The top assistant to New York Governor Kathy Hochul is married to a lobbyist who represents clients like Verizon, Airbnb and Alphabets Google.
Hochul appointed Karen Persichilli Keogh, a veteran of the Hillary Clinton Senate office and wife of longtime lobbyist Mike Keogh, as secretary to the governor. Prior to starting her new job at Hochul, Karen Keogh was an executive at Wall Street giant JP Morgan Chase, where she once held a government lobbying position.
The Secretary to the Governor is a key position in the New York State government. Melissa DeRosa held the job under Andrew Cuomo, who resigned this week due to a sexual harassment scandal. DeRosa was mentioned repeatedly in a report from the New York State Attorney General describing alleged Cuomo cases of sexual harassment of at least 11 women. Cuomo has denied wrongdoing.
DeRosa was also linked to a major Albany lobbyist: her father Giorgio DeRosa, who is a leader at Bolton St. Johns. Mike Keogh is a partner in the same company.
Following a request from CNBC, a company spokesman said in an email Thursday that Mike Keogh would not influence Hochul or her team.
“For over 20 years the entire Bolton-St Johns company has obeyed all ethical rules and laws and Mr Keogh has decided that he will not lobby the Executive Chamber,” the spokesman said.
A governor’s spokeswoman later said the governor’s secretary would withdraw from all discussions and decisions related to her husband’s lobbying efforts.
Mike Keogh has several marquee clients who have recently tried to sway New York lawmakers and officials – including Hochul’s office when she was lieutenant governor – according to state disclosure reports. Mike Keogh and his team only campaigned for Hochul employees in June.
Hochul’s office said at the time of Karen Keogh’s appointment that “cancellations will be made by midnight to ensure that all New York State affairs relating to the secretary’s spouse are delegated to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.”
Still, the Keogh situation poses a complex problem for the new governor. The companies Mike Keogh represents do extensive business in the state. For example, Google has announced that it will invest $ 250 million in New York City this year to create more jobs.
Among other things, Verizon announced last year it would invest $ 43 million in New York City to provide digital learning tools for students forced to work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A Hochul press rep did not respond to CNBC’s follow-up questions about how exactly Keogh will retire from her spouse’s work.
Hochul said this week that a stricter code of ethics will be part of her new administration that will “mandate ethics training for every employee in the New York state government,” she said Tuesday. Hochul announced Thursday that New York State Senator Brian Benjamin would become their lieutenant governor.
The governor herself may have to take responsibility for any potential conflict that goes beyond the members of her team.
CNBC reported that her daughter-in-law is a lobbyist with a pharmaceutical company trying to influence lawmakers at the federal and state levels.
William Hochul, the governor’s husband, is Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the gambling and hospitality giant Delaware North, based in Buffalo. The Hochul government will have authority over key regulators that have ties to the gambling industry, including the New York State Gaming Commission.
Hochul’s office previously informed CNBC that Delaware North has put in place a firewall that prevents William Hochul from engaging in government business, limits his compensation for business related to New York State, and tightly monitors communications with Delaware North.
The government watchdogs say they expect Hochul to be more transparent than Cuomo.
“As Governor Hochul is committed to the task ahead of her of addressing the past decade of Cuomo abuses, we know she wants to lead by example and so we urge her and her team to be as transparent as possible with the public be.” Susan Lerner, executive director at Common Cause, New York, told CNBC in a statement Thursday. “Once they are settled in, we expect them to post meeting schedules and verify that people with previous conflicts of interest were not involved in the discussions.”
TESTD, a private company that provides vaccine verification and helps companies track tests for diseases like Covid, had Mike Keogh and other Bolton St. Johns lobbyists work with state lawmakers between May and June, a lobbying report said.
The disclosure states that Cuomo and Hochul employees have been promoted “in relation to potential partnerships for Covid testing and vaccination processes in New York State”.
A lobbying report also shows that pharmaceutical company Emergent BioSolutions tapped Keogh and his company’s lobbyists to influence officials for a bill to prescribe an opioid antagonist on a patient’s first opioid prescription each year. This bill passed both the Senate and the State Assembly but has yet to find its way to the governor’s desk.
Verizon, Google and Airbnb called on Keogh and the company to lobby earlier this year.
Between March and April, Google paid the company $ 20,000 to influence Cuomo and Hochul employees on budget issues. Airbnb paid $ 25,000 on behalf of the company to influence governing chambers “about New York state short-term rental legislation”.
Verizon paid the company just over $ 18,000 between January and February to lobby Hochul employees on issues related to a permit and the state budget.
Karen Keogh is also involved in lobbying campaigns.
Her LinkedIn page states that she was once the chief executive officer and director of state government relations at JP Morgan.
State lobbying reports show that JP Morgan Securities spent approximately $ 22,000 swaying local officials between January and June. Hochul’s previous office is not one of the goals of the Wall Street giant’s investment arm.