In an investigative report broadcast Wednesday evening on NY1 Inside City Hall, the journalist Grace Rauh pulled back the curtain on the unregistered lobbying firm, BerlinRosen.
One of BerlinRosen's name partners, Jonathan Rosen, is a close advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City). Indeed, BerlinRosen worked on the de Blasio mayoral campaign in 2013 and maintains close ties to Mayor de Blasio. A report published last year in The New York Post showed that Mayor de Blasio regularly consults with BerlinRosen by phone.
In 2014, Mr. Rosen attended 20 meetings with Mayor de Blasio, according to a review conducted by NY1 of Mayor de Blasio's calendar. Those meetings have given Mr. Rosen access to inside information about the de Blasio administration.
That insider access gives Mr. Rosen and his firm with access to present his clients' business to Mayor de Blasio, and Mr. Rosen is extremely aware of political sensitivities specific to Mayor de Blasio, allowing Mr. Rosen to guide his clients according to Mr. Rosen's knowledge of Mayor de Blasio's political sensitivities.
One nonprofit client of BerlinRosen, which Ms. Rauh highlighted in her report, was Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of police reform groups that, for much of 2014, deliberately deescalated pressure for police reform, so as not to embarrass Mayor de Blasio. However, late in 2014, after police reform activists began to demand that Mayor de Blasio hold the New York Police Department accountable for police brutality and officer-involved fatalities, BerlinRosen separated from its representation of Communities United for Police Reform, because BerlinRosen did not want to jeopardize its lucrative business opportunities, which are premised on maintain close ties to Mayor de Blasio.
The political phenomenon of elected officials subjugating nonprofit social groups into deescalation has been described by Jane Hamsher, the publisher of Firedoglake, as locking groups into a "veal pen." The local phenomenon of the "veal pen" was the subject of a workshop as the 2014 Left Forum.
BerlinRosen also represents the Coalition for the Homeless, a group that refuses to hold Mayor de Blasio accountable for the runaway spike in homeless during his mayoral administration, and the external nonprofit lobbying arm of City Hall, the Campaign for One New York.
The Campaign for One New York raises big money donations from special interests, who have business before New York City government. How many favors are being traded either by BerlinRosen on its own behalf or on behalf of the de Blasio administration in order to raise large sums of unregulated money for the controversial lobbying arm of City Hall ?
Ms. Rauh's report noted that because BerlinRosen is an unregistered lobbying firm, the public has no transparency into which private corporate clients the firm may represent or how much the firm is being paid -- transparency that does exist for registered lobbying firms, according to Ms. Rauh.
Another issue raised in Ms. Rauh's report is the fact that BerlinRosen can skirt campaign finance regulations that place a cap on campaign contributions for municipal officials.
Not mentioned in Ms. Rauh's report, however, is the fact that BerlinRoses uses the Campaign for One New York to coördinate its political and lobbying activities with City Hall when, during the normal course of an election cycle, such coördination would be deemed a violation of campaign finance law as amended by the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizen United case.
BerlinRosen's lucrative business opportunities are given to it by its access to inside information about the de Blasio administration, and the public has no insight about how BerlinRosen may be exploiting that insider access, except that, on a few occasions, it becomes known that the firm is representing many sides on the same transaction, a revelation that became clear when it was reported that BerlinRosen was being paid by Two Trees Management, a real estate developer on whose behalf BerlinRosen consulted, in connection with a zone-busting real estate development project at the site of the old Domino Sugar factory in Brooklyn. BerlinRosen was representing Two Trees Management at the same time when BerlinRosen was advising City Hall on other matters.