Jonathan Rosen, Mayor de Blasio, Two Trees and Private Interests

 

rosen

Mayor Names Rosen – “agent of the city”…. Rosen’s advice exempt from public disclosure but can his lobbying efforts be “non-exempt” from the exemption?

When a firm lobbies, it must disclose it’s client lists and other information regarding its clients. BerlinRosen has strategically avoided that requirement despite clear indications that Jonathan Rosen lobbies for Mayor de-Blasio and others and still remains with his firm BerlinRosen,  often representing conflicting interests.

Jonathan Rosen has been described as “the most important man in [New York] politics outside of City Hall. Are we the only people out there who find this distinction a little if not a lot unsettling?

Arguably, when  Jonathan Rosen was acting on behalf of the city in 2013 he was also acting on behalf of one of his company’s clients Two Trees a residential and commercial property developer. While Mayor de Blasio was lobbying for affordable housing, Two Trees likely did not want the mayor to win that battle.

According to LinkedIn Two Trees is a privately held company, founded in 1968 with offices at 45 Main Street Suite 602 in Brooklyn. We are looking into other companies at that location. http://therealdeal.com/new-research/topics/property/45-main-street/ and so far have not been able to definitively determine the ownership interests of Two Trees, though it would not surprise us if at least one of the company’s owners has already come up on these pages.

Jonathan Rosen has become so important to the Mayor and apparently to New York that he was named an “agent of the city” which is an unofficial term that the de Blasio administration claims makes Rosen’s advice exempt from disclosure.

In one article, listed below, Councilman Brad Lander is quoted as saying, ““BerlinRosen are smart and strategic and they make their clients, their campaigns, both for public policy and for office, better”.” Better for whom? Which of his interests are getting protected? 

 

 We are wondering if there is an exemption to the exemption that might make it possible to obtain some form of disclosure regarding Rosen and his firm. At least one news source has tried with little success.

If every “agent of the city” is exempt could Mayor de Blasio not just appoint everyone with any information that could be detrimental to him an “agent of the city” and have everything he does simply be exempt from disclosure?

In an article in today’s New York Post:

deblasio11

De Blasio’s team tried to block block Bloomberg from event

Mayor de Blasio had campaigned in 2013 as an anti-Bloomberg candidate, criticizing his administration’s overuse of stop and frisk and for not addressing a growing income inequality gap that was creating a “tale of two cities.”

At de Blasio’s inauguration, a host of speakers criticized the former mayor – with one going as far as calling Bloomberg’s reign a “plantation.”

During his first year in office, de Blasio pointed to many of the city’s ills as decades-old problems ignored by his predecessors – even as Bloomberg kept a commitment not to speak out publicly about de Blasio’s term in office.

A day before the rescheduled Cornell Tech groundbreaking took place in June 2015, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that it was donating $100 million toward construction of the campus.

The next day, de Blasio was effusive in his praise of Bloomberg’s role.

“He believed in this vision and this possibility for New York City. And largely due to his will and his sense of vision, we are here today,” de Blasio said.

The emails were provided to The Post as part of a long-running request for communications between City Hall and BerlinRosen, the mayor’s campaign PR firm.

The administration recently dubbed firm co-founder Jonathan Rosen as one of five “agents of the city,” an unofficial term they say makes his advice to the mayor exempt from public disclosure.

It took the city 14 months to respond to the Freedom of Information Law request, which only contained emails to and from BerlinRosen that were on behalf of the firm’s clients and excludes other communications.

 

In an April 2015 expose, NY1.com asked the following question:

NY1 Exclusive: Who is Jonathan Rosen? The Most Powerful Man in Politics – Outside City Hall

http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2015/04/1/ny1-exclusive–who-is-jonathan-rosen–the-most-powerful-man-in-politics—outside-city-hall.html

Anyone with business before the city knows BerlinRosen has close ties to the administration.

“We should congratulate them on their success. There’s no laws being broken. They are doing what everyone else has done,” says political consulatant and lobbyist Hank Sheinkopf. “Private clients aren’t hiring them because they don’t think they are connected to City Hall. Of course, they are hiring them because they are connected to City Hall.”

The firm’s real growth, though, began before de Blasio became mayor. In fact, it appears to be closely tied to former Assembly speaker Silver’s decision to hire the firm in 2008. He has been one of the firm’s biggest political spenders.

“It’s certainly true that around when they started working together their billables swelled,” says Jon Reznick of Competitive Advantage Research.

BerlinRosen sells strategic communications services and says it is focused on helping clients with media campaigns.

“Our company has always felt that having outside PR firms brings a great external presence and a great external set of ideas. A consultant has a way of looking at a project that we are knee-deep in from a little distance,” says Forest City Ratner’s Ashley Cotton.

The firm has consistently said that it does not lobby. If it did, it would be required to disclose its clients and reveal how much they paid for services.

Politicians who hired the firm for campaigns say Berlin Rosen has never lobbied them.

“In passing they may have said to me, hey, we have this client, you should get to know them. Primarily good non-profits that do good work in my district. But they have never once asked me to do anything—asked me to vote on a bill, asked me to work on a budget item. They have never lobbied me a single time in my 14 months in the Council,” says Councilman Corey Johnson.

The firm and Rosen may have the ability to shape policy in more subtle ways, though. BerlinRosen is deeply involved in the mayor’s non-profit lobbying group, the Campaign for One New York.

The organization has been raising private money to bolster mayoral initiative—like the expansion of pre-K. Last year, the campaign raised $2.2 million. The American Federation of Teachers was the biggest donor with a gift of $350,000.

BerlinRosen’s work on the campaign is so intertwined with City Hall that reporters calling the mayor’s press office with pre-k questions last year had their calls returned by BerlinRosen.

“I don’t want to make it seem as if BerlinRosen is the problem. The problem is right now this tremendous expansion of these outside entities with real blurring of what it is they are doing and absolutely no real guidelines for where the limits are,” says Lerner.

Last year, the Campaign for One New York paid Berlin Rosen more than $425,000, $150,000 more than the firm made working on the mayor’s campaign.

The mayor’s non-profit is now soliciting a new round of contributions. Unlike campaign contributions to candidates in the city, there are no limits on donations to the non-profit.

Jonathan Rosen founded the firm with Valerie Berlin in 2005, after working together on New York’s Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. They both live in Park Slope. Rosen’s wife, Debbie, is chief of staff to de Blasio’s budget director. Berlin’s wife, Amy Rutkin, is chief of staff to Rep. Jerry Nadler.

Rosen is fairly press-shy, and tries to stay out of the public eye. He declined to comment for this story.

“He’s usually home with his wife and kids at night instead of out on the circuit,” says Cotton.

The firm has roots in progressive politics. But its appetite for some causes appears to be changing. Take the group, Communities United for Police Reform. They were a client, speaking out on an issue that was a de Blasio campaign priority. Last fall, the firm cut ties with them as they demanded the de Blasio administration end its crackdown on low-level crimes and punish officers involved in Eric Garner’s death.

“The mayor needs to hold police accountable and he’s not. He’s not holding Bratton accountable and he’s not holding the NYPD accountable,” says Loyda Colon of Communities United for Police Reform/Justice.

A source says BerlinRosen told the police reform group that the firm could no longer advise the mayor and keep them as a client because it was a conflict.

Other apparent conflicts though don’t seem to bother Rosen. He has continued to retain clients with business before the city. Government watchdogs say his type of work is ripe for reform. The line between lobbying and strategic communications consulting, they say, is a gray one—and while they argue that everyone has a right to try to influence government, they say the public has a right to know who is attempting to sway City Hall.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s