All told, the conference spent more than $2.1 million on lobbying from 2007 through the end of 2015, state records show. That does not include the conference’s own internal lobbying team.
Filings show the lobbyists were retained, in part, to work on issues associated with “statute of limitations” and “timelines for commencing certain civil actions related to sex offenses.” Other issues included parochial school funding and investment tax credits.
Cardinal Dolan ripped for stalling to talk child sex abuse
“They are willing to spend limitless money in order to basically keep bad guys from being accountable for their actions,” said Melanie Blow, chief operations officer of the Stop Abuse Campaign. “I think they’re doing it because they don’t want to have to pay out settlements.”
Added Kathryn Robb, an advocate and survivor who says she was abused by her brother as a 9-year-old: “If they need to spend that much money on lobbying, clearly, then, they have some pretty big secrets to hide.”
While a far cry from the millions in lobbying top special interests spend in Albany each year, advocates for child sex abuse survivors say the $2.1 million spent likely represents a worthwhile investment to the Catholic Conference if it can continue to block legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations on child sex abuse civil cases and open a one-year window to bring lawsuits for victims who can no longer sue under current law.
The Catholic Conference has argued that opening a one-year window to revive old cases could ultimately bankrupt the Church.
The firms the Catholic Conference chose is also telling.
Child-abuse law reform died in 2009 Senate power struggle
Wilson Elser has long been Albany’s biggest lobbying firm. The firm represented the Catholic Conference from at least 2007 through the end of 2015 and was paid more than $1 million during that time, according to online filings with the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
After several key people either left the firm or reduced their responsibilities, the Church did not renew the contract with Wilson Elser for 2016, sources said.
Wilson Elser, which was being paid $10,000 a month by the Catholic Conference, had no comment.
In its place, state records show, the Catholic Conference hired another prominent firm, Greenberg Traurig, which it is paying $6,000-a-month. The lobbyist from the firm representing the Church is Michael Murphy, who used to be an assistant counsel for the Senate Republicans.