Tuesday, October 29, 2013

CrainsNY on the Advance Groups Double Dipping

NYCLASS The Anti Horse Carriage PAC
Last week, The Insider wrote about the Advance Group's independent expenditure campaign for the animal rights nonprofit NYCLASS, which the firm ran while serving as the primary campaign consultant for several council candidates supported by the NYCLASS spending. That included Brooklyn's Laurie Cumbo and Manhattan's Mark Levine, who won their primaries. As Mr. Levine, Ms. Cumbo and losing Manhattan borough president candidate Robert Jackson were paying the Advance Group, their campaigns also got outside help from the teachers union's spending through mailers designed, printed and sent out by Strategic Consultants. The union's super PAC paid the apparently fictitious firm more than $12,000 for mailers promoting Mr. Jackson, more than $18,000 to promote Ms. Cumbo and nearly $3,000 in support of Mr. Levine. As in the case of the NYCLASS spending, that raises issues of potentially illicit coordination, because the Advance Group was the consultant for both the teachers union's political action committee and those campaigns. 

Against the Law to Coordinate Campaigns and PACS
Potential coordination between candidates and outside groups is subject to investigation by the city's Campaign Finance Board, an agency that has levied stiff penalties in an effort to level the playing field for candidates enrolled in the city's taxpayer-funded campaign system. City Council candidates seeking taxpayer matching funds cannot spend more than $168,000. In a required post-election Campaign Finance Board audit, if the agency finds coordinated spending between a campaign and an outside group, that spending counts against the cap, which can result in heavy repayment penalties and fines. The Advance Group also was the consulting firm for "New York City Is Not For Sale," a campaign that helped sink the mayoral candidacy of Christine Quinn. The group collected campaign contributions that far exceeded state limits.  New state campaign finance records show that NYCLASS spent $202,000 in the days leading up to the Sept. 10 primary elections on candidates that support animal rights. More than $137,000 of that went to the Advance Group, NYCLASS' political consulting and lobbying firm. Among the candidates that received support from NYCLASS were Democratic primary victors Laurie Cumbo of Brooklyn and Mark Levine of Manhattan, as well as losing Manhattan City Council candidate Yetta Kurland. At the same time, The Advance Group served as a campaign consultant for Ms. Cumbo and Mr. Levine, and had served as Ms. Kurland's consultant through April, reaping more than $150,000 in total from those campaigns. Especially in the cases of Ms. Cumbo and Mr. Levine, that raises the question of how. NYCLASS' spending to promote them could have been independent of those campaigns. The crossover between NYCLASS and The Advance Group is extensive. They list the same office address, 39 Broadway, Suite 1740, in Manhattan. The NYCLASS website lists Advance Group president and founder Scott Levenson as its political director. The spokeswoman for NYCLASS, The Advance Group, Ms. Cumbo's campaign and Mr. Levine's campaign is the same person: Ms. Connor. The NYCLASS campaign literature mailed on behalf of Ms. Cumbo, Mr. Levine and Ms. Kurland were printed by a firm called Trade Media Partners, which lists a New Jersey address. The firm also printed mailers for Ms. Kurland's campaign, records show.
The Advance Group, meanwhile, was paid by NYCLASS for live phone banking, "wages," a voter file and other expenses. According to NYCLASS' filings with the Campaign Finance Board, no phone banking was done out of the Advance Group offices for Ms. Cumbo or Mr. Levine, although it was done for Ms. Kurland. In total, NYCLASS spent more than $26,000 on behalf of Ms. Kurland just for mailers and phone banking, and more than $7,000 on mailers for both Ms. Cumbo and Mr. Levine.

UFT Pays Advance Thought Fake Group to Work for United for the Future PAC
Last week, The Insider broke the news that the United Federation of Teachers' super PAC had paid more than $370,000 to a fictitious political consulting firm "Strategic Consultants Inc.,which produced mailers touting candidates in races across the five boroughs. " Which was actually the well-known Manhattan consulting firm the Advance Group. Many of the invoices the agency received from Strategic Consultants have the Advance Group logo on them. The payments listed as going to Strategic Consultants obscured that the Advance Group was being paid both to promote candidates for the United Federation of Teachers' independent political action committee, United For the Future, and to work as the main campaign consultant for several of those same candidates.  In state campaign finance records, however, there is a Manhattan address listed for Strategic Consultants: 39 Broadway, which is also the address of the Advance Group. And in one campaign filing, a suite number is listed: 1740, the suite number of the Advance Group. "It appears from the expenditure report that the UFT took pains to conceal a coordinated effort with a paid consultant for several union-backed candidates," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY. "This is a disturbing end-run around the campaign finance laws designed to limit the influence of big-dollar donors on the political process. The Campaign Finance Board should promptly investigate the UFT and the Advance Group to quickly determine whether any violations of the independent expenditure regulations took place and hold the culpable entities accountable." It's not clear why the Advance Group would have wanted to have been listed as being paid through Strategic Consultants Inc. instead of collecting checks in its own name. One political insider briefed on the arrangement speculated that it was to avoid scrutiny over the "coordination" issues from the city's Campaign Finance Board.

