The Lobbyist Firms

A recent post provided some information concerning Western New York firms and organizations that employed New York State lobbyists. This post takes a look at the lobbying firms that have done the work.

The 2014 Annual Report of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) notes that there were 4,710 lobbyists working for 4,607 clients last year (the work for some clients requires the work of more than one lobbyist). Compensation and expenses for various clients range from less than $1,000 in some cases to nearly $10 million for Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. Reported lobby compensation and expenses spending statewide in 2014 totaled $226 million.

Generally the most expensive lobbyist bills relate to statewide matters. But there are also hundreds of clients with somewhat middle range costs, say between $20,000 to $120,000. The Western New York list of clients that I previously posted fits into that schedule.

It should also be noted that some lobbyists do some or all of their work lobbying local officials.

In some cases, the registered lobbyist for an organization is an employee of the organization whose occasional contact with members of the state legislature or other government officials in the state requires registration and the filing or periodic reports on compensation and expenses. Generally, these expenses are relatively small. Colleges and some businesses do some of their lobbying that way.

For firms and organizations that are looking for a more significant and hopefully more influential presence in Albany, professional lobbying firms are the ticket. Most of the WNY firms and organizations that employed lobbyists in 2014 did so with an established firm. Some businesses and organizations employed more than one lobby firm in 2014.

Lobbying activities are tailored to the needs of the client, and those needs generally fall into one of three categories: (1) seeking an appropriation of state funds; (2) supporting a new, or renewed, or revised law, policy or regulation of a state agency; or (3) opposing an existing, or new law policy or regulation of a state agency. The periodic reports from lobbyists to JCOPE concerning their clients, however, do not detail what the individual clients are seeking. That would certainly make for an interesting report.

The list of firms working for local clients in 2014 was dominated was Masiello, Martucci, Calabrese and Associates. Twenty-three of the 58 local clients used that firm. The firm was paid $889,186 in compensation and expenses.

The principals in the firm are former Mayor, State Senator, and Councilmember Tony Masiello; former Tonawanda Republican Chairman Vic Martucci; and former Tonawanda Councilman and Supervisor and Deputy County Executive Carl Calabrese. Since Mayor Tony was a year ahead of me at Canisius, and went into elective office a couple years after graduation, I can say with certainty that Masiello, Martucci, Calabrese has experience and contacts going back over forty years. That is something of value to a lobbying firm.

The firm with the second most WNY clients on the 2014 list is Patricia Lynch Associates. Ms. Lynch was at one time a key aide to former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Former Cheektowaga Assemblyman and Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz is a partner with the Lynch firm, which collected $381,762 in local compensation and expenses last year.

Another major firm with a relatively small local clientele but a larger statewide presence is Bolton St. Johns. The senior vice president of the firm is Jack O’Donnell, who previously worked for Senator Schumer and served a term as a commissioner of the Erie County Water Authority. The Bolton firm received $302,440 in compensation and expense reimbursements from local clients in 2014.

E-3 Communications, a local public relations and public affairs firm headed by Earl Wells, who began his career working for the Assembly Speaker’s office, represented five clients last year, collecting $165,000 in compensation.

Richardson Management, based in Buffalo and headed by Rick Winter, a former chief of staff for former Senator George Maziarz, represented five local clients who paid $155,690 for services and expenses.

Finally, among the largest firms statewide, Park Strategies, served four local clients and received $212,904 in compensation and expense reimbursements. The firm is headed by former Senator Al D’Amato. One of the managing directors is Joel Giambra, former Buffalo Councilmember, City Comptroller and Erie County Executive.

What They Do

The lobbyists who work in New York State spend their time signing up clients like other businesses who solicit customers. They spend some time learning about the client to determine what it is the client wants to accomplish. And then the firms map out a strategy for getting the clients what they need. State law prohibits tying those results directly to a firm’s compensation, but obviously someone shopping for a lobby firm will want to see past results (even though, as they say in ads for law firms and investment firms, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results).

A lobbyist basically is only as good as their professional experience, and more importantly, their contacts. Who you know is very important to this line of work.

The “who-you-know” part has often developed over many years of personal and professional relationships between lobbyist and the state or local officials who are being lobbied. But that personal background can certainly be enhanced by assisting state or local officials in providing some services or more commonly, the bottom line of many things political, some money. I’m not referring to money such as Preet Bharara is investigating. I am simply referring to money that is donated to, and hopefully gets reported as, campaign contributions. The kind that gets reported on Board of Elections forms. That will be the subject of another blog post.