In a packed hall in the Bronx a few months ago, Ron Kim, a New York State assemblyman, stood clutching a ceremonial pen in his left hand, the other extended into the crowd as labor advocates, politicians and immigrant rights workers thronged to shake it. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had just used the pen to sign into law a bill protecting nail salon workers from labor abuses and potentially dangerous chemicals. It was a measure that Mr. Kim, who represents the mostly Asian enclave of Flushing, Queens, had spent a painstaking summer helping to craft.
Less than a month later, however, Mr. Kim, a Democrat, began to publicly question the law — particularly a provision designed to protect workers from wage fraud. He soon became one of the statute’s most vociferous critics.
As it turns out, while Mr. Kim’s position on the law was evolving, nail salon owners, previously a largely disconnected group, were rapidly organizing. They started a surprisingly sophisticated effort to fight the law. And, behind the scenes, they funneled tens of thousands of dollars in political donations to Mr. Kim.