Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson and City Councilwoman Letitia James, who's running for public advocate, have both been advised by MirRam Group, which also lobbies for Coca-Cola. Thompson and James opposed the mayor's proposal to restrict the sale of large sodas.

Photo by: NYC DOHMH, NYers for Thompson, Thomas Good / NLN

Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson and City Councilwoman Letitia James, who’s running for public advocate, have both been advised by MirRam Group, which also lobbies for Coca-Cola. Thompson and James opposed the mayor’s proposal to restrict the sale of large sodas.

A handful of influential firms in New York State lobby elected officials while also serving as consultants for political campaigns, a practice that is perfectly legal but raises several ethical questions.

What happens when lobbying and political jobs overlap? Will elected officials, already subject to a barrage of lobbyists, be even more unduly influenced if the consulting firms they employ for their campaigns are also turning around to lobby them soon after?

Read our full investigation here.

City Limits used the city clerk’s 2013 annual report on lobbying to identify 40 top lobbyists.

We selected those who either ranked among the top 10 in billing from 2008 to 2012, were in the top 10 for number of clients in 2012, were retained by one of the top 10 clients in terms of spending on lobbying or were fined for filing a late amended registration (as a proxy for an assortment of established lobbying interests).

We then used the city’s campaign finance database to find campaign spending paid to any of those 40 lobbyists as consultants during citywide campaigns from 2001 to present.

Their work may have been for mayoral hopefuls, public advocate or comptroller candidates, would-be borough presidents or people seeking City Council seats.

The six who earned more than half a million dollars for campaign work were:

Sheinkopf Ltd. $8,773,688
The Parkside Group $5,025,027
The Advance Group $3,360,297
Mirram Global $3,194,702
Global Strategy Group $2,064,000

(Sheinkopf Ltd. encompasses fees earned by a number of related firms, including Austin-Sheinkopf and Sheinkopf Communications. Mirram Global includes fees identified by Mirram Group.)

Other top lobbyists who earned substantial campaign fees include Kasirer Consulting ($926,528 in campaign fees) Constantinople & Vallone ($282,104), George Arzt Communications ($242,693) and Pitta Bishop ($150,205). Yoswein New York, Greenberg Traurig LLP, Herrick Feinstein, Bolton-St. Johns, Beaudoin & Company, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, and Bryan Cave LLP earned much smaller amounts.

We then took those lobbyists’ names and entered them into the city’s lobbyist search tool to generate a list of their current clients. Here’s a look at how these lobbyists have represented and who their top campaign consulting clients were.

2013 lobbying clients include New Yorkers for Clean Livable & Safe Streets Inc., CWA Local 1180, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council AFL-CIO, The Children’s Health Fund

Top 3 Campaign Clients (2001-2013)
Bill Perkins (Manhattan BP, 2005) $534,049
James Gennaro (council, 2001, 2003, 2005) $322,822
Joseph Addabbo (council 2001 & 2003) $305,482

2013 lobbying clients include the Rector, Church-Wardens and Vestrymen of Trinity Church; Major League Soccer, LLC

Top 3 Campaign Clients (2001-2013)
Fernando Ferrer (mayor, 2001) $1,105,929
Bill de Blasio (public advocate, 2009) $221,747
Scott Stringer (Manhattan BP, 2005 & 2009) $193,614

2013 lobbying clients include Livery Base Owners, Inc.; Oneida Indian Nation; Community Preservation Corporation; Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc.; Puerto Rican Family Institute, Inc.

Top 3 Campaign Clients (2001-2013)
Fernando Ferrer (mayor, 2005) $1,372,771
William Thompson, Jr. (mayor 2009 & 2013) $637,013
David Yassky (comptroller, 2009) $255,231

2013 lobbying clients include New York Cares, Inc.; Fresh Direct, LLC; Entergy Nuclear Operations Inc; CAMBA, Inc; UFCW Local 1500

Top 3 Campaign Clients (2001-2013)
Mark Green (public advocate, 2009) $735,812
Tony Avella (council, 2001, 2003, 2005) $416,233
Michael McMahon (council, 2001, 2003, 2005) $382,415

2013 lobbying clients include Teamsters Local 237, Douglaston Development, Retirees Association of DC 37, D’Onofrio General Contractors Corp.

Top 3 Campaign Clients (2001-2013)
Michael Bloomberg (mayor, 2009) $2,177,488
David Weprin (comptroller, 2009) $1,919,967
Betsy Gotbaum (public advocate, 2001 & 2005) $1,850,316

We also used the CFB database to list all fees spent on the category of “campaign consultants”—which covers most but not all of the work lobbyist-consultants can be paid for—from 1989 to present.

Only four of the top 20 campaign consultant firms over that time are also in the city’s most recent registry of lobbyists.

On the other hand, we were unable to detect any campaign spending going toward 23 of the top 40 lobbyists; the remaining 17 earned just over $24 million in campaign fees during that time.

So while the practice of doubling as a consultant and a lobbying has raised ethical question, most lobbyists and most consultants apparently do not double up.

Reporting for this project was generously supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

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