Saturday, September 20, 2008

A New "Tin Box"

Parkside Partner Consultant Helps Gifford Miller Become Council Speaker in 2002

"Gifford represents a completely new paradigm," said Harry Gianoulis, a consultant who helped coordinate Mr. Miller's campaign for Speaker. "It's consistent with the way that all of these new guys think that he took a multi-track approach and tried to talk to everyone, instead of saying 'I've got Queens and the Bronx' and ignoring everything outside that target audience. He started early with his campaigning, and he didn't make enemies. The old model doesn't work anymore, where you sit on your ass and wait for a county leader to pick you." -NY Obsever 2001

Good Governement Group the Citizen Union Reports Lobbying Firms were created to do work in Miller Council

More political consultants in New York have taken on the second role of lobbyists over the last five years, prompting good-government advocates to press the city's ethics board to revive attempts to regulate the practice. An analysis by Citizens Union, a nonprofit policy group, shows that half of the top 10 consultant-lobbyists last year earned no money from lobbying in 2001, but gradually adopted the practice, sometimes lobbying the same public officials they helped elect. Altogether, those 10 firms earned $32 million from lobbying and consulting from 2002 to 2005, according to the analysis, which the group intends to present today to the Conflicts of Interest Board. - New York Times, Febuary 3, 2006

Parkside Group Is Formed

In Queens, the Parkside Group leads the newcomers in attracting candidates. Evan Stavisky, Bill Driscoll and Harry Giannoulis bring their years of political experience together to represent a dozen-plus odd Council candidates — maybe some of them aren’t too odd. They have a batch of other candidates throughout the city. Queens Tribune, July 12, 2001

Lobbying Group Parkside Takes In 7.5 Million from 2001 to 2006

"As the city examines the power that lobbyists exert on municipal government, new figures show the top influence-peddlers are hauling in big bucks.
According to a list compiled by the Citizens Union and obtained by The Post, the Parkside Group is the city's top-billing lobbying or consulting group, having earned $7.5 million in fees since 2001." - New York Post, Feburary 3, 2006

Parkside Partner Helps Speaker Miller Choose New Chief of Staff

Miller Gets Help From Lobbyist In Finding a New Chief of Staff
"The position is traditionally that of gatekeeper and top adviser to one of the city's most powerful officials. . . The lobbyist, Harry E. Giannoulis, a partner in the Parkside Group, a lobbying and political consulting firm, said yesterday that while he did not believe he had played a pivotal role in helping Mr. Miller choose his chief of staff, he had given the speaker advice on what to look for in a candidate and had advised some potential applicants to seek the job. He also participated in meetings at which candidates were discussed, according to Mr. Miller's staff. Mr. Giannoulis wears two hats, one as a consultant helping candidates get elected, another as a lobbyist, who then helps his clients gain access to the people he helps elect. It is a standard strategist-lobbyist model that is common in the city and in the federal government. In this case, Mr. Giannoulis acknowledges wearing both hats at the same time -- saying he is collecting a $2,000-a-month retainer from Mr. Miller's campaign committee for political work while also representing clients like the Telebeam Telecommunications Corporation of Long Island City, which owns pay phones throughout the city." -New York Times, May 18, 2004

"Mr. Giannoulis said he had lobbied the speaker directly for his clients. It is his dual roles -- helping the speaker find a chief of staff and also lobbying the speaker on behalf of companies -- that have some government watchdog groups concerned, particularly given the power a chief of staff holds in terms of access to the speaker and in helping perform Council business." -NY Sun, May 19 2004

Lobbyist Consultant role at City Hall Inappropriate

"Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a nonprofit civic group that has no budget request before the city, said the competition for money among nonprofits had "created this frenzy" to hire lobbyists out of a belief that doing so would increase their chances of securing appropriations. He also expressed concern about what he called "a growing problem" of council members being lobbied by firms that serve as political consultants to many of them. "It's a closed circle of influence that is totally inappropriate," Mr. Dadey said. "It clearly gives a lobbyist who does campaign work unfair advantage, because it gives them a level of access to the elected official that they otherwise would not have." - New York Times, June 22, 2005

Miller Fund-Raiser's Ties to Lobbyist Raise Eyebrows With Watchdogs

"City Council Speaker Gifford Miller's fund-raising effort operated for 15 months in an office in the same lobbying firm that reportedly has advised him on selecting a new chief of staff. The executive director of Miller for New York, Lisa Esler, rented an office from the Parkside Group since February 2003 before relocating to another floor in the same Nassau Street building three weeks ago. Ms. Esler and aides to Mr. Miller said the space was rented by her consulting firm, The Esler Group, and not the campaign, although Miller for New York is paying for the new office, the aides and Ms. Esler said." - New York Sun, May 19, 2004

