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Schools, real estate drove NY lobbying in ’15; D’Amato firm loses ground, report says

Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, a founder of the

Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, a founder of the lobbying firm, Park Strategies, on Jan. 2, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

ALBANY - Nearly $131 million was spent by lobbyists during this year’s six-month legislative session primarily to influence New York’s 213 legislators and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, according to a report.

The firm founded by former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, Park Strategies, was one of the firms that lost ground. Although Park was the second biggest lobbying firm in the state last year, it dropped to sixth this year, with $3.5 million in compensation and expenses. That’s less than half of the total in 2014, which was an election year for statewide offices and a record-setting year for lobbying.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics on Thursday issued its lobbying report for the first half of this year. It showed most of Albany oldest lobbying firms continue to pull in millions to influence legislation and spending in Albany.

By the end of the 2015 legislative session, there were 5,602 lobbyists in New York  representing 3,448. That compares to 6,939 lobbyists in the record year of 2014, who represented 4,607 clients.

The top lobbying firms in terms of total compensation and expenses was again Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker with more than $5 million in compensation.

The biggest clients this legislative session were groups pushing for and against allowing more charter schools which ended in a compromise, tougher teacher evaluations, and other education issues including the Common Core that raises academic standards in public schools.

The other biggest interests were in real estate, with developers successfully pushing for an extension of the so-called 421-a tax credit worth millions to Manhattan developers.

The Coalition for Opportunity in Education was tops this year, spending $5 million is six months. It fought for a tax credit that would encourage private donations to religious and other private schools. Attempts by Cuomo and the Senate’s Republican majority failed to gain support by the Assembly’s Democratic majority.

One of the Assembly Democrats’ biggest supporters in that fight, the New York State United Teachers, which held its No. 2 spot among lobbyists by spending $3.8 million. NYSUT also opposed charter schools.

In the end, nonpublic schools received $250 million in aid, but not the tax credit it's organizations have sought for years.

“We’re just leveling a playing field that’s been dominated by one side of the education argument for decades,” said Robert Bellafiore, spokesman for the Coalition for Opportunity in Education.


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