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ALBANY � Trial lawyers and doctors matched each other’s lobbying and political spending almost dollar for dollar last year as they battled to a dead heat on their most divisive issue: tort reform. Statistics released yesterday by the New York Temporary State Commission on Lobbying and good government groups showed that the New York State Trial Lawyers Association spent about $1.5 million in lobbying and campaign donations. At the same time, the Medical Society of the State of New York spent about $1.6 million. Lobbying alone cost the doctors $1.2 million and the lawyers $1 million, according to the Lobbying Commission. The commission’s release yesterday of its annual report coincided with the distribution of another survey, sponsored by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), the League of Women Voters and Common Cause. It combined campaign contributions with lobbying expenses in an effort to present a more rounded view of influence-seeking at the state Capitol. That survey showed special interest groups � including the Trial Lawyers Association and the Medical Society � spent generously last year to affect state policy, a conclusion supported by the Lobby Commission’s report. However, even combining spending for lobbying and campaigns provides an incomplete picture, since a key component of Albany lobbying is not covered by the current law. This is so-called “procurement lobbying” to persuade officials and agencies to buy billions of dollars annually in goods and services. The Lobbying Commission has long proposed bringing procurements within the law, a goal shared by the public interest groups. “This is big money being spent to influence state government,” said NYPIRG lobbyist Blair Horner. “We think this cries out for reform.” Overall, spending for lobbying continued its steady upward trend to a record $120 million last year. The figure is inflated by the inclusion for the first time of expenses for lobbying local governments. Previously, local lobbying was not covered by the Lobbying Act. Still, Commission Executive Director David M. Grandeau said about $112 million was spent to influence state action. That represents a single-year boost of about 22 percent. “If you follow this, the money tends to come from the same places and the same groups.” Mr. Grandeau said. As usual, the bulk of spending involved health care, education, labor unions and gambling. The 1199 SEIU/Greater New York Hospital Association Healthcare Education Project, a trade group for not-for-profit hospitals, spent far more than any other entity, just over $11 million. New York State United Teachers was at a distant second, spending about $2.3 million. The Medical Society occupied the seventh spot on the list of spenders. The trial lawyers group was ninth. Trial lawyers and the medical profession remain at loggerheads over a number of so-called reforms that doctors say are necessary to address a malpractice litigation crisis and which attorneys say would impede the rights of New Yorkers injured through medical negligence. Last year, neither side made significant headway in their respective legislative agendas, and lobbyists for both professions expect a similar stalemate this year. The trial lawyers are primarily represented by the Albany lobbying firm of Malkin & Ross. Gerard L. Conway, an attorney and veteran Albany lobbyist, runs an in-house lobbying operation with the Medical Society. The commission’s annual report shows that: � Six of the top 10 lobby shops are also law firms, down from seven last year. � Wilson, Elser, Moscowitz, Edelman & Dicker, a Manhattan law firm with a strong lobbying base in health care, insurance, accounting and utilities, retained its position as the No. 1 Albany lobbying firm in total compensation and expenses. � Former state GOP Chairman William D. Powers, who parlayed his connections as a political leader into instant success as a lobbyist, cracked the top 10 for the first time. For the third straight year, his firm, Powers Crane & Co., was among the fastest growing lobby shops in Albany. Last year, the firm grew by 44 percent. That follows years where it recorded compensation and reimbursement increases of 47.8 percent and 66 percent. Major clients include the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Association, the New York Yankees Partnership, University Downtown Hospital and Verizon. � Patricia Lynch, a former top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, continued to expand her fledgling business. Ms. Lynch founded Patricia Lynch Associates after leaving the speaker’s staff at the end of 2000 and quickly became a top 10 lobbyist. Her major coup of the last year was landing the account of Pyramid Managing Group, a mall development firm, which paid her $360,000. She also picked up General Motors and Coca Cola en route to recording a 31 percent increase in business. � Parkside Group, a Democratic political consulting organization that has expanded its reach into lobbying, reported the largest gain of any major lobbying firm, increasing its billings by 100 percent. The firm represents a number of labor unions, including the Communication Workers of America, and not-for-profit groups, largely in Queens. Its clients paid an average of $68,583, one of the largest average contracts in the lobby industry. The Lobbying Commission’s Mr. Grandeau said the trend toward dovetailing lobbying and public relations � in essence, employing political tactics in lobby campaigns � is continuing. “You are getting a lot more focused media, a lot more spending on public relations campaigns,” he said. In recent years, larger special interest groups and corporations have increasingly employed multiple lobbyists from different firms. Some specialize in the Democratic Assembly. Others have particularly strong connections in the Republican Senate or in the executive chamber. For instance, General Motors and Verizon each spread their lobbying dollars among six different firms; Brown & Williamson Tobacco has five different lobby contracts in Albany. Mr. Grandeau said he suspects that in coming years larger lobbying firms will merge so they can offer all the services that the larger clients require. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised . . . to see mega firms emerging that would actually offer one-stop shopping,” he said. “Right now clients tend to go to individual firms that handle individual parts of the equation. I think in the future you will see [clients] going to one firm.” The commission’s report and fillings by lobbyists are available online at http://www.nylobby.state.ny.us.

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