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New York Colleges Spending Millions on Lobbyists

5:41 PM, May 28, 2010   |    comments
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Gannett Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON – New York colleges and universities spent more than $6.8 million lobbying in Washington last year, according to reports filed with the House of Representatives.

Those schools include the State University of New York system and 42 other public and private schools around the state, from major research institutions such as Cornell, Columbia and the University of Rochester, to small private schools such as the College of New Rochelle, Siena College and Nazareth College of Rochester.

SUNY, the nation's largest public university system, spent the most on lobbying last year – $1.46 million.

Spending by the other colleges and universities varied widely, from the $511,127 spent by NYU, to the $25,000 spent by Niagara University under a contract with former Democratic congressman John LaFalce that ended May 31 of last year.

Colleges say hired lobbyists handle work that isn't part of the day-to-day duties of college officials.

``They help us navigate the political and regulatory and policy issues that involve interacting with the federal government,''

Elmira College spokesman Michael Rogers said. ``Of course, among those is advocating for funding for projects that are related to advancing the mission of the college.''

Some colleges, such as Clarkson University in Potsdam and LeMoyne University in Syracuse, reported spending less than $5,000 each quarter last year. Ithaca College spent $10,000 under a new contract with The National Group lobbying firm in Washington that was registered Dec. 1.

Gannett Washington Bureau analyzed lobbying reports filed by public and private non-profit universities and colleges that are listed by the New York State Education Department as offering degrees. The analysis did not include for-profit schools, teaching hospitals or nursing schools.

Some schools - such as Albany Medical College, Dowling College on Long Island, Fordham University in the Bronx, Iona College in New Rochelle, Marist College in Poughkeepsie, the College of St. Rose in Albany and Union College in Schenectady - don't have federal lobbyists. There's no requirement for schools to report occasional visits to Washington by college presidents or other higher education officials to ask for federal money.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and other lawmakers say they're always willing to meet with college officials to discuss a request for federal help, whether or not the college also employs lobbyist.

``Any one of them can come in and see me and my staff without a lobbyist,'' he said ``And many do.''

Schumer also said requests from lobbyists don't take priority over similar requests from other sources.

``It's how good the request is and how much it will help the college and the surrounding community,'' he said, adding that he gives priority to projects that would create jobs.

Steve Ellis, a spokesman for Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog group, says lobbyists aggressively market themselves as indispensible.

"A lot of it is keeping up with the Joneses and the sheer marketing by the lobbyists that if you don't play the game you are going to be left behind,'' Ellis said.

The University of Rochester received $265 million in federal funds for research last year through competitive grants from agencies such as the National Institute of Health, the Defense Department and the Energy Department. Although a lobbyist isn't needed to qualify for those grants, UR spokesman Mark Michaud said the university's lobbying firm does provide specialized technical expertise.

``During the current legislative session we have to monitor about 100 different legislative proposals and other policy issues that are going on,'' Michaud said.

The reliance of college and universities on hired lobbyists has allowed some lobbying firms to secure contracts with multiple schools around the state, according to the reports analyzed by the Gannett Washington Bureau.

Cassidy and Associates in Washington, for example, received $550,000 under separate lobbying contracts with Elmira College, Alfred University and the Research Foundation of the City University of New York.

Van Scoyoc Associates, another Washington firm, received $240,000 from contracts with NYU Medical Center, Utica College and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Syracuse-based lobbyist Michael Brower received $170,797 from contracts with LeMoyne College in Syracuse, SUNY Delhi, and the SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry College.

Here are the colleges and universities in New York that spent at least $150,000 lobbying the federal government last year:

– SUNY paid a combined $1.46 million for a statewide lobbying operation, a lobbying consultant for the state system, lobbying by SUNY employees from various campuses, and separate lobbying contacts signed by four campuses.

The State University of New York system administration spent $353,983 for lobbying by employees based two blocks from the U.S. Capitol in a building known as the Hall of the States and for a contract with the Washington lobbying firm of Akin Gump for specialized expertise.

Lobbying activities by employees from various SUNY campuses accounted for $808,524 of the total. In addition, SUNY's membership dues in national higher education associations included an estimated $18,129 for federal lobbying.

Among campuses with hired lobbyists, Albany State paid $120,000 to Washington-based FBA Inc., SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry College in Syracuse paid $68,797 to Syracuse-based lobbyist Michael Brower, SUNY Upstate Medical University paid $60,000 to Vinson & Elkins LLP in Washington and SUNY Delhi paid $32,000 to Brower.

