Stu Loeser is known for his lengthy tenure as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s spokesman, his new gig representing Bloomberg on the presidential campaign trail and, of course, his signature fedora. But there’s a lot more to Loeser, a Schumer alumnus who now boasts an impressive portfolio, including tech companies like Google, Uber and Tesla, Fortune 500 companies and local players like the animal rights group NYCLASS and supporters of the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector.
Political PR Power 50: 6-50
Political PR Power 50: 6-50
Risa Heller studied the art of managing the media as communications director for U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, worked with the pros at Global Strategy Group and crafted messaging for David Paterson during his tumultuous tenure as governor before launching her own firm a decade ago. The firm, which specializes in crisis management, reputation management and issue advocacy, works with nonprofit organizations, corporations and real estate clients like the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Marino handles everything from higher education and nonprofits to restaurants and retailers, but what it’s known for is real estate and land use. The father-and-son duo helped win approval for the controversial rezoning of the Rabsky Group’s Pfizer sites in Brooklyn and is providing strategic communications support on two other major rezonings under review at Industry City and Lenox Terrace. Other clients include WeWork competitor Knotel, the New York City Hospitality Alliance and the cannabis company Curaleaf.
While founder Bradley Tusk establishes a national presence, Chris Coffey handles the firm’s growing New York portfolio. Combining lobbying with communications, the firm represents tech clients like Uber and Bird. Coffey helped the animal rights group NYCLASS get the New York City Council to pass new limits on horse carriages. Eric Soufer, a communications veteran who has worked for a number of top New York Democrats, helped defeat New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans to scrap the SHSAT and is now working on a national $25 million anti-Semitism campaign.
Like many consulting firms, The Parkside Group provides an array of services, from lobbying to running campaigns to handling communications. Parkside’s biggest recent victory was the 2018 Democratic takeover of the state Senate, which involved strategic communications and press work for candidates across the state. Evan Stavisky handles public relations at the firm, with clients including FanDuel and DraftKings and the nonprofit SCO Family of Services, and specialties in law, health care, financial services and labor.
While Kivvit has roots in Chicago, a presence in Washington, D.C., and other major cities and a roster of well-known brands, Rich Bamberger has helped position the public affairs and communications firm as a player in New York politics. A veteran TV journalist and former communications manager to Andrew Cuomo, both as governor and as attorney general, Bamberger is an assertive and effective advocate for his clients, including the New York State Nurses Association.
DKC is one of the bigger communications firms on this list, with several hundred staffers and a roster of big-name brands. With key staffers like political pro Joe DePlasco, Bloomberg and Moynihan alum Bill Cunningham, former state Democratic Party Chairman John Marino and Nita Lowey veteran Matthew Traub, DKC is a force to be reckoned with. Local clients active in the New York political sphere include Madison Square Garden, Airbnb and Delaware North.
A top-tier lobbying firm with a staff full of New York politicos, Mercury provides communications services as well. Stefan Friedman, a former journalist and veteran operative who helped to legalize same-sex marriage in New York and raise the state charter school cap, heads the firm’s communications and public relations practice from the West Coast. Another colleague, the Manhattan-based John Gallagher, a Bloomberg administration alumnus, also handles much of the firm’s media relations work.
Ken Sunshine is known for his entertainment industry expertise, but the secretive publicist pops up all across New York’s political landscape. The trusted supporter of Gov. Andrew Cuomo attended his latest birthday bash and a recent reunion of administration alums, and is a Cuomo appointee to the CUNY board. A former chief of staff to then-Mayor David Dinkins, Sunshine now serves on the Community Service Society of New York and Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City boards.
One of several U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer alums on this list, Phil Singer, who founded Marathon Strategies over a decade ago, has handled campaign messaging for top New York Democrats and counts REBNY and Centene among its current clients. When Liz Benjamin, one of the statehouse’s most experienced and most respected political journalists, left her job as host of “Capital Tonight” this year, she was brought on as Singer’s managing director in Albany.
Pythia Public’s clients had plenty to celebrate in 2019: the Sexual Harassment Working Group prodded state lawmakers into enacting new protections, Common Cause applauded voting reforms in the state Capitol and in New York City, and Tobacco-Free Kids was thrilled with the state’s newly raised smoking age. Principals Alexis Grenell and Evan Thies will undoubtedly be looking for more in year two of Democratic-controlled Albany – and they’re sure to get their message across once again.
