Former Assembly Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz, who retired two weeks ago after 18 years in the Assembly, is joining one of Albany's most politically connected lobbying firms.
Tokasz, a Cheektowaga Democrat, will head a new downtown Buffalo office for Patricia Lynch, a former top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of Manhattan. Both Tokasz and Lynch are close friends with the Legislature's top Democrat.
Tokasz is the latest in a long line of lawmakers to go through Albany's revolving door into lobbying. He said his connections to the State Capitol will be limited and he will spend more time in Buffalo, New York City and Washington than Albany for the firm. State law prohibits him from lobbying the State Legislature until 2009.
"I understand what the ethics are here," said Tokasz, a former chairman of the Assembly Ethics Committee. "I will not have any kinds of substantive conversations with members of the State Legislature for two years."
Tokasz, who last year said he was leaving the Assembly to spend more time at home in Western New York, is joining the second-biggest lobbying firm in the state capital. In 2005, the firm had $4.2 million in billings, according to the state lobbying commission.
Lynch, the firm's owner, started a one-person shop in 2001 and enjoyed a meteoric ascent in the world of Albany lobbying, a result, in part, of her close ties to Silver, her onetime boss and longtime friend.
So far this year, the firm has 73 clients, according to the lobbying commission, including Walt Disney Co., the Oneida Indian Nation, insurers, power companies, hospitals and gambling interests. Its Western New York clients include Delaware North Cos., the Catholic Hospital System and Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.
Tokasz said a chief job demand was working out of Buffalo. "Clearly, there's a comfort level for me because I have known Pat individually, and part of this is how you relate individually with people you're going to work with," he said.
The law allows Tokasz to lobby the new administration of Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer.
"I want to be ethical about it, no question about it," Tokasz said of his work as a lobbyist. "I also want to be able to use the experience I have as an elected official for 18 years to advise businesses as to how they should work in the public policy area."
The firm also is looking to Tokasz to help grow its business outside New York; Tokasz is a former executive board member of the National Conference of State Legislatures, an organization that represents state lawmakers that holds annual meetings around the country.
"He will be the lead in building a national practice," said Lynch, who said she is trying to build her business in Washington and in other state capitals through various partnerships.
Like other retired lawmakers, Tokasz is still sitting on a healthy campaign war chest; he has more than $480,000 in two campaign accounts.
"The revolving door spins quickly in Albany," said Blair Horner, a lobbyist with the New York Public Interest Research Group. Horner said Tokasz's campaign fund should be monitored to see if donations go to politicians who, in turn, help Lynch's lobbying firm.