Council speaker Mark-Viverito defends close lobbyist relationships

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at an August 2012 charity event for Kars4Kids.  Source :  Kars4Kids/CC BY 2.0/Flickr

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at an August 2012 charity event for Kars4Kids.  Source :  Kars4Kids/CC BY 2.0/Flickr

By LOUIS FLORES

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito justifies her close working relationship with a campaign consulting firm that worked on her successful speakership campaign and that now lobbies her in her official capacity as Council speaker.

Speaker Mark-Viverito told The New York Post that the relationship was "legal."

"[W]e follow and we’re doing everything by the rules and legal," Speaker Mark-Viverito said, in part, according to a report published by The New York Post.

Speaker Mark-Viverito was brushing off suggestions in a prior report published by The New York Post that the campaign consulting firm, which doubles as a lobbying firm, Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin LLC, has generated revenues of over $3 million since Speaker Mark-Viverito ascended to her leadership post due to the circuitous relationship between the firm and Speaker Mark-Viverito.

"Critics say that allowing lobbying firms to donate to politicians, be paid by politicians as consultants, and then lobby those same politicians is troubling," wrote Amber Jamieson, a reporter for The New York Post.

The close ties between Speaker Mark-Viverito and the Pitta Bishop firm include the fact that clients of the Pitta Bishop firm contributed money to Speaker Mark-Viverito's speakership campaign.  Furthermore, Speaker Mark-Viverito recruited Carlos Beato, a former operative from the Pitta Bishop firm, to serve as her legislative counsel.  

As reported by Progress Queens, Speaker Mark-Viverito sought a waiver to allow a large delegation of City Councilmembers, including herself, to accept a lobbyist-paid trip to Israel.  Despite requests made by Progress Queens, the office of Speaker Mark-Viverito has not disclosed the waiver her office is reported to have received to permit the making of that trip.  

A trip made by Councilmembers but paid for by lobbyists would typically be forbidden by the city’s lobbyist gift rule.  Under the charter of the City of New York, elected officials are forbidden from accepting valuable gifts from firms with business before New York City, and, likewise, firms that lobby elected officials are banned from making valuable gifts.

Separately, Speaker Mark-Viverito's speakership campaign is reportedly being probed for having accepted free campaign consulting services from The Advance Group, another campaign consulting firm, which doubles as a lobbying firm.  Speaker Mark-Viverito is reportedly fundraising through a 2017 campaign committee, even though she is term-limited in the City Council, in order to pay for legal fees in connection with that probe.