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NYS Lobbying Commission to Scrutinize State Contracts

Wed January 11, 2006 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

ALBANY, NY (AP) The state Lobbying Commission — which recently came under fire for saying it would first educate lobbyists about a new law related to the awarding of state contracts rather than immediately enforce the legislation — now says it will scrutinize a contract early this year.

Lobbying Commission Chairman Bartley Livolsi, in a letter to lawmakers, said the panel will take a close look at the awarding of a state contract during the first few months of 2006.

The contract to be reviewed has not been selected.

The move will “serve both as an investigatory as well as an educational opportunity,” Livolsi wrote to Assembly committee chairmen.

The law takes effect Jan. 1. Until then, only lobbying to influence legislation is required to be reported to the commission.

Investigators, under the new law, could look at any number of state purchases, from an agency’s purchase of copier paper to multimillion-dollar construction contracts handed out by the Department of Transportation.

The plan was made public after Assembly members asked the lobbying commission to clarify its intent to enforce the new law after Lobbying Commission Executive Director David Grandeau said he would first focus on educating lobbyists.

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer quickly responded by saying Grandeau should resign if he delays enforcement.

Spitzer said the law is critical “in reducing the pernicious and corrupting influences on the state contracting process.”

Livolsi did not return a call for comment.

Lobbying to influence or block legislation is already a $140 million-a-year business in Albany and involves top-dollar, professional lobbyists and law firms — many of whom closely watched or lobbied on the bill involving state contracts.

The new law requires lobbyists to publicly report their attempts to influence state officials on contracts or Indian casino agreements.

Procurement lobbying, as it’s called, has been a target of reformers for years.

In one notable case, Former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, a mentor of Gov. George Pataki, had been paid $500,000 for getting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to move a stalled contract. D’Amato was not required to report that lobbying payment under the old law.

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