ALBANY - Compensation for lobbyists in New York reached a record high in 2013, even as total spending decreased, according to a report Thursday.
The state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics released its annual report on lobbying spending at the state and local level, finding New York lobbyists were compensated $191 million in 2013. That's up from $180 million the year before.
At the same time, overall spending on lobbying activities decreased. A total of $210 million was spent in 2013 after $205 million was spent in 2012. The all-time record was set in 2011, when $220 million was spent across New York, driven in part by a large advertising campaign by groups supportive of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's agenda.
The report shows lobbying expenses decreased even as compensation continues to increase, according to Bill Mahoney, the New York Public Interest Research Group's research coordinator.
"The most telling part of this is the money paid to lobbyists is higher than it has ever been," Mahoney said. "The only drop-off we've seen is in expenditures in lobbying campaigns on things like TV ads."
About $4.8 million was spent on television advertisements for lobbying campaigns in 2013, according to JCOPE. That's down from $11.6 million in 2012 and is the lowest level since $4.3 million was spent in 2007.
More than $30 million was spent on advertisements in 2011, including about $11 million from the now-defunct Committee to Save New York, a group of mostly business-backed organizations that backed Cuomo.
The top spender on lobbyists in 2013 was Altria Client Services, the tobacco giant formerly known as Philip Morris. The company spent $3 million on lobbying last year on both the state and local level, including in New York City, Binghamton and Monroe County.
Altria was followed by a pair of teachers unions: The New York City-based United Federation of Teachers, which spent $2.6 million, and New York State United Teachers, which spent $2.2 million.
Among the lobbyists, the firm of Wilson Elser saw the most compensation for at least the seventh-straight year. The firm, which counts New York offices in Manhattan, White Plains and Albany and has more than 100 clients in the state, raked in $10.4 million for lobbying governments in New York last year.