(Photo: Governor Andrew Cuomo Flickr)
Last month, Andrew Cuomo appointed Maggie Moran as manager for his gubernatorial reelection campaign. According to the Daily News, Moran now serves as “the campaign’s full-time general consultant in charge of managing day-to-day operations and strategy.” In hiring Moran, Cuomo continues a pattern of closely associating himself with figures tied to the interests of the fossil fuel industry.
Moran is a lobbyist whose portfolio includes several energy companies with major projects before the state government. Moran is a managing partner at Kivvit, a lobbying and public relations firm that formed out of the merger of David Axelrod’s ASGK Public Strategies and the firm Moran founded, M Public Affairs.
Through Kivvit, Moran is registered to lobby for Tesla, whose subsidiary SolarCity was at the center of a public corruption trial involving top Cuomo aides and donors who rigged the bid to build a $750 million factory as part of Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative. Moran also lobbies for Exelon, a nuclear power company that was bailed out with $5.7 billion in ratepayer money by Cuomo’s Public Service Commission, which another Exelon lobbyist bragged about as a 750% return on its lobbying investment.
A third energy company for which Moran is registered to lobby, Williams Companies, is an oil and gas pipeline company that has long been planning a pipeline to carry fracked gas from Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania through the Southern Tier and into Schoharie County, New York. The pipeline was rejected in 2016 by Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which was subsequently upheld in a decision by the US Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Another proposed Williams pipeline, the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, was also rejected by the DEC, though that application was denied without prejudice, meaning that the company could re-submit that application and still have it approved.
It also appears that in May 2018, Moran presented on the topic of “Natural Gas Infrastructure Advocacy” at a Williams Companies conference in Destin, Florida. Furthermore, she appears to have worked for one of the companies that received a lucrative contract to clean up after Hurricane Sandy. While sources differ on whether the contract was no-bid or not, Moran and others have been accused of profiting off of the aftermath of the destructive hurricane.
Governor Cuomo has been criticized for his unwillingness to fully distance himself from the fossil fuel industry. After saying he would stop accepting donations from fossil fuel companies at a campaign event, Cuomo later walked the pledge back saying that he misheard the question. Cuomo has also said that New York needs natural gas as a “bridge” to renewable energy and that, in general, he is “fine” with adding new fracked gas pipelines “as long as they’re done well and they’re done correctly.”
Maggie Moran is not Cuomo’s only connection to Williams Companies and other fossil fuel corporations. Several current and former high-level advisors in Cuomo’s orbit have business ties to oil and gas interests:
- William Mulrow is chairman of Cuomo’s re-election campaign and formerly the governor’s top aide. Mulrow is also a senior advisor to the private equity firm Blackstone Group, which has billions of dollars invested in the fossil fuel industry, including a nearly $1 billion stake in Williams Companies. Mulrow also sits on the board of Con Edison.
- Richard Bamberger was Cuomo’s communications director from 2008 through 2012, when he left to join Moran’s public affairs firm. Currently, Bamberger is a lobbyist at Kivvit along with Moran, where he is registered to represent many of the same clients, including Tesla, Exelon, and Williams Companies.
- Tonio Burgos is a former aide to Mario Cuomo and a major Andrew Cuomo donor. Burgos has given at least $85,800 to Andrew Cuomo personally and $201,800 through his lobbying firm Tonio Burgos & Associates. Burgos lobbied for Williams Companies from 2008 through 2018 and has also lobbied for other fossil fuel industry clients including National Grid and NRG in the past.
- Giorgio Derosa is a longtime Albany lobbyist, the husband of Andrew Cuomo’s former assistant secretary for appointments, and the father of Cuomo’s current executive secretary Melissa Derosa. Giorgio Derosa represents the American Petroleum Institute, the largest oil industry trade group in the country through the influential lobbying firm Bolton-St Johns, where he is a partner.
All this comes against the backdrop of the criminal conviction of former top Cuomo aide and campaign manager Joseph Percoco, who took illegal payments while in the governor’s office to advance the interests of a fracked gas power plant company. Percoco was found guilty this March on three charges connected to political corruption. The verdict was tied to Percoco’s soliciting and accepting of $287,000 in payment money – in the form of a low-show job for his wife – from Peter Galbraith Kelly, a top executive for Competitive Power Ventures (CPV). The payments were arranged by lobbyist Todd R. Howe, a former Cuomo aide who the New York Times recently reported had “entree to the top levels of Mr. Cuomo’s administration.”
A jury found that the payments were in exchange for Percoco’s help in winning state power purchasing contracts from CPV’s Valley Energy Center, a controversial proposed fracked-gas power plant in Wawayanda, New York, that is nearing full-time commercial operations. (Howe pleaded guilty to eight felonies and has cooperated with prosecutors, while Kelly pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and will be sentenced in September). Moreover, as we’ve reported on, CPV drastically ramped up its lobbying in Albany – even hiring a new lobbying firm with close ties to Cuomo – to protect its power plant as the Percoco indictment threw its future into question.
Correction: This article originally stated that Williams Companies’ application for the Constitution Pipeline was rejected without prejudice by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. It has been corrected to read that it was Williams’ application for the Northeast Supply Enhancement Program that was denied without prejudice and may still be resubmitted.