Managing Director for Public Affairs, Tishman Speyer
Adams is someone the average political watcher probably couldn’t pick out of a lineup, but she has been a rising star in the Cuomo administration’s firmament for some time now, having raised significant money in support of its agenda. As the right hand to Rob Speyer Adams is well situated at the nexus of real estate, business and politics, and she artfully uses her position to maximum effect.
Executive Director, Unshackle Upstate
Sampson is a leading advocate in Albany for upstate business interests, a group that is increasingly getting some respect after years of neglect. Backed by a high-powered board and armed with an abundance of media savvy, Sampson is a consistently visible presence who commands the attention of the state’s leaders even when they don’t necessarily want to listen to him.
Herman "Denny" Farrell Jr.
Assemblyman; Chair, Ways and Means Committee
Farrell has seen it all—probably twice. The assemblyman has been representing northern Manhattan since 1974, making him the chamber’s third-longest serving member. Over the course of his tenure, Farrell has become one of the body’s most highly esteemed members and recognizable faces. A mainstay on the dais over decades of Assembly and joint budget hearings, Farrell remains involved in all the most important conversations in his chamber and his opinion is one of the most respected, particularly on budgetary issues.
President and Founder, Patricia Lynch Associates
For years, Lynch was the gold standard for lobbyists in Albany. Even after being forced to pay a $500,000 fine in 2010 as part of a settlement with then Attorney General Cuomo, Lynch’s firm remained in the top tier of the industry. But things have continued to go south for PLA over the past year. Since September the firm has been hemorrhaging high-profile staff, and insiders say Lynch’s close ties to Speaker Sheldon Silver are no longer as valuable as they once were. Still, Lynch’s firm made over $5.5 million in 2013 lobbying.
Love him or hate him, it’s undeniable that the controversial Western New York political powerhouse always seems to have a hand in any intrigue in his neck of the woods. Elected officials from Gov. Cuomo on down might be wary of the optics of playing up their relationship with Pigeon, but anyone interested in backroom politics in the greater Buffalo region knows a pilgrimage to Pigeon at his Underberg & Kessler office is a must.
Runes does not work for a big name firm, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting plenty of blue chip clients from areas like real estate and publishing. Though the longtime operative has enjoyed many years of success in Albany, he prefers to operate under the radar, and use his vast network of connections to get things done for his clients behind the scenes.
Chairman, New York State Republican Committee
Give Cox credit for trying to generate the Republican Party some semblance of credibility in New York State. But at the end of the day, Democrats still rule the roost, leaving Cox in constant search of a decent statewide candidate who can boost morale on the right. Sure, Republicans have pockets of power, especially upstate, but how powerful can a state chair be whose party is a non-factor in statewide elections—and can’t even attract candidates to run for all of them?
Founder and CEO, Tonio Burgos and Associates
Burgos’ firm isn’t the biggest moneymaker in Albany, but the numbers don’t do justice to the value of Burgos’ decades of connections in the Capitol. His relationship with Mario Cuomo dates back to the former governor’s years as secretary of state, and he has been a loyal ally to both the elder Cuomo and his son ever since. In a town where access is everything, Burgos knows everybody.
Legislative Director, New York Public Interest Research Group
When something smells funny at the Capitol, Horner is the man who is trusted to find the source, expose it and lead the charge to try to clean it up. Now on his third tour as NYPIRG’s legislative director, Horner is a widely respected good government advocate who provides serious, fair and often bitingly witty commentary, and whose work has been known to lead to results in the Legislature. There’s no better neutral party to lobby for a good government cause in Albany.
Chairman, Independence Party of New York
Had the governor’s effort last year to reform the Wilson-Pakula law succeeded, MacKay and Mike Long would be off this list, but it didn’t, so MacKay continues to wield disproportionate clout in New York politics. Though a wide spectrum of people have tried to brand the Independence line as radioactive, it continues to be in considerable demand for both Republicans and Democrats in competitive districts across the state.
Chairman, Conservative Party of New York State
It’s still early in this election cycle, but so far Long has yet to wield much power over how the Republican field is shaping up. Still, state Senate Republicans will have to rely on the support of Conservative Party voters if they are going to maintain control of the chamber, meaning Long’s influence can’t be discounted. The Conservative line could prove significant in close Congressional races, too.
Chairman, New York AREA
Kremer, a former chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, so revels in his decades spent as an Albany insider par excellence that he entitled the memoir he released last year Winning Albany. These days Kremer wields clout in the Capitol as the chairman of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, one of the preeminent energy and utility trade groups in the state. He’s also a partner at the law firm where Dean Skelos works, Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, and a prolific columnist and television pundit specializing in Long Island politics.
