RALEIGH, NC: A coalition of political groups and one PR firm in North Carolina have convinced state lawmakers to toughen some of the weakest lobbying laws in the nation.
The legislation, which passed August 24, requires monthly reports of what lobbyists are spending on lawmakers while the legislature is in session, expands regulation of lobbying to the executive branch, and institutes a six-month period before ex-legislators can lobby.
Rick French, president and CEO of PR firm French/West/Vaughan and a member of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying Reform (NCCLR), was frustrated that other PR firms in the state might be taking advantage of lax lobbying rules.
"If the people in public relations and public affairs were not going to get behind this in any way and support it, it would imply that the kinds of things happening in our state were tacitly condoned by our industry," French said.
The campaign focused on generating grassroots support for the reforms, which coalition members believed was necessary because of their sensitive political nature.
"In a legislature that can often operate in secrecy, you didn't know who was working behind the scenes to thwart your effort," said Marc Siegel, director of the coalition. "What we needed to do was make the case so public, so effective, and so intense that it could not be opposed."
Earlier this year, French criticized the city of Raleigh, NC, because he believed elected officials had unfairly awarded a PR contract to another local agency.
French contacted lobbyists, legislators, and reporters about the group's mission. "[Siegel] called on coalition members to do media outreach to every newspaper in the state, every media outlet in the state to push the agenda. Collectively, it created a groundswell of support and public pressure to close the loopholes," he said.