Probe of Tobacco Company Lobbying Urged
Government watchdog groups want state ethics officials to investigate whether cigarette maker Philip Morris reported all of the money it spent to lobby New York state lawmakers in 1996.
The request to the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying came as The New York Times reported that the world's biggest cigarette maker had spent tens of thousands of dollars in recent years on gifts to New York lawmakers.
The newspaper reported Tuesday that about 115 current and former state legislators accepted gifts such as expensive meals and tickets to the U.S. Open from Philip Morris. The report was based on interviews and itemized lobbying expenses included in Philip Morris documents in lawsuits.
None of the expenses found by the Times appear to have been disclosed by Philip Morris, according to a letter sent Tuesday to the lobbying commission by the state chapters of Common Cause, the New York Public Interest Research Group and the League of Women Voters.
State law requires lobbyists and their clients to disclose all expenses, with a specific description of those expenses that are in excess of $75, the watchdog groups said.
Ethics rules passed in the late 1980s prohibit legislators from accepting gifts of more than $75 if they are intended as a reward or to influence decisions.