ALBANY -- Lobbying in New York was a $243 million business in 2016, with more than 7,300 lobbyists raking in a record sum, a report Thursday said.
Special-interest spending at the state Capitol and in local governments continues to be massive: Money doled out for lobbying grew 61 percent over the past decade, from $151 million in 2006 to the $243 million last year, a report from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics found.
"It’s a big money game. The money gets bigger. The lobbyists get richer," said Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group. "It’s questionable whether New Yorkers are better off."
Last year's haul was on par with 2015, but with a few caveats: The spending on lobbyists by groups hit a record
$218 million. The only falloff was on advertising by advocacy groups and companies, which spent $10 million, or 45 percent less than in 2015, the commission, which oversees lobbying in New York, said.
The number of lobbyists and clients were also a new record, the commission said.
The spending, which also includes the activities in New York City, came in an election year for the state Legislature when key issues like ride-hailing upstate and rent-control laws in New York were being debated in Albany.
And the issues at stake were reflected in the lobbying data.
The top spending entity was the Rent Stabilization Association of New York City at $3.6 million followed by the Greater New York Hospital Association; the New York State Nurses Association and Uber Technologies, Inc.
The top spenders were a change from 2015, when education reforms were a hot topic. In that year, the Invest in
Education Coalition, which wanted the state to provide a tax credit for contributions to private and religious schools, spent $5.1 million.
The bid was unsuccessful, though, as the New York State United Teachers union countered with its own $4.6 million in spending in 2015, the records showed.
Last year, the Invest in Education Coalition spent just $369,400.
Horner, who himself is a registered lobbyist for NYPIRG, said the drop in advertising spending may be a function of groups deciding to spend more money on lobbyists who have close ties to the Legislature and the governor's office.
"As Albany becomes more secretive, and that’s what has happened, the value of the hot-wired insider goes up," Horner contended.
The top lobbying firm in 2016 was Kasirer LLC, the New York City-based company which reported $10.4 million in total compensation and reimbursed expenses.
That was followed by Brown & Weinraub with nearly $9 million and Bolton St. Johns, LLC at just over $8.5 million.
At Bolton St. Johns, Giorgio DeRosa is the firm's top Albany lobbyist and the father of Melissa DeRosa, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top aide who has said she recuses herself from any matters involving her father's work.
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