Tobacco giant Philip Morris Cos. agreed today to pay a $75,000 fine and open its books in a settlement with New York's lobbying commission over the company's failure to fully report lobbying expenses.
Under the agreement with the New York Temporary State Commission on Lobbying, Philip Morris admitted that it committed 15 violations of state lobbying law dating to 1996. Many of the violations related to the company's failure to report dinners and gifts for state lawmakers and other officials.
The $75,000 fine is the maximum allowed by New York law and the largest ever levied by the commission, according to executive director David Grandeau.
Nonetheless, state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer called the settlement "a sham of a mockery or a farce." He said the commission's decision to accept a settlement instead of holding a public hearing gave Philip Morris "absolution."
The commission also will audit Philip Morris's lobbying expenses for the next three years and can levy additional fines if more violations are discovered.
In a statement, Philip Morris said the company is committed to complying with state lobbying laws.
"We are very sorry that our reports were false and inaccurate, and we are examining our internal processes to ensure that this will not happen again," the company said.
New York law requires lobbyists and clients to disclose all expenses, with specific descriptions of expenses that exceed $75. Gifts worth more than $75 that are intended to influence a lawmaker's official actions are prohibited.
It was unclear whether any lawmakers or other state officials would face sanctions.