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Two relatively new lobbying firms with enviable connections to the Albany, N.Y., political leadership last year recorded striking advances, while three older GOP-linked partnerships experienced substantial declines, according to a report issued March 26 by the New York Temporary State Commission on Lobbying. The annual report of the agency showed that Powers Crane & Co., a firm built around former state Republican Chairman William D. Powers, and Patricia Lynch & Associates Inc., a lobbying concern opened by a former top aide to Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, increased compensation and reimbursements last year by 47.8 percent and 36.4 percent, respectively. At the same time, the Republican-connected firms of Featherstonhaugh, Wiley & Clyne; Davidoff & Malito; and Buley Public Affairs were among the biggest losers in the annual ranking. Still, the Featherstonhaugh and Davidoff practices, which are both law firms, remained in the upper echelon of Albany lobbyists. Featherstonhaugh and Davidoff were among the 10 top billing lobbyists and both were slightly higher on the list than Lynch’s firm, which lobbies for Pyramid Marketing Group, a large shopping mall developer, and the Long Island Power Authority. Powers Crane, despite a huge boost in income and a client list that includes Verizon, Yankees Partnership and Delaware North Companies, has yet to crack the top 10. However, for the second year in a row, Powers Crane was among the firms reporting the largest increase in business. In 2001, the firm’s compensation and reimbursements jumped 66 percent over the previous year. Powers, who is largely credited with orchestrating Republican Gov. George E. Pataki’s upset victory in 1994, is also close to Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, R-Brunswick. The Buley firm is run by former state Republican counsel Jeff Buley and Albert J. Pirro Jr., a onetime prominent real estate lawyer who rejoined the lobbying practice after serving a federal sentence for felony tax fraud. Last year, its major clients included Coca-Cola Bottling, General Motors, HANYS Insurance, Lorillard Tobacco and Westchester County Health Care Corp. Its reported income dropped 17.3 percent last year. But that figure does not take into account any revenues obtained through procurement lobbying, or seeking to influence the state and its agencies on the purchase of goods and services, rather than the passage or defeat of legislation. Procurement lobbying is not covered under the state Lobbying Act, and therefore is not reported. Pirro, now disbarred, is the husband of Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine F. Pirro. He has close connections to Pataki and key lawmakers, and in the past has been considered an active and successful procurement lobbyist. Although there has been some shifting of order, the same firms that made the top 10 list for 2001 also made it for 2002. In general, according to David M. Grandeau, executive director of the Lobbying Commission, it is “the same people making more money.” However, four of the top 10 (Featherstonhaugh, Davidoff, Coppola Ryan McHugh and Bogdan, Lasky & Kopley) reported decreased compensation. Three of the top 10 (Featherstonhaugh, Davidoff and Coppola) reported a decrease in clients. Once again, Wilson, Elser, Moscowitz, Edelman & Dicker, a Manhattan law firm that lobbies for a variety of health and insurance interests and accounting practices, and Bolton St. Johns, an Albany lobbying firm whose client list includes Bear Stearns & Co. and the Bond Market Association, maintained the top two spots. Wilson Elser, a 240-lawyer firm with offices across the Eastern Seaboard and in California, employs as its top Albany lobbyist Kenneth Shapiro who, before becoming a lobbyist, was counsel to three different speakers of the state Assembly. The most dramatic growth was reported by Patricia Lynch Associates. The firm moved up from the 10th spot, which Lynch garnered during her first year in business after leaving Speaker Silver’s staff, to the sixth, right behind the Featherstonhaugh (fourth) and Davidoff (fifth) firms. While Featherstonhaugh and Davidoff maintained their prominence, both lost a considerable number of clients between 2001 and 2002. Featherstonhaugh’s client base dropped to 45 from 63 in one year, and its billings slipped from $2.7 million to $2.1 million. However, as with the Buley firm, the Featherstonhaugh figures may be misleading as the top lobbyist in the firm, James D. Featherstonhaugh, like Pirro, has in the past been a major player in procurement lobbying. Davidoff’s billings dropped to $1.9 million in 2002 from $2.3 million the year before. WHO YOU KNOW The instant success of Lynch’s firm and Powers’, the mystery over procurement lobbying and the recent entree into the lobbying field of Pataki’s top political advisors seemingly perpetuates the perception that in Albany who you know is more important than what you know. “This is a state where you pay to play,” complained Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters. “That does not bode well in a democracy. A democracy is where a citizen’s voice is heard, not where it is dinned by the megaphone that you get with monied special interests.” Recently, former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato and former Pataki cabinet member David Poleto opened an Albany lobbying office, as did Mercury, a political consulting firm operated by a Pataki political strategist, Kieran Mahoney. Thomas Doherty, who was in charge of gubernatorial patronage until last December, and Michael McKeon, the governor’s former communications director, have joined Mercury. Grandeau, however, suggested in a press conference on March 26 that the key to successful lobbying is not only knowing whom to approach, but how the legislative and governmental systems work in Albany. He said those, like Lynch, who know their way around the capitol are well positioned — by both who they know and what they know — to serve their clients. The Lynch firm’s billings increased in 2002 to $1.8 million from $1.1 million in 2001. “Quite frankly, Pat Lynch has done a great job of building her business,” Grandeau said. “She works awfully hard … and I can’t think of anyone who better deserves to have the kind of success she has had.” Steven Weingarten, a principal in one of Albany’s fastest