Commission on Public Integrity Releases Annual Report, Notes Drop in Lobbying Spending
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 22, 2010
CONTACT: Walter C. Ayres
ALBANY — The New York State Commission on Public Integrity released its 2009 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.
According to semi-annual reports filed with the Commission, $197.8 million was spent on lobbying in 2009.
These expenses are disclosed in reports filed by 5,887 lobbyists registered with the Commission, representing 3,499 clients and 52 public corporations.
In 2009, the Commission began imposing penalties on lobbyists and clients who held legislative receptions in violation of the law. As part of settlement agreements with the Commission, the violators provided the names of legislators and staff who attended the illegal functions. These were forwarded to the Legislative Ethics Commission, which subsequently issued two unsigned opinions, essentially stating that legislators and their staff who attend such events do not violate the law, even though the organizations sponsoring the events have made that admission.
The Commission reached the largest ethics settlement in more than twenty years when a former employee of the Westchester County Healthcare Corporation agreed to pay $25,000 to settle charges that she violated the post-employment restrictions of the ethics law by illegally appearing before her former agency within two years of leaving State service.
The Commission required a lobbyist to hire an outside monitor to ensure the lobbyist has adequate procedures to assure timely and accurate reporting and that any future violations of the lobbying law's reporting requirements are promptly reported to the Commission. In addition, the lobbyist agreed to pay a $10,000 penalty.
The Annual Report also includes the following highlights from 2009, when the Commission:
- directly conducted 216 training sessions;
- issued 5 formal advisory opinions and 151 informal advisory opinions;
- held a public hearing on legislative proposals to improve the lobbying law, at which eighteen individuals either appeared personally or delivered statements commenting on the proposals; and
- issued 36 Notices of Reasonable Cause alleging violations of the law.
The Annual Report also contains the Commission's legislative proposals, which, among other things, would change the Lobbying Act's definition of "lobbying," "expense" and "expenses;" and "gift;" impose a penalty on any lobbyist or client who fails to comply with a Commission audit; establish a civil penalty for use of illegal lobbying contingent retainer agreements; increase the time period for which lobbyists and clients must retain their records; and increase the monetary threshold that triggers filings by lobbyists and clients.
For the thirteenth straight year, the firm of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP, reported the highest lobbyist compensation, totaling $10.8 million for 2009; Patricia Lynch Associates, Inc., was the second highest earner, at $8.4 million, followed by Bolton St. Johns, Inc. at $5.3 million.
Health and mental health organizations again reported the highest expenditures from special interest groups, spending $30.6 million, up from $29.9 million in 2008. Real estate and construction follow at $22.6 million, (down from $26 million) with education at $13.9 million (up from $13.7 million). (Appendix J)
Commission members are Michael Cherkasky, Chairman, Virginia M. Apuzzo, John M. Brickman, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Richard D. Emery, Hon. James P. King, Steven C. Krane, Hon. Howard A. Levine, Loretta E. Lynch, John T. Mitchell and Joseph A. Spinelli.
The report is available on-line at www.nyintegrity.org/pubs/index.html