Since Monica Klein co-founded Seneca Strategies in early 2018, the firm has excelled at delivering a progressive message. Some clients, including state Sens. Jessica Ramos and Julia Salazar, won office for the first time. Others, like gubernatorial contender Cynthia Nixon and Queens district attorney hopeful Tiffany Cabán, lost but pulled moderate Democrats leftward. The firm, which recently brought on Yael Fisher as its third staffer, also represents the Working Families Party and Vote Mama PAC.
Sarah Berman’s firm, which she founded 14 years ago, has cultivated an impressive roster of real estate clients, from Brookfield Properties to RXR to the Durst Organization. The Berman Group also has partnerships with city and state government, including New York State of Health, the state’s health care exchange portal, and the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, which it assists through special event coordination and social media management.
Gramercy Communications has become a player in state politics in recent years, representing heavyweights like the Business Council of New York State, the New York Restaurant Association and medical marijuana company Vireo Health.Founder Tom Nardacci cut his teeth as a communications staffer in Congress, in the state Legislature and for the Alliance for Downtown New York after 9/11. Nardacci recently opened the Bull Moose Club, a popular coworking space across from the state Capitol.
The Syracuse-based publicist Eric Mower runs a firm with 165 staffers and a national footprint, representing FedEx, Pebble Beach and Dell EMC. But it retains its New York roots, picking up the utility National Grid as a client last year while representing local players like Westchester County’s tourism office. The award-winning firm, which has five offices across New York, changed its name from Eric Mower + Associates to Mower in 2018.
Andrew Kirtzman has been a City Hall reporter, NY1 host, adviser to the New York City schools chancellor and Rudy Giuliani biographer. Today, he represents political candidates, health care institutions, colleges and more. Kirtzman, who also had a stint at Global Strategy Group, played a role in two big stories of 2019: assisting Melinda Katz during the Queens district attorney primary recount and helping Judith Clark, the driver in the 1981 Brink’s robbery, win parole.
Before joining Precision Strategies in 2016, Eric Koch made his mark as communications director for New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Koch, who also worked at Hiltzik Strategies and BerlinRosen, is now a New York point person at Precision Strategies, which also has an office in Washington, D.C. The firm has represented big New York players, including Lyft and Charter Communications, and is now assisting in New York City’s 2020 census outreach.
George Arzt plays the political PR game in New York City as well as anyone, capitalizing on his experience as Mayor Ed Koch’s press secretary and a top print and broadcast journalist. His firm, founded in 1995, represents political clients, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney and the Brooklyn Democratic Party, as well as nonprofits, hospitals, universities and real estate companies. His right-hand man is Bob Liff, another former newspaperman who has handled major political campaigns.
After attracting tourists to New York City through the quasi-governmental NYC & Company, Cristyne Nicholas and George Lence in 2007 launched their own firm. Their strength remains tourism, but they have an array of corporate and nonprofit clients that interact with city and state government. They also serve transportation clients, including Hornblower Cruises & Events, which operates the growing NYC Ferry system. Other clients include Empire Outlets, MGM Empire City Casino and several business improvement districts.
As a new crop of communications firms open, Lisa Linden is a savvy veteran. She launched her firm in 1993, and now it’s a bustling shop with 20 employees. Its clients include the Hotel Association of New York City, Spitzer Engineering and the Fortune Society. Linden, who runs LAK with fellow principals Colleen Roche and Hannah Arnold, is active with NYC & Company, the New York Building Foundation and the New York League of Conservation Voters.
Michael Woloz isn’t just a top lobbyist in New York City – he also delivers on the PR front for clients, including the New York City Marshals Association and Middle Island Solar Farm. At a time when the taxi industry is in flux, Woloz is an indispensable communications adviser for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade. The firm, formerly Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz, is also rebranding as CMW Strategies and just opened an office in Albany.
Thomas Butler’s firm has been hitting its stride. It won a Public Relations Society of America-New York award for a campaign about the risk of male breast cancer after 9/11. With a growing staff, the firm just moved into a full-floor penthouse in midtown Manhattan. And it has delivered for such clients as the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York, Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co. and the New York Affordable Reliable Energy Alliance.
Edelman is a preeminent global communications firm with 6,000 employees, dozens of offices and a long list of corporate, government and nonprofit clients. In New York, where Edelman has a headquarters, a point person is Andrea Hagelgans, former senior adviser to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Hagelgans, who also did communications consulting and strategy for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, now works with such clients as the Robin Hood Foundation and Time’s Up.
