Last week the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported that New York Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy had applied for a job with the Rochester Business Alliance (RBA), a local chamber of commerce and business lobbying group. Duffy confirmed in an interview with the Democrat & Chronicle that on October 5th he had interviewed for the group’s executive director position, which is currently held by Sandra Parker, co-founder of Unshackle Upstate, a business organization that has lobbied heavily for fracking in addition to pushing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s economic agenda, and former owner of the lake house that Duffy purchased below market value in May.
Duffy’s interview came less than two weeks after we reported on ties between the Cuomo administration and Unshackle Upstate: Both Parker and the group’s other co-founder, Andrew Rudnick, served on the board of Cuomo-coordinated Committee to Save New York; both co-founders are appointees to Cuomo’s regional economic development councils; and other three other Unshackle Upstate leaders have been appointed by the Governor to various economic development positions.
In the interview, Duffy told the Democrat & Chronicle that he had withdrawn his name from consideration, though he denied that it was at the governor’s urging, and that he had no ethical concerns about applying for the position. Duffy also recused himself from state matters involving the Rochester Business Alliance and the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, one of ten regional economic development councils (REDC’s) that Duffy chairs. As president of RBA, Sandra Parker sits on the Finger Lakers REDC, a position she was appointed to by Gov. Cuomo.
Although he has taken his name out of the running, Duffy’s application to assume Parker’s duties at the RBA, and presumably at Unshackle Upstate, is further evidence of the interconnected groups’ special relationship with the Cuomo administration. Furthermore, according to the Democrat & Chronicle, the Lieutenant Governor hasn’t ruled out applying for the job sometime in the future. New York’s revolving door law may prohibit Duffy from taking a job appearing before the state or lobbying on behalf of an organization with which he currently deals as a state official, though it is unclear whether the statute would apply in this situation (while RBA lobbies heavily on fracking and a number of other issues, Parker is not a registered lobbyist).
As we pointed out in our previous piece on the Cuomo administration and Unshackle Upstate, this special relationship and the substantial lobbying effort of the groups party to it may serve as indicators of the publicly close-mouthed Governor’s private position on fracking.