growing lobbying firms, Weingarten & Reid, attributes part of his firm’s success to the fact that it is not linked to one party, one house or one particularly influential figure. “We have taken a bipartisan approach to New York state government and combined that with a grassroots capabilities such as political action and media,” Weingarten said. “We try to work with both sides of the aisle, and the governor’s office, but we are starting to see firms that specialize with different branches of government.” Weingarten & Reid, which reported a nearly 23 percent increase in business last year, represents several public health interests, including the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, as well as distillers and vintners. In the past, Weingarten & Reid has represented American Lawyer Media, which publishes the New York Law Journaland law.com. However, American Lawyer Media is not currently a Weingarten client. With the state’s budget problems, lobbyists say the trick this year is largely to avoid retrenchment or, put another way, protect their client’s slice of the fiscal pie from other lobbyists and their clients. “More people are hiring more representatives because they are fighting for scarce resources,” Weingarten said. On March 26, the Lobbying Commission proposed expanding the definition of lobbying to include procurements, a recommendation that drew applause from good-government groups. But it also suggested eliminating the gift ban, a proposal that did not sit well with some activists. Currently, the gift ban bars lobbyists from giving a gift worth more than $75 to a public official. However, the commission interprets the provision as applying only to a particular gift at a particular time. In other words, under the law and the commission’s interpretation, a lobbyist could give a lawmaker as many $74 presents as she or he likes without reporting the transaction. The commission argues that the dollar limit should be eliminated and that lobbyists should be required to disclose all gifts, regardless of the value. Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, disagreed and said gifts should be banned outright. “There should not be gifts given to legislators by lobbyists,” Horner said. “No one would accept that a judge could take a gift from an attorney practicing before him or her. No one would accept that a student could give a gift to a college professor to discuss grades. We think it is an unethical practice that lawmakers can accept gifts from lobbyists.” PROCUREMENT The procurement lobbying issue is particularly pertinent since billions of dollars in federal funds will be coming into lower Manhattan redevelopment projects. As it now stands, the lobbying that is most likely already taking place is completely under the radar screen, and it may be that a few particularly well-positioned procurement lobbyists are enjoying a windfall. But no one knows for sure. “There is a huge hole in lobbying disclosure laws in New York,” Horner. “There are billions and billions of dollars of ‘stealth lobbying’ to influence government contracts. Billions of dollars are doled out in government contacts every year, and it is not reported.” Among other observations from the annual report and a press conference conducted by Grandeau: � Seven of the top 10 lobbying firms are law firms. � Kalkines, Arky, Zall & Bernstein, which in 2001 reported the largest increase in compensation of any Albany lobbying concern (217 percent), last year recorded the largest decrease (37.3 percent). Its major clients include health care organizations, such as the New York State Coalition of Voluntary Safety Net Hospitals and the Visiting Nurse Service. Although Kalkines’ client list changed little between 2001 and 2002, some of its clients spent much less on lobbying. For instance, in 2001 the Corporation for Supportive Housing invested $65,184 in lobbying. Last year, it paid the Kalkines firm only $8,759. � The single largest lobbying contract was the $693,517 that the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network paid Global Strategy Group Inc. Other large contracts included the New York State Trial Lawyers Association’s $257,903 arrangement with Malkin & Ross of Albany, Pyramid Managing Group’s $230,000 deal with Lynch, and the $184,153 contract between Yankees Partnership and Powers Crane & Co. � Lobbyists and clients are investing more in advertising. Last year, $5.4 million was spent on advertising. “This trend towards communication driven advocacy advertising is expected to continue and the commission intends to closely monitor these kinds of expenditures to ensure full disclosure,” the commission said in the report. � The trend toward retaining multiple lobbyists continued. The companies retaining the largest number of lobbyists tended to be tobacco companies such as Philip Morris, Lorillard and Brown & Williamson, and health care companies such as the Greater New York Hospital Association and the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America. � Teachers, public employees and doctors were among the biggest spenders on lobbying last year. So too was the New York City Council. � With lobbying expenses setting a new record of $92 million last year, Grandeau predicts that the $100 million benchmark will be surpassed this fall. � The commission proposed changing the terms of Grandeau’s employment. Now, he serves a two-year term. The commission, expressing concern that the director could come under insidious political attack, suggested appointing the director to an indeterminate term where he could be removed only for cause. Grandeau said last week that even though the agency has, under his leadership, aggressively and publicly pursued politically connected lobbyists who fail to fulfill their reporting obligations, he is not concerned about retribution. He also said he is not concerned that doing away with a two-year term would potentially expose him to more pressure rather than less. In February, the commission imposed its heftiest fine ever: $300,000, on Correctional Services Corp. of Florida for not accurately reporting gifts it bestowed on powerful lawmakers. Some legislators, publicly and privately, were critical of the commission and Grandeau. “When on thin ice, you might as well dance,” Grandeau quipped. Related charts: Big Spenders Top Lobbying Firms

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