Mogul Simmons Takes on Government

updated 07/31/2003 at 12:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/31/2003 5:23PM

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons filed a complaint in Manhattan Federal District Court on Wednesday, claiming he was unfairly singled out by a government agency for his outspokenness against New York state's '60s-era drug laws, reports The New York Times.

In his legal papers, Simmons, 45, and his associate, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, the former executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, charge that their constitutional rights have been violated because they have been characterized as lobbyists by New York's Lobbying Commission.

The commission has been trying to determine whether Simmons and Chavis should register as lobbyists because of their reportedly lavish spending on a campaign against the harsh drug laws instituted during the administration of New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.

The New York Post notes that Simmons, a co-founder of the Def Jam label, lost the first round to have the federal court block the commission from investigating him. But, according to The Times, Simmons's lawyers say in their client's court complaint: "No one paid them to get involved in the public debate about the Rockefeller Drug Laws, and nobody hired them to promote this cause."

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse Wednesday, Simmons said, as quoted by The Times: "I was invited by the governor to sit in a meeting. That doesn't make me a lobbyist. ... I'm not filing with the government to have an opinion about the government, and neither should you."

In a separate federal suit, Simmons is claiming that the commission is violating his First Amendment right to petition the state government.

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