Pro-Cuomo lobby group NY's top spender in 2012

Business lobby group supporting Gov. Cuomo's initiatives NY's top lobbyist spender in 2012

Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- The business group created to support Gov. Andrew Cuomo was again the state's top-spender among lobbyists in 2012 — at more than $4 million — twice the amount spent by Exxon Mobil Corp. as it tried to win favor for natural gas drilling in upstate New York, state records released Thursday show.

Overall, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics reported lobbying groups spent $205 million trying to influence state spending and legislation through lawmakers and the governor. That's a $15 million drop from 2011.

The Committee to Save New York ranked top spender, followed by Exxon Mobil, Major League Soccer, Albany's powerful teacher and public employee unions, and Wal-Mart Stores.

Reports filed with the commission show the Committee lobbied on the state budget, public worker pension changes sought by Cuomo to reduce government costs, and "gaming." The Committee received a $2 million donation from a gambling interest in late 2011, less than two months before Cuomo made expansion of casino gambling a centerpiece of his State of the State speech.

The Committee's 2012 report shows most of the $4 million it spent was on TV ads and production costs in the first six months of the year to promote Cuomo's initiative, including his budget proposals and jobs programs. No significant spending was reported after July by the group, which has legally shielded the identity of most of its earliest and biggest donors.

Committee to Save New York spokesman Michael McKeon said the group continues to operate. He wouldn't comment on any new lobbying plans.

"We don't discuss strategy in the media, but we have never been shy about letting you know about our plans at the appropriate time," McKeon said.

Exxon Mobil spent $2,106,132 on lobbying last year. Company spokesman Alan Jeffers said most of the money was spent on "public education advertising" with the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York and Friends of Natural Gas.

"We thought it was an important issue, but what happens in the future depends on what they propose," he said

The Cuomo administration is considering whether to allow gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Environmental groups strongly oppose fracking, saying the process threatens drinking water and public health.

"ExxonMobil can keep spending good money after bad, but our elected officials should continue listening to health experts, scientists and average New Yorkers, not out-of-state energy behemoths," said Alex Beauchamp of Food and Water Watch.

Major League Soccer spent $2,102,910 to lobby New York City and state officials to build a new pro soccer stadium, according to its filings with the commission. Giant retailer Wal-Mart Stores, based in Bentonville, Ark., spent $1.26 million to build its reputation among New York City officials, its filings show.

The United Federation of Teachers that operates in New York City spent $1.8 million lobbying state and city officials; the New York State United Teachers union, which operates statewide, spent $1.7 million.

Malaysia-based Genting New York, which operates the video slots and casino at Aqueduct race track, is expected to be interested in Cuomo's expansion of casinos statewide. Genting spent $1.27 million on lobbying last year.

Ten lobbying firms made more than $3 million on Albany in 2012. The Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker firm led them all with $10.3 million, followed by Patricia Lynch Associates at $6.7 million.

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