Monday, June 30, 2014

Another campaign consultant tied to Council Speaker Mark-Viverito in still yet another controversy

The Hispanic Federation received more than $830,000 in FY2015 City Council Slush Funds. The charity was founded and is represented by a partner of the MirRam Group political consultanting firm, which is close to Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

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Charity tied to New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito quadruples its funding (Crains New York Business)

More questions about Melissa Mark-Viverito's campaign finances and her lobbyists (NYC : News & Analysis)

IN THE NEW CITY BUDGET, the New York City Council, headed by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, has steered over $830,000 to a charity with close ties to one of her chief campaign consultants, Crains New York Business reported.

The charity, the Hispanic Federation, was founded and is represented by Luis Miranda, a partner of the MirRam Group. The MirRam Group advised Councilmember Mark-Viverito's reelection race for her City Council seat, and it "quietly provided assistance in the midst" of Councilmember Mark-Viverito's speakership race, according to the Crains New York Business report. The disclosure of expenditures of Councilmember Mark-Viverito's speakership race fails to show that the speakership campaign committee ever paid the MirRam Group for their services, an apparently similar arrangement that Councilmember Mark-Viverito's speakership campaign had with The Advance Group.

A potential conflict of interest comes to the fore with respect to the City Council allocation of slush funds to the Hispanic Federation in that the MirRam Group lobbied the City Council, including Speaker Mark-Viverito, for the funding.

Moreover, the large allocation to the Hispanic Federation may invoke "veal pen" concerns. The Hispanic Federation is a fund of funds-type structure, which means it uses its resources to fund other Hispanic charities. Will the Hispanic Federation only fund groups that express their loyalty to Speaker Mark-Viverito ?

Furthermore, the slush fund allocation to the Hispanic Federation has a potential to move circuitously back to the MirRam Group, according to the Crains New York Business article. The Hispanic Federation retains the MirRam Group on an $8,500 monthly arrangement. Over the years, the Hispanic Federation has paid over $600,000 to the MirRam Group and to another firm "registered to Mr. Miranda and his wife," according to a 2012 report by The New York Post.

The circuitous flow of slush funds that "pass through" charities and into the pockets of lobbyists with close ties to the Council Speaker.

Former Speaker Christine Quinn began earmarking slush funds to the High Line park before she became Council Speaker, and those and other budget allocations overlapped with the High Line park retaining the lobbying services of Bolton-St. Johns, a firm headed by former Speaker Quinn's best friend, Emily Giske. To close the circuitous loop of money, real estate developers, who stood to make tens of millions of dollars, if not more, from the gentrification that the High Line park ushered in, turned around and made large campaign contributions to Speaker Quinn's campaign committee accounts.

For years, good government groups have asked that the City Council slush funds either be eliminated entirely or to be reformed to prevent the politicization of the controversial budget allocations, so that there are no pay-to-play, conflicts of interest, or quid pro quo aspects to how the slush funds are divided up by the Council Speaker.

Now that Crains New York Business has brought the role of campaign consultants to the fore, the city's Campaign Finance Board and the Department of Investigation must investigate the appearances of corruption. If the potential established pattern of criminality in these cases consist of violations of local or state law but involve the investigation and prosecution of significant political or government individuals, who may pose special problems for the local prosecutor, then federal prosecutors must lead the charge.

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