Onondaga County Executive
The Onondaga County Executive is often floated as a possible running mate for Cuomo in 2016, even though she is a Republican—or perhaps because she is. While it’s an unlikely scenario, particularly if the governor has national ambitions, Mahoney has already proven that she is one of the few Republicans and Central New York leaders who has both Gov. Cuomo’s ear and his trust.
Rumors have abounded since last year that Duffy would not be on the ticket for Gov. Cuomo’s second term, but as the state Democratic convention in May quickly draws nearer it appears increasingly that for the governor the safe choice of staying with Duffy might very well end up outweighing the allure of selecting someone new. If that winds up being the case, Duffy will hold on to his place in the Power 100 by virtue of being the 57th governor of New York State if anything happens to the 56th.
Counsel to the Assembly Speaker
As counsel to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Jim Yates is a key player in the Democratic majority’s power structure. Yates, a former New York State Supreme Court justice and counsel to former Speaker Mel Miller, joined Silver in 2011 and is his top negotiator in budget deliberations, as well as on other important legislation. He also takes to the floor to whip up votes.
State Budget Director
Robert Megna, the state budget director, is one of the holdovers from the previous administration, and he has served his new master well. With Megna’s help—and thanks to a novel use of budget extenders the budget director helped pioneer under Gov. David Paterson—the state has had four straight on-time budgets for the first time since the 1970s. Megna’s vast knowledge of the state budget and its intricacies makes him an indispensible to the governor.
Senate Minority Leader
Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins may wield less power than she gets credit for, but she is the state’s first and only female statewide legislative leader in history—and could emerge as majority leader after this election cycle if things go well for her party. While her Democrats do not have control of the Senate, insiders say she has the total respect of her members, a distinction her predecessor, John Sampson, lacked.
Chairman, Real Estate Board of New York
Rob Speyer’s youthful looks belie the magnitude of his influence. Speyer is both president and co-CEO of the gargantuan construction firm Tishman Speyer, and the chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York, the industry group with the most clout in city and state politics. REBNY was a major force behind the Committee to Save New York, which Speyer founded to support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s agenda, and Speyer continues to be a major backer of the governor.
President, 1199 SEIU
George Gresham, the president of 1199 SEIU, is one of the most powerful men in New York City—No. 19 on City & State’s NYC Power 100—and in the state. His union has been quieter in Albany in recent years, but that tranquility may be a testament to the amicable deal Gov. Andrew Cuomo cut with Gresham in his first budget, back in 2011. If an issue has to do with healthcare workers—such as the Long Island College Hospital deal—you can bet Gresham is getting a call to see how it affects his members.
Senate Deputy Majority Leader
Libous, the Republicans’ deputy majority coalition leader, has been slowed by his battle with cancer, and an ethics complaint two years ago knocked him a few rungs down the Power 100. His circumstances led to Libous handing off control of the conference’s reelection efforts to Cathy Young, but the 26-year Senate veteran still helps strategize on the budget and other legislation. The Binghamton resident is also in the thick of the hydrofracking debate and casino expansion in upstate New York.
Assembly Majority Leader
Holding the No. 2 position in the Assembly, Morelle plays a critical role in the conference, carrying the weight for the upstate region behind closed doors. Morelle also enjoys close ties to Gov. Cuomo, making him more potent than his predecessor in the post. And as far as Monroe County Democratic Party politics go, he’s the boss.
Chief of Staff, Independent Democratic Conference
John Emrick is not just the chief of staff of the Independent Democratic Conference, he is also the IDC’s lead budget negotiator, its top policy adviser and the architect of the breakaway conference’s unprecedented power-sharing alliance with the Senate Republicans. With Jeff Klein’s reign continuing, Emrick deserves his share of the credit for the IDC’s success.
Assemblyman; Chair, Housing Committee; Chair, State Democratic Party
With Stephanie Miner’s resignation, Keith Wright is now the sole chair of the State Democratic Party. He is also the chair of the Assembly’s powerful Housing Committee, the head of the Manhattan Democratic Party and a rumored potential replacement for Shelly Silver, if the speaker ever decides to step down.
Steven M. Cohen
Former Secretary to the Governor
Don’t let the title fool you. Just because Cohen is no longer secretary to the governor, that doesn’t mean he is not still one of the governor’s most trusted and important advisors. If anything, being on the outside of the administration, has enabled Cohen to have more sway within it, since he can offer his sage advice without having to take all of the arrows that come with an official position in the executive chamber.
President and CEO, Partnership for New York City
Partnership for New York City President and CEO Kathryn Wylde has been a prominent supporter of Gov. Andrew Cuomo from the beginning of his administration, in part through the Partnership’s integral financial support for the Committee to Save New York. Wylde’s efforts have not been in vain. The state’s business interests, which she represents, have benefited from their alliance with Cuomo, who has restrained spending and cut taxes.
