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D'Amato firm ranks among top NY lobbyists

Senator Alfonse D'Amato. (May 24, 2011)

Senator Alfonse D'Amato. (May 24, 2011) Credit: ZUMA PRESS

ALBANY -- Business is booming for former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato.

His firm, Park Strategies, was one of the fastest-growing lobbying companies in New York last year and the largest on Long Island, according to state records. It earned about $3.33 million in fees for lobbying state and local officials -- nearly 45 percent more than 2010.

As a result, Park Strategies ranked No. 9 in the state among lobbying firms for 2011.

Some of its new clients included Veolia Transportation ($180,000), the private company hired to run Nassau County bus service; and Golden Touch Transportation ($75,000), a Veolia subsidiary that provides New York City airport shuttle service.

Park Strategies also represented New York City's Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade ($115,000) in a year that state lawmakers enacted new taxi laws; the Real Estate Board of New York ($67,500), when lawmakers renewed rent-control laws; and the Staten Island-based New York Container Terminal Inc. ($120,000), which opposed recent bridge-toll hikes.

Another new client was Gateway Casino Resorts ($98,000), a Detroit-based company that has a contract with the Shinnecock Nation to pursue the opening of a casino on Long Island.

D'Amato's firm added more than a dozen new clients last year and now has 46.

Dana Sanneman, D'Amato's administrative assistant at Park Strategies, said the former senator was out of the country and unavailable for comment. She added: "Park Strategies does not comment on our lobbying activities or specific clients."

Statewide, special interests spent $220 million lobbying lawmakers in 2011, beating the previous year's record of $213 million, according to the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics. That included $30 million spent on advertising, also a record.

Government watchdogs have strongly criticized ex-lawmakers who turn to lobbying after leaving office.

"As opportunities to make money present themselves, Senator D'Amato has shifted from a hyperpartisan politician to an individual willing to use his access to reach across party lines to help his clients," said Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

D'Amato, a Republican who lives in Lido Beach, served as Hempstead Town supervisor before winning election to the Senate in 1980. He was ousted in 1998 by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Soon after leaving office, he founded Park Strategies. Among the managing partners are D'Amato, his son, Christopher, and his brother, Armand.

The firm's staff includes individuals who have served in high-profile posts, such as former Democratic Assembly Speaker Mel Miller; former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, a Republican; former state Insurance Commissioner Greg Serio; former GOP Assemb. Joseph Errigo; and former University at Albany president Karen Hitchcock. One of its vice presidents is Robert McBride, a well-known Republican supporter.

McBride hosted a fundraiser for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano in January 2011, after the county had closed a bidding process to outsource the operation of the county-owned bus service. The Veolia contract received final approval late last year. McBride has said that the fundraiser was "booked way before" Veolia hired Park Strategies as a consultant. The bus system had been run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority since 1973.

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