ALBANY — With a congestion pricing plan on the line in the State Legislature, nobody spent more on lobbying in New York last year than Uber, the app-based car service, according to a report issued Thursday.
The annual state lobbying report showed special interests spent a record $261 million in 2018 — a $21 million increase from 2017 and a 50 percent jump compared with 2007.
The report also showed that among lobbying firms, Park Strategies, headed by former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, of Lido Beach, again ranked among the top 10 earners. Park Strategies was No. 8 in the state, reporting $5.1 million in lobbying fees.
"It underscores that, increasingly, Albany is a big money game," Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit that tracks lobbying and campaign contributions, said of the report. "It continues a well-trod path of ever upward spending" to influence lawmakers.
As in past years, hospitals, health care workers and teachers’ unions dominated the list of top spenders.
But Uber has become a prominent lobbying force in recent years and in 2018 rose to the top of list.
Last year, the company spent heavily on two fronts.
It fought unsuccessfully against a New York City law to limit the number of licenses granted in the city to for-hire cars and delivery vehicles.
And last summer, Uber launched an advertising campaign to support new tolls in Manhattan to reduce congestion — a plan that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers approved last month.
All told in 2018, Uber spent $6 million — $5.1 million on advertising.
Under congestion pricing, electronic toll devices at 60th Street and below in Manhattan would automatically charge tolls to most motorists.
The new tolls — which could be $11 or more for cars, once they are set — are intended to ease gridlock and generate revenue for the subway and commuter rails. But they also are seen as a potential boon to ride services such as Uber and Lyft.
Uber officials didn't comment Thursday.
The report showed that spending on lobbying in New York has risen sharply over the past decade: The $261 million spent in 2018 is 50 percent more than the $170 million spent in 2007. Part of the growth is attributable to more reporting requirements and penalties for failing to report lobbying activities that were adopted about a decade ago.
Also, more lobbyists are registered in New York than ever before — 7,790.
And more companies and organizations are paying for help: Clients numbered 5,041 in 2018, a jump of 20 percent in one year.
Categorized by business sector, hospitals, health care and mental hygiene groups spent the most on lobbying — a total of more than $47 million. Next came the real estate and construction industries, at $39 million.
Coming in second behind Uber, the Greater New York Hospital Association, which represents downstate hospitals, spent $3.7 million last year, lobbying on behalf of its members.
Also, the association joined with SEIU/1199, the powerful health care workers union, in spending another $3.7 million. Part of the outlay went for ads intended to block proposals to slow the rate of growth of state spending on health care.
The Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust Fund, which represents construction workers and has pushed for prevailing wage laws, ranked fourth, with spending of $2.1 million.
The New York State Nurses Association was fifth, with $1.6 million in spending.
TOP ALBANY LOBBYISTS
Here were the top spenders on lobbying n New York state in 2018 (numbers are rounded):
1. Uber: $6 million.
2. Greater NY Healthcare Assoc./SEIU 1199 union partnership: $3.7 million.
3. Greater NY Healthcare Assoc. (hospital organization): $3.7 million.
4. Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust (construction union): $2.2 million.
5. Nurses Assoc.: $1.6 million.
6. NYS Trial Lawyers Assoc.: $1.4 million.
7. United Federation of Teachers (NYC): $1.3 million.
8. New York State United Teachers: $1.3 million.
9. AARP: $1.1 million.
10. Healthcare Assoc. of NYS (hospitals): $1.1 million.
Source: NYS Joint Commission on Public Ethics