The top Cuomo's advisor's father was lobbying the governor's office earlier this year when the investigation was ongoing
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (L) speaks with Secretary to Governor Melissa DeRosa (R) during his daily press conference on March 20, 2020 in New York City.
Bennett Raglin | Getty Images
A firm run by the father of Governor Andrew Cuomo's closest adviser was actively lobbying members of the governor's team for clients earlier this year when former Cuomo advisors were alleged of sexual harassment and the governor was investigated by the attorney general.
Giorgio DeRosa, the father of the governor's powerful secretary Melissa DeRosa, is listed in lobbyists 'disclosure reports as part of a group that actively engaged Cuomo's staff in the Executive Chamber during Attorney General Letitia James' investigation into the governor for alleged sexual harassment of several women, as records show.
The disclosure reports show that Giorgio DeRosa, a head of the influential Bolton-St. Johns and his team lobbied the Cuomo Executive Chamber from January through April. Melissa DeRosa's brother, who also works at the company, is also listed in disclosure reports showing the group targeted the governor's office during the same period.
Bolton-St. Johns made just over $ 80,000 during that time lobbying Cuomo's team, the revelations show.
The first former Cuomo adviser went public in December on allegations of sexual harassment against the governor. James announced in late February that he would take over the investigation.
The attorney general's report found that Cuomo sexually molested eleven women and violated state and federal laws. It is also alleged that Melissa DeRosa was an architect to protect the governor from the allegations. Cuomo continues to deny wrongdoing. A new Quinnipiac poll says 7 out of 10 voters think Cuomo should step down.
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Between January and February, Giorgio DeRosa was part of a team hiring Cuomo's consultants on a variety of topics for phone giant Verizon, food service company Delaware North and casino giant Caesars Entertainment.
Recent lobbying by the team also targeted members of the attorney general of the Live Nation ticket company later in the year, although those investigating Cuomo were not listed as the people contacted by Giorgio DeRosa and his team.
Melissa DeRosa said she has withdrawn from anything to do with her father and her entire family. Giorgio DeRosa has lobbied for Cuomo's team in the past.
Still, the lobbying reports show that he and his company continued to have access to the governor's inner circle at the start of and during an investigation highlighting his daughter's role in the alleged attempt to protect the governor from scrutiny.
After CNBC asked questions about Melissa DeRosa's father's recent lobbying efforts, a Cuomo spokesman dismissed CNBC's coverage as "nonsensical". The spokesman reiterated that the governor's secretary had withdrawn from all matters related to her family.
"As has been publicly announced for years, Melissa is being proactively withdrawn on any specific matter that involves members of her family, and the premise of this article is nonsensical," Rich Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman, said in an E – Mail to CNBC on Friday.
Azzopardi is also mentioned repeatedly in the attorney general's report.
The attorney general's report shows, among other things, that in March Melissa DeRosa twice requested that Larry Schwartz, who was Cuomo's Covid vaccine czar at the time, call Democratic district boards to take her pulse to see if the governor should step down in light of the allegations.
"On the call, Ms. DeRosa asked Mr. Schwartz to contact the Democratic District Councils to clarify their positions on whether the governor should resign in the face of allegations of sexual harassment. Mr. Schwartz said he agreed to make the calls because Ms. DeRosa, the governor's secretary, had asked, "the report said. "Two weeks after Mr. Schwartz made his first round of calls, Ms. DeRosa asked him to make another round of calls to the county boards to review their positions. Mr. Schwartz made those calls again and reported back to Ms. DeRosa."
Ethics experts have previously questioned Melissa DeRosa's attempt to distance herself from her father. Susan Lerner, the executive director of the guard dog Common Cause / New York, told CNBC in a telephone interview on Friday that after she and her group initially asked Melissa DeRosa for more transparency, she received a call from the secretary to the governor.
"She refuses to provide a list of the matters that she has withdrawn from. When she was first appointed, we raised this issue and she said she would withdraw herself," Lerner said. “We said,“ OK, let the public know which of these customers you won't be discussing with. ”She refused and called me to yell at me and say I was unable to address these issues. "
Lerner said there were always the appearances of ethical issues when Giorgio DeRosa was influencing the governor's office while his daughter was working for the governor.
"It's built into the situation and that was clear from the start," she said. "When she was selected, there would at least be the semblance of inappropriateness that anyone in the Executive Chamber who held a meeting with her father was well aware of the relationship between the governor's secretary and the lobbyist's meeting with . It is certainly obvious to customers. "
Melissa DeRosa was first appointed secretary in 2017.
Giorgio DeRosa defended the company, saying it always acted in accordance with state laws.
“Bolton-St.Johns has been rated as the top lobbying firm in New York for over two decades. Clients hire our law firm to leverage our diverse knowledge and political know-how that contribute to effective results-oriented strategies, ”he said in an email on Friday. "This topic has been covered extensively by other media in the past, and there has been constant coverage of proper compliance with state law."
For Verizon, the Executive Chamber's lobbying work, according to the disclosure, focused on "New York State budget items affecting Verizon's services" and an "ongoing approval issue at the Verizon workplace."
During the same period, Giorgio DeRosa and his team, along with members of the state legislature, sat in the Cuomo Executive Chamber on "Sports Betting Issues in NYS, New York" for Caesars.
In April, Cuomo signed a budget bill for fiscal year 2022 that would enable online sports betting in the Empire State. Giorgio DeRosa's group stood up for Cuomo's team on the same issues for Delaware North, which also owns casinos.
Giorgio DeRosa's lobbying work towards the Executive Chamber did not end there. It wasn't until April that he and his company continued to advocate for Caesars on issues related to sports betting.
From March through April, they also got access to the executive chamber of FuelCell Energy, a Connecticut-based clean energy provider.
Giorgio DeRosa and his law firm also targeted state legislators for FuelCell with discussions about the review of the "Definition of Renewable Energy in New York State".