Commission on Public Integrity Releases Annual Report

For Immediate Release: May 7, 2009

Contact: Walter C. Ayres
                518-474-4418

ALBANY — The New York State Commission on Public Integrity released its 2008 Annual Report today. This report includes information on the Commission's enforcement actions as well as training activities, advisory opinions, and investigations, among other topics.

Overall spending within the lobbying industry rose only slightly, increasing by approximately $3 million from 2007, which had increased by more than $20 million from 2006. In 2008, $173.9 million was spent on lobbying, up from $171 million spent the previous year. These expenses are disclosed in reports filed by 4,145 clients represented by 6,624 lobbyists and 52 public corporations.

For the twelfth straight year, the firm of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP, reported the highest lobbyist compensation, totaling $10.8 million for 2008; Patricia Lynch Associates, Inc., was the second highest earner, at $7.9 million, followed by Bolton St. Johns, Inc. at $5.8 million.

Health and mental health organizations reported the highest expenditures from special interest groups, spending $29.9 million. Real estate and construction follow at $26.1 million, with education at $13.6 million.

Clients ranked by highest expenditures are New York State United Teachers at $4.4 million, Verizon at $2.6 million, and the Medical Society of the State of New York at $1.7 million.

Hinman Straub Advisors, LLC had the largest lobbying contract, valued at $427,532 with Excellus Health Plan, Inc. Wilson Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP had the second largest lobbying contract, valued at $372,030 with the New York Bankers Association. Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, LLP had the third largest contract, valued at $370,399 with Atlantic Yards Development Company LLC.

The Annual Report also contains the Commission's legislative proposals for 2009. Topping the list are increased protection for whistle blowers and a $10,000 penalty for those who act to obstruct a Commission investigation.

Under the State's current “whistle blower law,” a public employee is required to make a good faith effort to first disclose to his or her appointing authority or designee, information concerning an alleged violation of law or an activity which constitutes improper government action, and allow a reasonable period of time for appropriate remediation. This requirement, however, fails to address those instances in which the employee's supervisor or a senior level administrator may be involved in unethical conduct and adhering to the present law's reporting requirement would be impractical or ill-advised.

The second proposal stems from the Commission's investigation into the Troopergate matter. In issuing its charging document, called a Notice of Reasonable Cause, the Commission noted that the Executive Chamber “. . . substantially delayed the Commission's investigation” when, over a ten-month period, it routinely produced documents on a piecemeal basis, after claiming it had complied with the Commission's subpoena. While judicial intervention is available in such instances, the ability of the Commission to assess a penalty for a willful failure to comply with a properly issued subpoena prior to court involvement, may serve as a significant incentive to comply and thus avoid the need for court action. The Commission is proposing it be given the authority to impose a penalty of up to $10,000 for acting with intent to obstruct a Commission investigation.

Commission members are Daniel R. Alonso, Virginia M. Apuzzo, John M. Brickman, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Richard D. Emery, Daniel J. French, Robert J. Giuffra, Jr., David L. Gruenberg, Hon. James P. King, Hon. Howard A. Levine, Loretta E. Lynch, and John T. Mitchell.

The report is available on-line at www.nyintegrity.org.