Advance Runs Conservative Action PAC
The firm also received payments from a socially conservative political action committee called the City Action Coalition, which was on the opposite side of Advance Group clients in two council races.In its work on behalf of another outside group called the City Action Coalition, the Advance Group and Strategic Consultants both took in payments. In late August, the Advance Group received $36,558.20 from the group. In early September, Strategic Consultants got the exact same amount. The Advance Group's work for the socially conservative coalition was also odd because the consulting firm touts itself as one of the most progressive in the nation. Its founder and president, Scott Levenson, has worked in the past for former Public Advocate Mark Green and former liberal advocacy group ACORN.

Advance Worked for for Two Candidates in the Same Race, More Than Once
The Insider wrote that the Advance Group pushed the limits of campaign finance laws by working for council campaign clients and an outside group involved in those same races, despite a requirement that there be no coordination between them. The Advance Group already had a well-paying and longstanding client in a central Brooklyn race, Robert Waterman(36), and another in a southern Brooklyn race, Igor Oberman(48). Then in late August the firm began working for a socially conservative outside group that backed different candidates in those races, and sending out mailers touting them. 

Advance Groups Anti-Gay Mailings
The Advance Group was paid more than $36,000 to produce mailers for the five candidates backed by the City Action Coalition PAC, which on its website touts itself as supporting candidates who oppose gay marriage and abortion rights. The alliance was odd because the Advance Group touts itself as one of the most progressive political  Consulting firm in the country, and has represented clients such as the Gay Men's Health Crisis, according to its own website. The City Action Coalition has drawn scrutiny because in three of the five races it targeted, its favored candidates were going against gay contenders, raising questions about whether it had targeted races with LGBT candidates. The Village Voice reported that the City Action Coalition's chairman, a Brooklyn bishop named Joseph Mattera, once wrote about how gay people had "infiltrated" high levels of culture. He also wrote that they had "successfully humanized their lifestyle through sympathy and victimhood."

In the 3CD the Advance Group Worked for Kurland and Johnson
The Insider also reported that the Advance Group's work on behalf of City Action Coalition-backed candidates conflicted with its work for two of its own council clients. And the outside work for the teachers union raises another potential conflict: the Advance Group not only produced mailers promoting Manhattan council candidate Yetta Kurland for the NYCLASS independent expenditure, but Strategic Consultants produced mailers touting her opponent, Corey Johnson, that were paid for by the teachers union. Mr. Johnson won the primary.

In the 36CD Advance Worked for Waterman and Foy
In the central Brooklyn council race to replace the term-limited Albert Vann, the Advance Group received more than $64,000 from Mr. Waterman's campaign, making the firm Mr. Waterman's best-paid campaign vendor. The firm simultaneously took in more than $7,000 in conjunction with a mailer touting Mr. Waterman's opponent, Kirsten Foy, for the City Action Coalition. Robert Cornegy emerged as the top vote-getter by a slim margin over Mr. Foy, but some ballots remain uncounted and Mr. Foy has not conceded.

In the 48CD Advance Worked for Both Oberman and Deutsch
Meanwhile, in the Brooklyn council race to replace the term-limited Michael Nelson, Igor Oberman paid the Advance Group more than $60,000, the most his campaign spent on a single vendor. Yet the firm also was paid more than $7,000 by the City Action Coalition to print a mailer for his opponent, Chaim Deutsch, who earned a narrow victory.

CrainsNY Anonymous Source

CrainsNY Which Use Parkside's Evan Stavisky to Drop Dimes On Levinson's Advance Group Now Quotes An Anonymous Source to Attack Viverito
Is Stavisky the Anonymous Source?
"I am very certain that he does not want a speaker to his left," the Democrat explained. "He'll want someone who's not going to push him. He'll want to do things when he's ready." Mr. de Blasio has reportedly talked up Ms. Mark-Viverito's candidacy, but many council insiders don't buy it, said the source: "I think he's floating Melissa out there so she can self-destruct. A lot of people believe that."  The math of the speaker's race still does not bode well for the Progressive Caucus, the insider insisted. "Brooklyn has 10 to 12 members [who will be united]; add 13 from Queens, possibly all 14, the two Republicans from Staten Island, and whatever [Bronx Democratic Chairman Carl] Heastie has, 5 to 8," the Democrat said. "I believe the county leaders will work together on this one as opposed to trying to cut each other out." CrainsNY on the Advance Groups Double DippingBronx county leader pretends "it's up to City Council members" to pick next speaker:  * Ydanis Rodriguez Rejoining Progressive Caucus; Backs for Speaker (Councilwatch)

 From CrainsNY Series on Advance

Teachers union paid $370K to fake consultant

Advance Group puts logo on phony firm's invoice - Crain's New York ...

Firm sent mailers touting its clients' opponents - Crain's New York ...

Questions Raised Over U.F.T. Campaign Filing - WNYC

In 35th District, Jobs for New York spending provokes "No 2 Cumbo"


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