The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (“Commission”) today released its 2017 Annual Report, featuring highlights of its work over the past year, including its regulating of the $240.1 million spent on lobbying at the state and local government levels, about $2.6 million less than the total spending reported the year before.
Total participation in lobbying also showed decreases in 2017, with just over 6,700 individual lobbyists listed on reports filed with the Commission, compared to the more than 7,300 listed on 2016 reports. While the number of lobbyists and clients went down, the total number of required filings and contracts received by the Commission was up.
Despite the overall decrease in lobbying spending in 2017, spending for retained and in-house lobbyists was higher than the record level set in 2016. More than $221 million was spent over the past year on compensation for lobbyists, just over $2.5 million more than what was spent the previous year. Spending for advertising expenses dropped significantly, declining by about 35 percent, to $6.4 million. Event-related expenses dropped as well, to just over $471,000.
This year’s list of the top ten highest lobbying spenders was not dominated by a single industry, but rather by a combination of representatives from typically active industries, i.e., health, real estate and construction, education, and organized labor. The top spending entity was the Greater New York Hospital Association, Inc. at $2.8 million, followed by Uber Technologies, Inc., AARP, and New York State United Teachers. Also included in the top ten were the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, United Federation of Teachers, Healthcare Association of New York State, Verizon, and Rent Stabilization Association of NYC, Inc.
The list of the top professional lobbyists changed slightly in comparison to 2016. Once again, the top lobbyist was Kasirer LLC, reporting almost $11.5 million in total compensation and reimbursed expenses, followed by Brown & Weinraub, PLLC at $11.1 million, and Bolton St. Johns, LLC at just over $8.5 million. The list was rounded out by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Park Strategies, LLC, Hinman Straub Advisors, LLC, James F. Capalino & Associates, Inc., Ostroff Associates, Inc., Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno LLC (the sole newcomer to this year’s list), and Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, LLP.
The complete source data filed by lobbyists and their clients was also published to the Commission’s website, jcope.ny.gov, today, and can be found here. Tables summarizing some of the 2017 lobbying data highlights appear at the end of this release.
In addition to data on lobbying activity, the report also highlights the Commission’s engagement in a rulemaking to develop the first set of comprehensive regulations under the Lobbying Act. Commission staff also continued to actively pursue investigations and enforcement actions for alleged violations of Public Officers Law and the Lobbying Act, commencing 14 investigations, settling eight matters, and making one criminal referral to the New York State Attorney General; those investigations and enforcement actions led to penalties totaling approximately $123,000.
The report also includes a summary of legal guidance provided over the past year, including the development and issuance of three Advisory Opinions covering topics of general importance to State officers and employees and lobbying entities, publication of a new book, Ethics & Lobbying in New York State: A Comprehensive Guide, which provides in-depth guidance on a wide-range of common ethics issues, as well as updated data about the Commission’s mandated training and education initiatives.