A few months ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio rushed a union-backed bill through the City Council that handed $42 million in public funds to privately employed school-bus workers. Even some labor-friendly lawmakers questioned the precedent set by taxpayer-funded raises for workers at the low-wage bus companies.
Behind the scenes, one of the country's pre-eminent political fixers had spent months laying the groundwork for the bill, lobbying records show.
Harold Ickes, a former top Clinton administration official, had long been a fixture in the center of the lobbying universe: Washington, D.C. But since his protégé Mr. de Blasio's election last November — a victory aided by Mr. Ickes — the lobbyist has found new business opportunities in the Big Apple.
Soon after vetting administration hires as a member of Mr. de Blasio's transition team, Mr. Ickes opened a New York branch of his lobbying firm, the Ickes & Enright Group. He and his employees have since lobbied a dozen de Blasio administration officials for a rapidly growing number of clients. Mr. Ickes also separately pushed legislation that led to the bus drivers' $42 million windfall.
In recent months, the Ickes & Enright Group has signed a number of clients seeking to influence local government, such as the American Beverage Association, JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, North Shore-LIJ Health System, entertainment company AEG Live, office supplier Canon Solutions America and prekindergarten advocacy group Los Angeles Universal Preschool.
At the same time, the 75-year-old Mr. Ickes remains a key de Blasio political adviser. Both men worked for David Dinkins' 1989 mayoral campaign, and drew closer when they worked for the Clintons.
Questioned about their ties at a press conference last week, Mr. de Blasio called Mr. Ickes a "dear friend," but insisted that their relationship would not affect policy decisions. "We all separate in our lives, all the time, the personal relationships we have with people with the work we have to do," the mayor said.