Lobbying spending in New York hit a record-breaking more than $332 million last year, according to new state data.
The Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government (COELIG) released its annual report Monday that shows lobbying spending topped pre-pandemic numbers, with more than $331.54 million spent last year. That’s a 13.2% increase from $292.9 million spent in 2021. The previous spending record was $298.08 million in 2019.
The Ethics Commission Reform Act of 2022 created COELIG to replace the much-maligned Joint Commission on Public Ethics, commonly known as JCOPE. The report includes data from JCOPE and COELIG, which went into effect in July 2022.
The report found health care industry unions and other labor groups continue to be some of the largest spenders in New York. Genting New York LLC, the third-highest spender, is one of the companies in the running to receive one of the casino licenses in the New York City area. Below is a breakdown of the top 10 spenders listed in the report:
- 1199SEIU Labor Management Initiatives Inc. Healthcare Education Project – $5,726,000
- Greater New York Hospital Association Inc. – $3,469,340
- Genting New York LLC – $2,546,065
- 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East – $2,305,928
- AARP – $2,279,466
- United University Professions Inc. – $1,580,817
- Homeowners for an Affordable New York LLC – $1,400,000
- Trial Lawyers Association – $1,370,696
- Public Employees Federation – $1,190,296
- Charter Communications Operating LLC – $1,169,543
Gov. Kathy Hochul promised to prioritize ethics reform after taking office following former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation in the wake of multiple scandals and investigations. The 11 commissioners on COELIG are appointed by the governor, legislative leaders, the state comptroller and state attorney general. This is similar to how JCOPE operated — though the state comptroller and state attorney general did not nominate appointees under JCOPE — and was one of the panel’s criticisms, as ethics groups argued the governor and legislative leaders had too much influence on JCOPE for it to be effective.
Under the Ethics Commission Reform Act of 2022, commissioners may not serve more than four years on COELIG and must be approved by the Independent Review Committee, which is comprised of the state’s 15 American Bar Association accredited law school deans.
Since COELIG went into effect on July 8, 2022, it has processed 155 potential violations of the Public Officers Law, the Lobbying Act or the Civil Service Law. It also continued all pending matters carried over from JCOPE, including the still-ongoing ethics investigations into Cuomo’s $5 million book deal about his experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
JCOPE repeatedly sought to force Cuomo to turn over the $5 million he received for the book deal, but a judge ultimately ruled last year Cuomo could keep the book advance.
In late April, the former governor also sued New York’s newest ethics commission, arguing COELIG violates the state Constitution because it is too independent from the governor to be constitutional. The lawsuit argues an amendment to the state Constitution is needed to give the committee that power.
The lawsuit also asks the courts to stop the ethics panel from continuing any investigations or enforcement proceedings.