31 May 2016 by Brendan O’Connor
Governor Andrew Cuomo and Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Photo: AP
From 2007 to the end of 2015, the New York Daily News reports, the New York Catholic Conference, led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, paid top Albany lobbyists more than $2.1 million to help block legislation, including the Child Victims Act, that would make it easier for victims of child sex abuse to seek justice.
If passed, the bill—a version of which is still pending—would change New York state law to allow a one-year window in which victims older than 23 could bring lawsuits against their abusers. (Such victims are restricted from suing under the current law.)
State records show that the conference, a group representing the bishops of the state’s eight dioceses, retained lobbyists to work on a number of issues associated with “statute of limitations” and “timelines for commencing certain civil actions related to sex offenses.”
“We believe this bill is designed to bankrupt the Catholic Church,” Catholic Conference spokesman Dennis Poust told the New York Times in 2009.
In addition to the Church’s own internal lobbyists, the conference retained Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, Patricia Lynch & Associates, Hank Sheinkopf, and Mark Behan Communications.
Patricia Lynch’s involvement is of particular note: According to court filings in the corruption case against Sheldon Silver unsealed earlier this year, Lynch and the disgraced speaker carried on a longstanding, mutually beneficial affair.
Her involvement signaled a turning point in the legislation. From 2006 to 2008, the state Assembly passed four different version of the Child Victims Act, the Daily News reports. After PLA was hired in 2009, the measure was never voted on again.
In a letter to the judge in Silver’s case submitted late last year, John Aretakis, a former lawyer and an advocate for child sex abuse victims, specifically criticized the former speaker for obstructing reform as a result of his relationship with Lynch.
Lynch’s firm was paid $7,500 a month, the Daily News reports. The firm’s contract with the Catholic Conference was terminated not long after Lynch was identified as Silver’s mistress. Lynch said that contract ended by “mutual consent.”