News Without Transparency: Albany Lobbying is Recession Proof

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Lobbying is big business in New York. Earlier this year, the Legislative Gazette highlighted the record $220 million that lobbyists spent in 2011 to influence the state government. That amount marked a 175 percent increase in lobbying spending since 2001.

The story would not have been possible without New York’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ 2011 annual report. In addition to spending information, the report revealed that the Commission opened 134 investigations into alleged ethics and lobbying violations and issued 19 notices of reasonable cause last year.

The Joint Commission is responsible for policing state lawmakers and candidates, legislative and executive branch employees, political party chairs, lobbyists, and their clients. It also maintains ethics and lobbying disclosure databases.

New York’s Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman utilized the Joint Commission’s lobbying database for the recently launched NYOpenGovernment.com. The site provides a one stop shop for public access to state campaign finance, lobbying, and contract data.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics was created as part of the state’s ongoing efforts to track and police political influence and integrity. It was instituted under the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 (S.5679/A.8301). It fills the role of the now defunct Commission on Public Integrity, but has broader oversight authority.

The original Commission on Public Integrity was created in 2007 and merged the powers of previous ethics and lobbying commissions. It was involved in several high profile investigations during its short existence, but lacked oversight powers over New York’s notoriously corrupt legislature.

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“The News Without Transparency” shows you what the news would look like without public access to information. Laws and regulations that force the government to make the data it has publicly available are absolutely vital, along with services that take that raw data and make it easy for reporters to write sentences like the ones we’ve redacted in the piece above. If you have an article you’d like us to put through the redaction machine, please send us an email at rsibley@sunlightfoundation.com.

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