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Thursday, May 23, 2024

NYC Lobbyists Still Charged Big Bucks During COVID-19 Pandemic

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By: Serach Nissim

Lobbying in New York City may be among the few industries not negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2020, every nonessential industry in the Big Apple was in lock down due to the pandemic. Even City Hall, with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration and the City Council, were forced to hold all meetings virtually. Somehow though, well-connected lobbyists still found a way to rake in an abundance of funds from their well-heeled clients, for wooing City Hall and the Council.

The NY Post reported that a new a new report from the City Clerk’s Office has divulged that lobbyists collected $106.34 million in 2020. That is only modestly lower than $113.2 million, their compensation in 2019, before the pandemic hit. The leading firm, for the fourth consecutive year, was Suri Kasirer’s lobbying firm. It managed to rake up about $14.164 million, almost matching the $14.3 million earned in 2019.

Kasirer’s firm pushed the mayor’s office and the council to cough up COVID-19 relief to the hard-hit restaurant and hotel industries. Her clients included ‘Relief for the Restaurant Industry’ and the Hotel Association of NYC, which has been trying to get the city to defer property taxes for hotels during the pandemic and painful closures. Kasirer’s firm also represented other well-heeled companies last year including: Northwell Health, Columbia Presbyterian, Target Corp, T-Mobile USA, IF Cornerstone, Comcast Cable, Google, Related Company, SL Green Realty and Silverstein Properties, to name a few.

“We are pleased to continue to be the leading advocate in New York City, and are proud to support our clients as they work to reinvest in and rebuild New York as we emerge from the pandemic,” Kasirer said in a reply. “This was a very tough year. This was a year from hell. My clients were struggling to deal with COVID.” She also lauded her lesser-known clients who helped the needy and victims of abuse during the pandemic, including the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, AARP and SAFE Horizons.

The second highest compensated Lobbyist was James Capalino’s firm with $9.9 million, down from $11.9 million in 2019. Also on the list of top five lobbying firms were: Bolton-St. Johns, which made $6.7 million; Constantinople & Vallone $5.66 Million; and Pitta Bishop & Del Giorno $4.82 million.

“The seasoned, hot-wired lobbyists still get their phone calls returned. From a client’s perspective lobbyists are more important than ever,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “The top, connected lobbyists can still wield their influence and charge clients the big bucks,” added Horner.

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