Even as Fenton expands its national footprint, it is deepening its roots in New York. Ben Wyskida came on as CEO in 2017 after building out a philanthropy and cultural activism practice at BerlinRosen, and recently opened Fenton’s fifth office, in Seattle. Chairman David Fenton, who founded the firm in 1982, helped activists pressure the Cuomo administration to block hydraulic fracturing. Among Fenton’s clients are dozens of leading foundations, environmental groups and progressive advocacy organizations.
Anat Gerstein launched her firm nearly a decade ago with a single-minded focus on nonprofits, and her hard work is paying off. Along with top deputy Jeff Simmons, Gerstein has expanded her team to 14 staffers, including the recent hire of former NY1 reporter Erin Clarke. Gerstein has been effective at retaining clients, including AARP New York, Project Renewal and Citizens Union. She also played a role in getting statues of female trailblazers added in Central Park.
Ahead of its 15th anniversary next year, Michael Gordon’s Group Gordon has been upping its game. The firm has plenty of national clients – Shake Shack, Unilever, the NFL Players Association – and players in New York politics and policy, like Public Health Solutions and The James and Judith K. Dimon Foundation’s Here to Here youth job development program in the Bronx. Group Gordon also commissioned a timely study last year on how brands can “get political.”
Goldin Solutions, which was founded by former New York Times, MSNBC and NY1 journalist David Goldin, will mark its 10-year anniversary in 2020, and it has some notable achievements to celebrate. The firm, which counts Colliers International, the Georgetown Company and Birch Family Services among its New York City-based clients, recently expanded its Flatiron office while bringing on new hires. Among them are Bar Cudkevich, Anna Sczepanski and former Pataki press secretary Chapin Fay.
Hank Sheinkopf is among the best-known political PR professionals in New York, having worked for former President Bill Clinton, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other local, national and international candidates and campaigns while being quoted countless times in the press. The well-connected operative’s strategic communications firm guides clients like the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, real estate developers and others in responding proactively to negative press.
When Lis Smith responded to a set of questions City & State emailed regarding her public relations work, she wrote just two words: Pete Buttigieg. While it appears the youthful presidential candidate is Smith’s only current client, the veteran communications adviser from New York is certainly delivering for the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Smith has also handled campaign communications for major New York politicians, including Eliot Spitzer, Jeff Klein, Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo.
As Democrats amass power in New York, Republicans looking to regain ground must rely on the relatively few consultants who cater to conservatives – and among the best in the business are William F.B. O’Reilly and Jessica Proud. The genial O’Reilly specializes in political communications, often penning op-eds on politics and policy. A state Republican Party spokeswoman, Proud helps GOP candidates compete in New York City and in statewide and congressional contests.
The name of Dan Morris’ 6-year-old firm says it all: Progressive Cities unabashedly embraces progressive causes and progressive clients in urban environments. Morris left the top campaign consulting firm Red Horse Strategies to launch his own shop in 2014 and has helped clients like New York Communities for Change, ALIGN, Hedge Clippers, Strong Economy for All and others draw attention to income inequality, the threat of climate change and worker and immigrant rights.
Gotham Government Relations and Communications is led by two founding partners, Brad Gerstman and David Schwartz, and has a former congressman on staff in Gary Ackerman, but when it comes to the communications part of the firm’s name, it’s Nicole Epstein who does the heavy lifting. Epstein also navigates the halls of power in New York City and in Albany, and has developed specializations in nonprofits, construction, health care and the city’s yellow taxi industry.
Since launching her own crisis, public and community relations firm in 2007, Ronnie Oliva has represented a long list of bold-faced names in New York politics, including then-Rep. Charles Rangel, Rep. Yvette Clarke and state Sens. Leroy Comrie and Kevin Parker – and, before her big 2018 victory, a House candidate named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Oliva has also worked for big players in organized labor, including 1199SEIU, the Transport Workers Union and District Council 37.
Corning Place Communications is built on partnerships, working directly with top Albany lobbying firm Hinman Straub and capitalizing on its membership in the Public Relations Consultants Group, a nationwide public relations network. Founded in 2000, the firm brought on Paul Larrabee in 2011 following an extensive career working for three governors, an attorney general, a state legislative leader and a member of Congress. Its recent achievements include securing state funding for the Children’s Aid Society.
