ALBANY - A lobbying firm started by Arthur "Jerry" Kremer, a former Long Island assemblyman, ranked No. 3 last year in earnings among new ventures, according to a report released Monday.

In an analysis of lobbying spending in 2009, the New York Public Interest Research Group found Kremer's Empire Government Strategies took in $284,500 for representing North Hempstead Town, Canon USA and others.

Empire is listed as an "independent arm" of the Uniondale-based law firm of Ruskin Moscou Faltischek P.C. on its website. Kremer and state Sen. Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre, the Republican leader, both work at Ruskin Moscou.

This connection led NYPIRG's Blair Horner to question whether Skelos played a role in Empire's success. "There is a potential conflict here," Horner said. "What is being done to ensure the law firm's lobbying arm isn't influencing the policy decisions of Senator Skelos?"

But Skelos said, "There is no involvement. I don't discuss Jerry's clients and he doesn't discuss them with me. That's the best wall you can have."

Skelos is listed as "of counsel" to Ruskin Moscou, meaning he doesn't share in the profits or direct the firm.

Kremer, a partner at Ruskin Moscou, said he and Skelos "don't talk shop because I know that's not appropriate."

Kremer also said Empire's primary focus had changed to helping clients secure federal and state grants, not influence lawmakers' votes on legislation.

Among the businesses and groups seeking favors in the Capitol last year was Cablevision Systems Corp. of Bethpage, which spent $604,974 on various issues and gave $330,771 in campaign contributions. The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council was among those with the largest increase in lobbying expenses. It spent $277,600, up from $34,722 in 2008.

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