clerk of the City of New York
DAMARIS ACOSTA, Deputy City Clerk
PATRICK SYNMOIE, Counsel to the City Clerk
JAIME LYNN CHIRICHELLA, Deputy Counsel to the City Clerk

 

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