A rape survivor being investigated by state officials for unregistered lobbying fought back today, but her case is far from resolved.
Kat Sullivan paid for billboards and a plane to fly a banner in support of the Child Victims Act, a measure meant to make it easier for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits. Sullivan is a rape survivor herself from her time as a student at Emma Willard in Troy. But over the last year, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics has sought to have her register as a lobbyist.
On Tuesday in Albany, her attorney David Grandeau pushed back.
“When you're going to take the time and trouble to bring the weight of the state down on a rape victim, a survivor, over something as de minimis as what they're doing, to try to harass her further, I think someone needs to stand up and do something about it,” said Grandeau.
Demonstrators at the monthly meeting of commission that oversees and regulates lobbying in New York protested the panel's meeting at its office in downtown Albany. Grandeau, meanwhile, criticized the commission for continuing to press the lobbying case and for working behind closed doors.
For its part, the commission says Sullivan exceeded the $5,000 threshold in spending to trigger the state's lobbying law.
“They asked us back in July whether or not we had met threshold,” said Grandeau. “We told them we had not. There was no reason to continue harassing Ms. Sullivan.”
Sullivan has received the backing of state lawmakers, who have publicly criticized the commission's investigation. But Grandeau says the lobbying law doesn't need to be changed.
“I think the statute is fairly simplistic,” said Grandeau. “The definition is pretty easy to follow. This woman is not a lobbyist under any definition you could find. So leave her alone.”
Sullivan and her attorney also allege commission Chairman Michael Rozen should recuse himself. They point to Rozen's work for Penn State administering a fund for victims of disgraced football coach Jerry Sandusky.
“I believe they are doing it inappropriately. I believe some of them have conflicts of interest that are causing them to do this,” said Grandeau. “I can't think of any other reason why they would.”
The commission says it has a process in place for recusals when necessary.
"Survivors of sexual violence always have the burden of proof when they are the victims in the first place. I have committed no crimes in my advocacy for children so in matters relating to JCOPE, I have no such burden of proof owed to them and how dare they break laws to harass me for my good work,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan faces a fine of at least $25,000 for failing to register.