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NY Producers Challenge Yoko Ono's 'Artists Against Fracking'

The Independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) of New York has called on the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) to initiate an investigation into apparent violations of lobbying laws by the group known as "Artists Against Fracking," which is led by Beatles star John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and their son, Sean Lennon.

Artists Against Fracking was formed in August 2012 and has engaged in lobbying activity since then, but is not registered with JCOPE, IOGA Executive Director Brad R. Gill told the JCOPE in a recent letter. Nor has the group reported its lobbying expenses or its source of lobbying funding to JCOPE, as required by law, the producer group said.

In addition to Ono, who was blamed by many for breaking up the Beatles, the group is said to have more than 180 members, including former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as Lady Gaga, Anne Hathaway and Alec Baldwin, among other Hollywood notables.

According to IOGA, the unreported lobbying activities undertaken by Artists Against Fracking include:

"I am concerned that the public has been unable to learn how much money is being spent on this effort, what it is being spent on, and who is funding this effort," Gill said. "I understand the power of celebrity that this organization has brought to the public discussion over natural gas development, but I do not understand why this organization is not being required to follow the state's lobbying laws."

In the entertainment industry, anti-fracking activism has become a cause akin to the anti-nuclear activism of the 1970s and early 1980s. Protests, of course, are one avenue to increased public exposure, fame and fortune. John Lennon and Ono were vocal opponents of the war in Vietnam, and Jackson Browne and other recording artists rallied against nuclear power. Today's anti-fracking activism -- and the industry backlash to it -- is playing out on movie screens as each side of the debate has made films advocating its views (see Shale Daily, Aug. 28a).

New Yorkers Ono and Sean Lennon said they were moved to form Artists Against Fracking by what they saw as Cuomo's apparently favorable view of fracking in the Empire State (see Shale Daily, Aug. 28b). "Protecting our drinking water is fundamental to life. And people worldwide know that as a species, we are near a tipping point -- it could go either way," said Lennon. "We all have a responsibility to preserve the planet's life-support systems for future generations."

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