Sunday, October 28, 2007

No Lobbyist Left Behind

The NY Daily News reports today that Mayor Bloomberg's top aides were aggressively lobbied by former Bloomberg aide Anthony (Skip) Piscitelli just days after Piscitelli left city government to join the city's most influential lobbying firm, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker.

The Daily News spent six months investigating Piscitelli's lobbying of pending legislation for clients that included the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Bankers Association of New York, a racetrack partnership called Excelsior Racing Association, a taxi company and the League of American Theaters and Producers.

They found that Piscitelli had at least 127 email contacts with members of the mayor's staff lobbying on behalf of his clients.

Piscitelli received $697,000 this year from those clients for his lobbying efforts.

Piscitelli - who often referred to Mayor Bloomberg only by his initials MRB in his communications with Bloomberg's aides - says in one email the Daily News obtained that the goal of lobbying the city is always to get to the "right people" to gain advantage for your lobbying clients.

He sure got to the right people in the Bloomberg administration:

City officials are strictly prohibited from lobbying their former colleagues for a year after leaving public service, but Anthony (Skip) Piscitelli started up days after leaving city government in November, internal e-mails The News obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show.

The e-mails reveal that Piscitelli gained unusually free access to the top levels of the Bloomberg administration, especially to his former boss, Kevin Sheekey, deputy mayor for governmental affairs and Bloomberg's top political adviser.


At one point, while discussing with Sheekey a campaign to keep tax loopholes in place for bankers, Piscitelli even paraphrases "The Godfather," stating, "Never let someone outside the family know what you're thinking."

Kevin Sheekey, btw, is the political genius behind Mayor Bloomberg's independent 2008 presidential bid. Other Bloomberg aides involved in Piscitelli's lobbying efforts include the mayor's director of operations Jeffrey Kay and the deputy mayor for economic development Daniel Doctoroff.

The mayor's spokesman claims nothing wrong occurred between Piscitelli and the mayor's top aides, but the Bloomberg administration nonetheless referred the Daily News stories to the city's Conflicts of Interest Board.

Now I don't know if Piscitelli actually had any influence on Bloomberg's positions on legislation affecting Piscitelli's clients, but I do know that he got access for his clients that you or I wouldn't have gotten.

I'm sure this kind of access happens at all levels of government all of the time. That's why they have laws that restrict lobbying by former government employees for a period of time after they leave government.

I do know one thing, however. The mayor is planning to run for the White House in '08 as a fresh, independent, non-political politician who can get things done and will change the cozy "business as usual" environment of corruption that afflicts much of Washington D.C .

But ironically the Bloomberg political aide who helped develop that Bloomberg campaign theme, Kevin Sheekey, is also the aide former Bloomberg lobbyist Piscitelli went to most when he wanted illegal lobbying access to the Bloomberg administration.

If the mayor makes good on his threat to run in '08, the press better take a closer look at the Bloomberg campaign's claims that Moneybags will change "business as usual" in Washington since it seems the Bloomberg administration seems to work just the way so many politicians in Washington do.

While they're at it, they ought to take a look at the bank accounts of the mayor's top aides too.

Just because they work for a billionaire doesn't mean they don't pay to play.
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