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Regional News

Watchdog Groups Look at Lobbying Data

By Karen DeWitt


Albany, NY – A government watch dog group analyzed the latest data from the annual
report on lobbying, and found, yet again, lobbying firms and groups
like hospitals and teachers unions spent big to try to maintain some
influence in Albany.

According to the Commission on Public Integrity, $167.8 million
dollars was spent on lobbying New York State government in 2009. That
amount represents a slight drop, of $6.1 million, from the previous
year. Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research
Group, which analyzed the lobbying report data, says the decrease in
lobbying spending comes from industries hardest hit by the recession.

"Real estate, communications and banking," said Horner. "Those areas
took the biggest hit in the Great Recession."

Lobbying overall, though, continues to be a growth industry. Once
again, says Horner the biggest spenders were health care concerns,
including the Greater New York Hospital Association and the health
care workers union 1199, and the Medical Society. Teachers unions
spent the second highest amount on lobbying. The largest parts of the
budget deal with health care and education.

Other spending expenditures were due to one time issues or new
legislation. For instance, Wegman's supermarkets were the fifth
highest spender, during a year when a bill permitting the sale of
wine in grocery stories was considered for the first time in decades.
Coca Cola also spent more money on lobbyists in 2009. Governor
Paterson has proposed a tax on soda pop and other sugared soft drinks
both last year and this year. NYPIRG also analyzed which bills
attracted the highest amount of lobbying activity, and found that
legislation proposing changes to IDA's, or Industrial Development
Agencies, were at the top of the list.