Association of Student Governments leaders should register with the North Carolina Secretary of State as lobbyists.
State law defines a lobbyist as someone who spends more than 5 percent of their time trying to influence executive or legislative decision making.
ASG leaders are not sure whether or not they fit this definition. It was suggested at ASG’s meeting last weekend that lobbying is not in its job description.
ASG has it wrong — especially since association President Atul Bhula has made it very clear that lobbying is a top priority. In his own words: “Lobbying in North Carolina is our main concern.”
It is possible that ASG doesn’t meet the 5 percent time threshold. But if ASG plans to use that excuse for not registering, then they are calling into question their legitimacy as an organization that prioritizes lobbying for UNC-system students.
The word “lobbyist” carries a stigma to some, but this is no reason to avoid registration. If ASG continues to engage in what might be unregistered lobbying, they are only contributing to the negative public perception of the people and organizations that attempt to influence government.
North Carolina ethics laws were designed to add transparency and legitimacy to the world of government relations. In the context of state government, having registered lobbyists would add credibility to ASG’s efforts.
Furthermore, the fees to register are only $100 and unregistered lobbying is a misdemeanor that could result in up to thousands of dollars in fines and being banned from lobbying altogether.
Registration is needed to establish ASG’s legitimacy to both the members of the General Assembly and the students they represent. There’s no reason ASG should risk ending up in hot water if they don’t take state ethics law seriously.