- New York University spent $511,127, including $330,000 on in-house lobbying.

The NYU Medical Center paid $140,000 to Van Scoyoc Associates of Washington, and the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law spent $41,127 for its own lobbying.

- New School University in Manhattan spent $500,000 lobbying the federal government. The school paid $260,000 to Carmen Group Incorporated, based in Washington. It also paid $240,000 to Denver-based Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LP.

- The University of Rochester reported spending $390,000 last year, including $80,000 paid to J. Bennett Johnston and $160,000 paid to Cornerstone Government Affairs LLC, both based in Washington.

- Syracuse University reported spending $280,000, including $200,000 paid to Daniel French and Associates of Syracuse.

- The Rochester Institute of Technology spent the same amount on lobbying by the National Group LLC in Washington.

- Cornell University reported that the overall cost of operating its two-person federal relations office in Washington included $253,000 in lobbying expenses. The office is in the same building as the lobbying offices for SUNY and the governor.

- The Research Foundation of the City University of New York paid $230,000 to Cassidy and Associates Inc. in Washington.

- Elmira College paid $200,000 to Cassidy and Associates.

- Monroe Community College in Rochester spent $160,000 on a contract with Rochester-based lobbyist Bruce Fennie.

- Alfred University near Hornell paid the same amount to Cassidy and Associates. 

New York colleges and universities that spent at least $25,000 and less than $150,000 lobbying the federal government last year:
- St. Bonaventure University near Olean ($144,000 to Washington-based McAllister and Quinn LLC).
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute ($130,000 for lobbying by the school's Washington office).
- Touro College of Manhattan ($130,000 to Dow Lohnes PLLC and Dow Lohnes Government Strategies LLC, both located in Washington)
- The Trustees of Columbia University ($127,261, including $110,000 to K&L Gates LLP, under a contract registered April 17, 2009).
- Hofstra University on Long Island ($120,000 to Crowell and Moring in Washington).
- Polytechnic University of New York based in Brooklyn ($120,000 to the Grossman Group LLC in Washington).
- St. Francis College ($120,000 to Park Strategies based in Manhattan).
- St. Thomas Aquinas in Sparkhill ($120,000 to Patton Boggs LLP of Washington).
- Siena College in Loudonville ($96,000 to McAllister and Quinn in Washington).
- Albany College of Pharmacy ($80,000 to WOH Government Solutions of Albany).
- Canisius College ($80,000 to National Group LLC in Washington).
- Long Island University ($80,000 to The Advocacy Group in Washington).
- Molloy College, ($80,000 to Park Strategies of Manhattan).
- Nazareth College of Rochester ($80,000 to National Group LLC in Washington).
- The College of New Rochelle ($80,000 to Venable LLP of Washington).
- New York Institute of Technology of Old Westbury ($80,000 to Washington Strategies LLC of Arlington, Va.).
- Webb Institute of Glen Cove ($80,000 to Ball Janik LLP of Portland, Oregon and Washington)
- Staten Island University Hospital ($72,000 to Chesapeake Enterprises Inc. of Washington).
- Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in the Bronx ($70,000 to Dow Lohnes Government Strategies LLC of Washington).
- LeMoyne College in Syracuse ($70,000 to Michael Brower of Syracuse).
- The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan paid ($60,000 to Fern Lapidus of Chevy Chase, Md.).
- Utica College ($60,000 to Van Scoyoc Associates of Washington).
- College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany ($50,000 to McAllister and Quinn of Washington).
- School of Visual Arts in Manhattan ($50,000 to Fern Lapidus of Chevy Chase, Md.)
- Daemen College in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst ($40,000 to The Advocacy Group of Washington).
- John Jay College of Criminal Justice ($40,000 to Van Scoyoc Associates of Washington).
- Marymount Manhattan College ($40,000 to Winning Strategies Washington of Washington).
- Roberts Wesleyan College of Rochester ($40,000 to Schumacher Partners International LLC of Washington).
- Colgate University of Hamilton ($35,000 to Ikon Public Affairs of Washington under a new contract registered Feb. 1, 2009).
- Excelsior College of Albany ($30,000 to Dutko Worldwide of Washington under a new contract registered Nov. 20,2009).
- Niagara University ($25,000 to former congressman John LaFalce of Kenmore, N.Y. under a contract that ended May 31, 2009).

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