Computer Error Caused Miscalculation of Lobby Data

Computer Error Caused Miscalculation of Lobby Data

For Immediate Release: July 20, 2010
Contact: Walter C. Ayres
                 518-474-4418

ALBANY — The New York State Commission on Public Integrity today announced that a computer error caused a miscalculation of the aggregate amount of reported lobbying fees and expenses for all clients over the past two years.

Barry Ginsberg, Executive Director of the Commission, said. "The individual client-by-client totals are accurate and the rankings are accurate. Only the final total was in error. I thank the staff for uncovering this error and quickly bringing it to our attention. We are working with the vendor that prepared the report to insure that such an error is not repeated."

Previously, the Commission had reported that a total of $173.9 million was spent on lobbying in 2008 and that a total of $167.8 million was spent in 2009. A further analysis of available data reveals that the correct total for 2008 is $197.7 million, while the correct total for 2009 is $197.8 million.

The error was discovered by Commission staff when reviewing a 492-page report of computer data in connection with another project, which was to separate out the lobbying fees to determine the feasibility of funding the Commission by a surcharge on such fees, as suggested by Chairman Michael Cherkasky at the Commission's last meeting in June. Each page of the report lists reported lobbying fees and expenses for each client. The computer program had added those two figures for each reporting entity correctly, but failed to include the reported expenses when the figures for all the entities were combined for the final year-end total. As a result, the previously reported totals for 2008 and 2009 included just the lobbying fees, without adding the reported expenses.

The error occurred when the system was upgraded in 2009, as data was being compiled for the 2008 annual report.