Many lawmakers become lobbyists. Who’s gone from lobbying to lawmaking?

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson was the government relations director at GFI Development before becoming an elected official.
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson was the government relations director at GFI Development before becoming an elected official.
John McCarten
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson was the government relations director at GFI Development before becoming an elected official.

Many lawmakers become lobbyists. Who’s gone from lobbying to lawmaking?

Here are the New York elected officials who once worked in government relations.
May 17, 2020

In New York, former elected officials have to wait at least two years before they can enter the lobbying business – and many do. The ranks of New York lobbying firms are stuffed with former elected officials and high-ranking members of their staffs. “You go down the list, and everybody worked for government,” said George Arzt, who runs his own communications firm and formerly served as press secretary to then-New York City Mayor Ed Koch. 

But the other way around – a trajectory from government relations into public service – isn’t so common. Here’s a list of elected officials who were already familiar with the other side of the table by the time they were first elected, or left public service and gave lobbying a shot before running for office again. 

Corey Johnson 

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Jeff Reed

Elected position: New York City Council Speaker, District 3 (Manhattan)

Government relations experience: Johnson has sought to distance himself from real estate interests as an elected official, but a decade ago the mayoral hopeful was working for them. From 2008 to 2010, Johnson was the government relations director at GFI Development, a Manhattan-based real estate developer.

Keith Powers

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John McCarten

Elected position: New York City Councilman, District 4 (Manhattan)

Lobbying experience: Before he was elected to the City Council in 2017, Powers was a vice president at Constantinople & Vallone. He worked at the firm for six years, beginning in 2011. During that time, the firm represented a wide variety of clients, including the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the College Board.

Barry Grodenchik

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Emil Cohen

Elected position: New York City Councilman, District 23 (Queens)

Lobbying experience: Grodenchik spent a few years working for The Parkside Group, an influential lobbying firm with ties to Queens Democrats, between two stints in public service. He was elected to the state Assembly in 2002, but was defeated in his 2004 reelection bid. He was with the Parkside Group from 2005 to 2009, before being elected to the New York City Council in 2015.

Robert Jackson

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NY Senate Photo

Elected position: State Senator, District 31 (Manhattan)

Lobbying experience: Jackson lobbied the New York City Council on behalf of the Dart Container Corporation before he ran for state Senate in 2018. The styrofoam company was one of many fighting city attempts to regulate the use of polystyrene foam. Jackson previously served in the New York City Council. 

Melinda Katz 

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Queens Borough President's Office

Elected position: Queens District Attorney

Lobbying experience: Katz was a shareholder at the law and lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig after leaving the New York City Council in 2009, and before a successful run for Queens borough president in 2013. Now the borough’s district attorney, she has held several elected posts, including assemblywoman and member of the New York City Council. 

Ron Kim 

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New York State Assembly

Elected position: Assemblyman, District 40 (Queens)

Lobbying experience: After working for a long list of city and state elected officials,Kim was also a lobbyist with The Parkside Group before being elected as the first Korean American in the state Legislature in 2012.

John Sabini 

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NY Racing & Gaming Commission

Elected Position: Former New York City Councilman and State Senator, Jackson Heights, Queens

Lobbying experience: Before long tenures in the New York City Council and the state Senate in the 1990s and early 2000s, Sabini was a vice president at MWW Strategic Communications, a public relations and lobbying firm, from 1989 to 1991. He has returned to lobbying, founding his own Queens-based firm and recently joining Fontas Advisors.

Domenic Recchia 

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Official NYC Council Photo by William Alatriste

Elected Position: Former New York City Councilman representing District 47 (Southern Brooklyn), reportedly considering another run

Lobbying experience: After being term limited out of the City Council in 2013 and a failed congressional campaign the next year, Recchia began lobbying the city and state governments on behalf of clients including The Guild for Exceptional Children and Community Health Project Inc. Laws limit council members to two consecutive four-year terms, but after a break, another run is allowed, and is reportedly on the former lawmaker’s mind.

Holly Pretsky
is the Associate Copy Editor at City & State.
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