Simmons Investigated in Lobbying Probe
"The commission is investigating Russell Simmons and other folks to see if they engaged in lobbying without properly registering with the state and documenting their spending," Lobbying Commission Executive Director David Grandeau tells the news service.
At issue is a question of how much influence the hip-hop impresario, 45, as well as others (including former Clinton cabinet secretary Andrew Cuomo and former gubernatorial candidate Thomas Golisano) might have tried to exert.
The commission will look into whether the men spent more than $2,000 to influence state officials -- the maximum anyone can spend to lobby the state government without registering with the commission and making periodic financial disclosures.
The lobbying watchdog is also investigating to see if Simmons provided an illegal gift of a free helicopter ride to Secretary of State Randy Daniels last week, according to Grandeau. (Anything worth more than $75 is verboten as far as state officials are concerned.)
Simmons is part of a coalition that has been working to convince New York's state legislature to relax the so-called Rockefeller drug laws, enacted in 1973 by then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller.
Under those laws, judges must impose a prison sentence of 15 years to life on anyone convicted of selling two ounces, or possessing four ounces, of an illegal narcotic such as cocaine or heroin.