Rail exec will testify in lobbying investigation

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:47

    ALBANY, N.Y. - Railroad executive Walter Rich will have to testify before the state Lobbying Commission about the lavish Baseball Hall of Fame induction events he hosts annually at his Cooperstown mansion for state officials, lobbyists and others, a judge ruled Thursday. The commission is looking into whether Rich, president of the New York Susquehanna and Western Railway Corp., provided illegal gifts to state officials. Rich reportedly has a an agreement in place to provide his railroad right-of-way through the Upper Delaware Valley, which would provide a secondary route for the controversial New York Regional Interconnect, powerline project. His tracks run through Lackawaxen, Shohola and Westfall townships in Pike County. Included on the guest list for the past two Hall of Fame weekends were state assemblymen Peter Abbate and Steven Cymbrowitz; Gov. George Pataki’s senior policy adviser, Jeff Lovell; State University of New York Chancellor Robert King; state Transportation Commissioner Thomas Madison; and Steven Boggess, secretary of the state Senate, according to records obtained by the commission. The railway spends about $100,000 per year providing lodging, lunches, dinners and tickets to baseball games to various politicians, lobbyists, state officials and others, according to a report from Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the state Inspector General’s Office. That report spurred the Lobbying Commission to begin its investigation last year. New York’s lobbying laws prohibit a lobbyist or client from offering or giving gifts valued at more than $75 per year to any individual. Rich’s lawyers argued that the events associated with the Hall of Fame weekend are exempt from investigation by the commission because they were political and charitable fundraising events, not lobbying. For more information, visit www.nylobby.state.ny.us/