Thursday, July 17, 2014

Speaker Mark-Viverito's campaign paid a lobbying firm, which also lobbied back at her on behalf of clients

How much corruption has to happen, before progressive activists protest against City Council, demanding reforms to end the corruptive role of money and lobbyists in New York politics ?

How many Mark-Viverito-lobbyist exposés in The New York Daily News will it take before the Mark-Viverito administration and all of her teams of lobbyists come under federal investigation ?

On the heels of yesterday's blog post about campaign finance questions pertaining to New York City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito's successful Council speakership campaign, an article in today's The New York Daily News revisits on-going questions over the role of lobbyists in the Speaker Mark-Viverito's administration of the City Council.

In the first few months of this year, Speaker Mark-Viverito has been paying approximately $28,000 to the lobbying firm of Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin -- at the same time when Pitta Bishop was lobbying Speaker Mark-Viverito on behalf of the lobbying firm's clients.

The lobbying firm of Pitta Bishop essentially rescued Councilmember Mark-Viverito's speakership campaign last year when it appeared that Pitta Bishop took control over Councilmember Mark-Viverito's sagging speakership campaign after she became engulfed in a series of mainstream media exposés in connection with the lobbying firm, The Advance Group, which had been managing her lobbying campaign for the Council speakership. Various political campaigns managed by The Advance Group have since become the subject of a series of recent punitive findings and fines assessed by the city's Campaign Finance Board. Nevertheless, The Advance Group remained involved in Councilmember Mark-Viverito's speakership campaign at the time until she won her lobbying campaign. Since Speaker Mark-Viverito became indebted to her lobbyists, government reform activists question how could municipal ethics and campaign finance regulatory authorities condone her close relationship with these lobbyists. Not only can lobbyists close to the new Council speaker leverage her political indebtedness, but some of these same lobbying firms have also played a role in determining secondary and tertiary City Council leadership assignments, extending the control that lobbyists exert over the municipal legislative body. If you look the media, the City Hall press corps keeps looking the other way when it comes to concerns about illegality.

"Simultaneously paying and being lobbied by the same firm is legal, but the practice has been criticized by good-government groups worried that such a cozy relationship can give lobbyists special access to a politician," reported The New York Daily News.

For years, government reform activists have complained that the culture of corruption in government is allowed to get worse under the enabling eyes of do-nothing regulators, do-less good government groups, and non-plussed mainstream media reporters, who claim that some forms of government and campaign corruption are "perfectly legal." The situational ethics of political hacks acting in regulatory capacities is what undermines the public's confidence in government and in elected officials, but yet for every scandalous conflict of interest between elected officials, like Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, and lobbyists, like those at the firm of Pitta Bishop, is that good government groups and government reform activists rarely propose reforms that effectively render illegal the corruptive role of money and lobbyists in government.

In the time leading up to the City Council vote to determine the next Council speaker, some political bloggers suggested a suite of proposed reforms to overhaul the role of lobbyists in determining leadership posts in the City Council. Some of those reforms, first published on November 24, 2013, in a YouTube video, included :

  1. reform the do-nothing Campaign Finance Board ;
  2. pressure progressives to enforce transparency ;
  3. improve Speakership electioneering reporting ;
  4. end subcontractor loopholes ; and
  5. end the provision of free campaign services, including for the Speakership.

These recommendations, in addition to revoking the cloaking rule that allows lobbyists to avoid disclosure when they lobby the City Council for leadership or administrative appointments and banning campaign consultants who receive payments from the Campaign Finance Board's matching dollar program from acting as municipal lobbyists, can strengthen voter confidence in the integrity of government and in elected officials.

Other reforms can be suggested by voters, government reform activists, and by good government groups. But the media neither invites voters to make recommendations for reforms, nor does the media launch government reform campaigns to support the recommendations of government reform activists working to overhaul this broken political system.


City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito paid $28G to lobbying firm for consulting, while they lobbied her on behalf of clients (The New York Daily News)

Media reports show that Melissa Mark-Viverito evaded campaign finance caps by opening second account to fund Council speaker race (NYC : News & Analysis)

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

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