The State Senate unanimously passed a measure in January that would increase criminal penalties for producing or distributing child pornography on the internet — but not before hearing from Google. The California-based technology giant also weighed in on a separate bill, now pending in both houses, that would allow district attorneys and the state Attorney General to issue subpoenas directing internet and email service providers to disclose the identity of subscribers in instances where child sexual abuse is suspected.
Google, which is paying the firm Hannan and O’Connell more than $5,000 a month for its services lobbying the New York State legislature, is one of more than 3,200 companies and organizations have sought this year to let state and local officials know what bills they support or oppose, what grants they seek or what permits and approvals they hope to receive.
Unlike some states, New York does not require groups to disclose their position on a particular issue. But it does ask lobbyists to list which bills they sought to influence. With data provided by the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, The New York World has linked together New York State’s lobbying records with corresponding bills under consideration in the state Senate and Assembly. The result is a vivid picture of the forces shaping the legislative session in Albany as it heads into its final weeks.
Here are some of the insights New York World reporters have gleaned from the data so far, which covers lobbying in January and February 2012:
* The Citizens for Fire Safety Institute, a chemical industry group at the center of a recent Chicago Tribune investigation of flame retardants, has paid lobbyist Patricia Lynch Associates $15,000 a month since the beginning of 2011 to weigh in on a proposed ban of cancer-causing chlorinated Tris.
* After Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would not support a minimum wage hike to $8.50 an hour this year, because of a lack of support in the state Senate, we tallied the forces weighing in on the bills. Industry groups and companies outnumbered labor groups by seven to one. Companies included Wal-Mart, Walgreens, McDonald’s and Anheuser-Busch.
* Among the groups lobbying on a bill that would legalize medical marijuana are the Academy of Family Physicians, Medical Society of New York, Nurses Association and state Bar Association, as well as the public workers’ union District Council 37 and its national union, AFSCME.
But this just scratches the surface of the business of Albany influence as the Assembly and Senate enter their final weeks of this year’s session, which is set to end June 21.
We invite you to dive into Lobbies at the top 2012, and see which companies and groups are weighing in on bills currently under consideration or recently voted on in the state legislature. (Check out the year-end 2011 guide for a complete picture of last year’s lobbying, which included many of the same bills.) If you see stories we ought to be covering, let us know – write us, tweet @thenyworld or comment below.