Hidden Money Increase Power Insider Lobbyist

The Council was rocked this week by news that for years staffers hid at least $17 million in the city budget by allocating the money to phony charities. Controlled by the speaker, the cash would then be doled out to legitimate groups with political pull or midyear emergencies. In 2001, there were five fake names shielding $1 million. It grew to dozens of names and about $4.5 million by last year, before Quinn said she found out about it. One of the original bogus groups - Murphy's Place - was named in honor of a former councilman who called an Irish staffer "Murphy" because he could not remember his real name, an ex-Council staffer said. She said she told senior finance staffers to quit it in the spring of 2007 - a contention backed up Friday by her chief of staff, Charles Meara. McShane did not explain why Quinn waited more than a year to order an end to the practice. investigators are believed to be looking into any shady ties between Council members and the nonprofits they fund with the body's multimillion-dollar pork budget. – Daily News, April 5, 2008

What was going on in the Council Financial Office?
“Ms. Quinn is expected to replace Ms. Angelo with Michael P. Keogh, who worked most recently for the mayor's Office of State Legislative Affairs. Ms. Quinn was elected last month with the support of the Democratic organizations in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, and has already started hiring party loyalists in return for their support, several council members and lobbyists said.”
NY Times, Feburary 22, 2006

Since the story about her aides channeling money into fake organizations broke, Christine Quinn has stressed that said aides were under direct orders for her not to do so. (She also says she knew about the practice of putting money aside, but not about the phantom organizations). In her initial press conference on the subject, Quinn said only that two members of her finance department no longer work for the council. She declined to name them, but it has now been reported that one of those staffers is Staci Emanuel, who reporters haven't had much luck tracking down. The other is Michael Keogh. When Keogh left the City Council, he landed a job at Bolton St. Johns. The powerful lobbying firm (it's ranked #2 in the city by revenue) - Azi Paybarah, The Politicker

"Her finance director, Michael Keogh, has since joined Bolton-St. Johns, a lobbying firm where Emily Giske, a top official in the state Democratic Party and close ally of the speaker, also works. Quinn’s communications chief Jamie McShane said the speaker played no role in Keogh landing that job, and Keogh has told reporters he is cooperating with investigators. The most critical questions that must be answered relate to how the distributions of the discretionary money were made. Technically, it was a process Quinn controlled, but McShane, citing the ongoing investigations, was unable to provide the specifics on how funding decisions were made. If Quinn herself made the decisions, she ought to explain where she thought the money was coming from."

In an appearance last night on the Perez Notes radio show, Council finance committee chair (and comptroller candidate) David Weprin said the Council slush fund incident, was a minor blip. These “fictitious groups,” Weprin said, never came before his committee or the Council as a whole – it was merely the work of a “couple of staff people.” - Daily News Blog, July 31, 2008

Although the council speaker can have ultimate veto power, Fidler said other people scrutinize the member items. "Some of it gets decided by the member," Fidler explained. "Some of it gets decided by the borough delegation. Some of it gets decided by the speaker and some of it gets decided by the budget negotiating team." Who is the team?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gifford Miller's Campaign Fined for Violations of 2005

By BENJAMIN SARLIN, Special to the Sun | September 19, 2008The city's Campaign Finance Board is ordering a former City Council speaker, Gifford Miller, to pay $13,835 in fines for violations incurred during his unsuccessful mayoral run in 2005.

The bulk of the penalties, announced yesterday, stem from a fine for violating campaign spending limits. Mr. Miller did so by $10,410, and will now have to pay the same amount in fines. In addition to that penalty, Mr. Miller was issued violations for improper post-election expenditures ($750), for accepting nine over-the-limit contributions ($1,125), for accepting four contributions from unregistered political committees ($500), for accepting two contributions from corporations ($250), and for failing to properly report certain donations and expenditures ($850).

An attorney for the Miller campaign, Laurence Laufer, said yesterday that his client would pay the fines and that the cost of challenging the ruling in court would likely exceed the violations themselves.

"The Miller campaign has always made clear that it would abide by the city's campaign finance rules and we are pleased that after this complete three-year audit that the CFB found it was in virtually complete compliance," Mr. Laufer said in an interview. "The campaign chose not to contest the few minor violations that are alleged here."

Mr. Miller clashed with the Campaign Finance Board during his 2005 mayoral run, claiming that $1.4 million in spending should not have been counted against his overall spending limit. After initially refusing to follow the board's decision, the state Supreme Court refused to block the board's ruling, leading him to cancel a series of ads he had planned to air with the money, according to the New York Times.
Also yesterday, an unsuccessful candidate for City Council in Brooklyn in 2007, Karlene Gordon, was ordered to pay $3,900 in fines for a series of violations, including accepting over-the-limit contributions, making non-campaign and improper post-campaign expenditures, and failing to respond to an audit before a deadline.