ALBANY - The amount of money spent by two Adirondack green groups on lobbying lawmakers in Albany dropped substantially last year, while the region's largest environmental organization ticked up slightly.
According to a report issued recently by the state Commission on Public Integrity, the Adirondack Council and the Adirondack Mountain Club both spent significantly less cash on state lobbying efforts in 2009 relative to 2008.
But Council Spokesman John Sheehan said last week that it wasn't a lack of issues or money that drove his organization's decline in spending - it was instead the infamous six-week state Senate coup in the summer of 2009.
"It's just a reflection that for a while there wasn't much we could actually do because there was nobody to talk to," Sheehan said. "The Assembly was doing a couple of things, but we couldn't expect to get two house support on anything so the whole place ground to a halt for about six weeks last summer."
In 2009, the Adirondack Council spent $18,134 - a 23 percent drop from 2008 - on its Albany lobbying efforts. It employs in-house staff instead of outside contractors, which is common among many other organizations.
For only the second time since 1979, the total amount spent to lobby Albany lawmakers dropped in 2009, with special interests spending $167.8 million in the state Capital.
This figure is a 3.5 percent drop from 2008, a fact the commission suggests may be related to the economy.
However, Sheehan said that's not the case at the Council.
"It may have something to do with people being less able to afford lobbyists, but ours are staff members so it's not like we have to sign a contract with a firm that will charge us an arm and a leg to do it," Sheehan said. "These are individuals who are working for us on other issues if they aren't lobbying."
The Adirondack Mountain Club also spent less in 2009, putting $55,614 toward its cause. This figure represents a 19 percent drop from 2008.
Not surprisingly, the largest environmental organization in the region also expended the most lobbying dollars.
The Nature Conservancy increased its spending 3 percent, topping off at $166,596. The vast majority, over $130,000, went toward compensating lobbying personnel, according to the report.
The Nature Conservancy has been trying to finalize several Adirondack land deals with the state for years.
The environmental lobbying effort, however, was dwarfed by other special interests.
Health and Mental Health organizations topped the list of lobbying expenditures, spending $30.6 million in 2009, followed by the real estate and construction sector at $22.6 million.