BCW, also known Burson Cohn & Wolfe, represents corporate clients across the globe, but Brian Ellner lands on this list for his civil rights advocacy. He played a key role in the communications campaign behind the 2011 legalization of same-sex marriage in New York. In the private sector, he had stints at MacAndrews & Forbes as well as at Edelman before joining BCW in 2018. His work now involves advocating for the federal Equal Rights Amendment and the Equality Act.
Steven Greenberg’s one-man shop punches far above its weight. Greenberg helps drive #bFair2DirectCare, a campaign for state funding for direct support professionals who care for the developmentally disabled. Greenberg, who worked for two Assembly speakers and a state comptroller before opening his firm in 2003, also represents the Siena College Research Institute, which recently expanded a polling partnership with The New York Times, and is a go-to expert for print and TV journalists.
Another top-notch one-man communications shop in Albany is Stanhope Partners. Founder Bob Bellafiore often partners with Steve Greenberg, including for CAMBA, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit, and on the #bFair2DirectCare campaign to fund the nonprofit workers who care for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities. Bellafiore, a former journalist, Pataki administration press secretary and SUNY official, founded Stanhope Partners in 2012 after a stint with Eric Mower and Associates. Among his clients are educational organizations and institutions.
Robert Zimmerman launched Zimmerman/Edelson over three decades ago, teaming up with Ron Edelson and building up a presence beyond their Long Island roots. Zimmerman handles media relations and communications at the firm, recently rebranded as ZE Creative Communications. In recent years Zimmerman has worked with local clients like the Suffolk Industrial Development Agency, winning positive coverage about a thriving local pharmaceutical industry, as well as the clean energy firm Nextera and Girl Scouts In Nassau County.
Following three decades in the rough-and-tumble world of tabloid journalism, the former managing editor at both the New York Post and the Daily News has carved out a niche in the communications business. Marques served as press secretary for the United Federation of Teachers and has represented several other influential labor unions, including 1199SEIU, 32BJ SEIU and RWDSU, along with such clients as the Pratt Center for Community Development and the Housing Rights Initiative.
David Catalfamo has had a few major transitions in recent years, leaving Al D’Amato’s Park Strategies firm to join Marc Molinaro’s gubernatorial campaign and marrying fellow GOP consultant Jessica Proud in 2018, and taking a position as Oneida County’s director of economic development last year. But Catalfamo, a former top aide to Gov. George Pataki, the last Republican to hold statewide office in New York, continues to assist GOP hopefuls across the state.
When a “blue wave” hit in 2018, Rep. Elise Stefanik not only survived, her double-digit margin of victory exceeded every other GOP House incumbent in New York. Credit Lenny Alcivar, a veteran PR professional and Stefanik’s political spokesman since 2014, when she became the youngest woman elected to Congress at the time. With Stefanik’s recent tactical shift in blasting the impeachment process, Stefanik – and Alcivar – will be far more closely linked to President Donald Trump in 2020.
Since crossing the aisle as a senior adviser for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Susan Del Percio has been raising her profile. While she is based in New York, she often weighs in on national matters, from the 2020 presidential race to the impeachment of President Donald Trump. A former appointee in the Giuliani administration and a go-to communications consultant for Republican candidates and corporate clients, she is now a regular contributor on MSNBC.
Jonathan Davis is an unusually under-the-radar communications professional, but candidates and political operatives in the know recognize that Davis has emerged as one of New York’s most effective opposition researchers. Since founding his firm in 2016, the former research director for Rep. Adriano Espaillat’s first successful congressional campaign and past staffer for SEIU and state Senate Democrats has helped elect New York City Council members, boroughwide officials and candidates for state and federal office.
Karen Hinton reopened her firm last year after bouncing back from a devastating treadmill injury that had sidelined her career. An experienced professional who served as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary, as an official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and as managing director at Fenton Communications’ New York City office, Hinton is now building support for offshore wind development in New York and New Jersey.
The name of Steven Sullivan’s firm brings to mind a muscular approach to messaging, but it’s more literal than that – Power Communications’ specialty is the energy industry. Sullivan, a former communications director at the New York Independent System Operator and the Independent Power Producers of New York, founded Power Communications in 2003. With a focus on strategic consulting, public relations and creative services, it has represented power producers, a pipeline developer and clean energy companies.
Correction: The firm Mower changed its name in 2018; this list initially identified the incorrect year.