Spending on grassroots lobbying in New York by third-party groups has skyrocketed in recent years, jumping from $2.2 million in 2008 to $18.8 million last year, according to a report by a good-government group.
The report, issued today by Common Cause New York, was highly critical of lobbying — mostly television and radio advertisements, but also literature, phone banks, etc. — funded by coalitions like the Committee to Save New York, which has spent more than $7.4 million during the first four months of the year, and the Alliance for Quality Education.
Both of those coalitions blanketed the airwaves engaged in what Common Cause calls “grassroots lobbying” during the budget battle and beyond, pushing their major legislative priorities. The Committee to Save New York, for example, has pushed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s agenda in a number of advertisements, while the Alliance for Quality Education backed the Millionaire’s Tax and spoke out against the governor’s education cuts.
“These campaign-style battles are being waged through an increasing number of “veiled actors” — third-party coalitions with misleading names that ask voters to “Save New York” or fight for “Fiscal Fairness” without revealing the powerful interest groups behind these messages,” the reports.
As part of its analysis, Common Cause graded some of the most prominent groups, with United University Professions topping the list in terms of disclosure, and eight groups receiving a failing grade.
The Alliance for Quality Education was one of the groups who received an “F,” but Billy Easton, the group’s executive director, took issue with the grading criteria. Out of a 100 point scale, all but 25 is based on advertisements, of which Easton’s group has only aired one for three weeks in 2008, he said..
“We’ve complied with every law in terms of public disclosure, and we’ve gone beyond that,” Easton said. “We’re supportive of public disclosure, that’s all good. My only issue is that the whole report card thing is invalid if they look at three weeks of our activity over a six-year period.”
Here’s a look at Common Cause’s grades, along with the group’s full grading criteria: