Lobbyists, special interests and politicians have paid $250 to $1,000 per ticket to attend political campaigns during the 2016 legislative session in the annual practice of legislating by day and collecting campaign contributions at night, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group.
More than 30 of the fundraisers were held in the Empire State Plaza in below-ground meeting rooms between the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building, in nearby ivy-wrapped social clubs a short walk from the Capitol, and in bars and hotels in Albany. Others were held in Washington, D.C., Manhattan, and one $5,000-per-ticket event was held at Yankee Stadium for the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, NYPIRG reported Friday.
The fundraisers were for legislators in venues far from their constituents and on the nights of legislative sessions.
“It’s the most brazen example of the connection between campaign contributions and policymaking,” said Blair Horner of NYPIRG. “During the day lobbyists are asking for legislative favors. At night, they are handing over cash . . . it’s completely legal. But it’s a system that cries out for change.”
For example, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) paid $9,499 for his fundraiser on Jan. 11, a night early in the legislative session, according to State Board of Elections records.
Tickets cost $1,000 each at downtown Albany’s University Club, a 115-year-old members-only club and restaurant. The haul from the night and checks that trickled in days later show Flanagan’s campaign ended up well in the black with ticket sales that included $2,500 from the AFL-CIO labor organization, $2,500 from the HBO entertainment company, $5,000 from the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, and $1,000 from the prominent Albany lobbying firm of Featherstonhaugh, Wiley & Clyne.
The 2016 session is scheduled to end June 16.