Why Did Sheldon Silver Pay A Consultant $750,000 and Spend Almost $2 Million When He Had No Challengers?
by Gary Tilzer
From 2010 to 2014, Friends of Silver (the former Speaker’s main campaign account) paid lobbyists campaign consultant BerlinRosen over $750,000. During those three election cycles, Silver paid his campaign consultant nearly a million dollars despite the fact he had only one election with a very weak GOP opponent Maureen Koetz in 2014. Koetz received less than 20% of the vote against the former Speaker.
Why was BerlinRosen paid so much money? Was the former Speaker trying to hide his involvement in other races that BerlinRosen was running like de Blasio for mayor in 2013? Or was Silver trying to skirt campaign spending limits by paying the consultant BerlinRosen directly for candidates he was supporting? BerlinRosen works in a lot of campaigns.
Developer number one in the Silver indictment used his numerous LLCs as “loophole corporations” to get around the election law in order to funnel more money to political candidates; to buy influence. What was Silver trying to buy with the $750,000 payment to BerlinRosen?
Besides his own campaign account Friends of Silver, the former speaker controlled the Assembly Campaign Committee account and the Speakers PAC, which had Donald Trump, James Dolan and Meryl Tisch among its donors. Other than a handful of individuals with less colorful names, SpeakerPAC is mostly a destination for corporate and PAC money. At its beginning (2000-02), SpeakerPac spent over $100,000 on entertainment (MARTEL’S RESTAURANT, THE GRAND DELI, DJ RICK ANGERAMI, ALBANY PARTY WAREHOUSE, RADIO CITY ENTERTAINMENT, SODEXHO, et. alia) and nothing much else. SpeakerPAC makes it rain like crazy on favored Assembly Members and candidates, and occasionally writes out fat checks to another Silver-controlled campaign account, the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee (DACC).
Jed and David Walentas, the principal owners behind Two Trees Management, and Bill de Blasio share a mutual adviser: Jonathan Rosen, one of the mayor’s top political hands and the chief executive of BerlinRosen. BerlinRosen serves as a consultant to Mayor de Blasio, his campaign team, and runs the slush fund known as One New York (1NYPAC), which pushes the progressive mayor’s agenda.
Curiously, BerlinRosen, which works for a lot of real estate developers, is not listed as a registered lobbyist. BerlinRosen’s current and recent clients include Two Trees Management, which last year was in talks with the de Blasio administration over development of the abandoned 11-acre Domino Sugar Refinery site. Negotiations between Mr. de Blasio’s City Hall team and Two Trees’ took place over a few days. It would not be stretch to suggest that Mr. Rosen negotiated with himself.
Last year, before being taken off the city beat, NY Times columnist Michael Powell recalled calling “the mayor’s press office [to ask] about Mr. de Blasio’s perhaps too-optimistic cost projections for prekindergarten. Twenty minutes later, I heard from Dan Levitan of BerlinRosen, which is the “it” P.R. firm of the city’s left and a close adviser to the mayor.”
BerlinRosen worked all the candidates that hired the Working Families Party’s Data and Field in 2009. One of their clients, Council Member Debi Rosen and her campaign staff were under investigation by a Staten Island special prosecutor. The special prosecutor recently indicted two of CM Rose’s campaign top workers.
Both of the eponymous BerlinRosen partners, Jonathan Rosen and Valerie Berlin once worked for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Berlin was Schneiderman’s chief of staff when he was a State Senator.
Stayed tuned as the BerlinRosen insider game plays on.
BerlinRosen Aided Silver Plan to Elect an Albany County D.A.
One Albany veteran describes a telling dimension of Silver’s destructive stranglehold on government. The story begins in 2003, when Michael Boxley, Silver’s chief counsel, was charged with rape and marched out of Assembly offices in handcuffs. Although District Attorney Paul Clyne was a fellow Democrat, Silver was furious at being embarrassed. “He was fuming,” the Albany vet says, “and swore he would get a DA in there he could control and who would never embarrass him.”
Silver found his candidate for the 2004 election, little-known lawyer David Soares, and engineered the support of the upstart Working Families Party. Against heavy odds, Soares upset Clyne in the primary and triumphed again in the general election. To this day, Soares remains the Albany DA, yet never finds anything amiss in the Legislature. Soares paid BerlinRosen $30,000 in 2012. BerlinRosen’s Alex Navarro-McKay as a WFP operative helped Soares get elected as Albany’s DA. Hmm.
Gary Tilzer is an award-winning journalist and blogger whose daily blog, True News, is widely read. Twitter: @unitedNYblogs