Managing Director, SKDKnickerbocker
Jennifer Cunningham, a managing director at the consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker, has the accolades to back up the oft-repeated observation that she is the most powerful woman in Albany. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, her ex-husband, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are among the legions of leading elected officials who prize her advice. And on policy issues Cunningham delivers for her clients, with victories that include the passage of same-sex marriage three years ago.
Chairman, Association for a Better New York; President, Rudin Management Company
Bill Rudin, the president of the real estate firm Rudin Management Company, is a major donor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and key member of the Real Estate Board of New York, which has plenty of political clout in New York City and in Albany. Just as notably, he is chair of the Association for a Better New York, which provides a key venue for political and policy discussions.
President, New York State AFL-CIO
As president of the New York State AFL-CIO, Mario Cilento oversees a powerful coalition of unions representing some 2.5 million members across the state. Even before income inequality became the latest buzz word in state politics, Cilento successfully fought for a phased-in minimum wage increase, as well as a hike in unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits.
Partner, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker
Shapiro, a partner at Wilson Elser, founded its government relations practice, and he has seen the firm become the cream of the crop of lobbying firms in Albany. For a second consecutive year Shapiro’s firm topped JCOPE’s top lobbyist list, grossing more than $10 million in total compensation and reimbursed expenses, and outpacing the second-place finisher, Kasirer Consulting, by nearly $4 million.
President, New York State Public Employees Federation
As president of the Public Employees Federation, Susan Kent leads a huge contingent of state employees, which means she could be a big thorn in the side of the governor when it comes time to negotiate new labor contracts. Kent has already been outspoken in calling for Democrats to primary Andrew Cuomo and has signaled that the governor won’t get the backing of her union this year. With 55,000 members behind her, Kent’s comments cannot be ignored.
President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York
The president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York represents the intersection of business, real estate and labor—three of the most potent forces in state politics. LaBarbera, who also is a vice president of both the New York City Central Labor Council and the New York State AFL-CIO, oversees a coalition representing some 100,000 workers.
President, Greater New York Hospital Association
The Greater New York Hospital Association has often gone to war with governors over funding, but Raske, the organization’s president, has made deals with the Cuomo administration and largely stayed off the governor’s back. With nearly 150 members, Raske leads the lobby for many of the New York metropolitan area’s hospitals. He also had a hand in the redesign of the state’s Medicaid system and the push for a waiver from the federal government earlier this year.
Billionaire venture capitalist and investment banker
Langone, the founder of Home Depot, is a major player in state elections. Despite being a Republican, Langone is close with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and has helped his reelection bid by helping recruit other Republicans to cross the aisle to endorse the incumbent. Langone’s recent comparison of modern-day populist critiques of the wealthy to Nazi-era Germany caused a stir, but the governor is unlikely to rebuff his support—or his campaign contributions.
President, New York State Civil Service Employees Association
Donohue runs one of the largest unions representing state workers and has been a vocal proponent of their interests in Albany. Like PEF, the other major state workers’ union, CSEA has threatened not to endorse Gov. Andrew Cuomo for reelection. While Donohue looks to be in a strong negotiating position, he may have undermined his cause when he called the governor a “moron” and a “monkey” earlier this year.
President, United Federation of Teachers
As president of the UFT, Mulgrew represents thousands of New York City teachers, but a transition at New York State United Teachers makes him the state’s leading advocate for educators. He can help set the tone for the rest of the state by not backing down on contract negotiations with Bill de Blasio and standing his ground on teacher evaluations and the Common Core. Incoming NYSUT President Karen Magee will likely get advice from Mulgrew, who backed her candidacy.
State Superintendent of Financial Services
Lawsky is New York’s top regulator of the banking industry, which generates billions of dollars of profits. The consolidated state Department of Financial Services, which Lawsky was appointed to lead, also gave the Cuomo administration more clout by cutting into the AG’s portfolio. Lawsky has been aggressive in his role, winning a key victory in 2012 with a $340 million settlement with the British bank Standard Chartered, while also putting pressure on insurance companies and payday lenders, and exploring ways to regulate virtual currency.
Founder and Chairman, The Related Companies
The Related Companies’ chief is one of the titans of New York City’s politically savvy real estate world. Although he stepped down as CEO of Related, Ross continues to be a major donor to Gov. Cuomo. The company’s huge Hudson Yards project in Manhattan will reshape an entire neighborhood and be yet another feather in Ross’ cap.
President, New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council
With the rise of casinos and a successful push for better wages for casino workers, Ward’s stock has risen exponentially over the past year. The major bump in pay for racino workers in Queens negotiated last year could very well serve as a model for future pay increases and starting salaries for casino workers as the state pushes further into that realm. The state and casino operators should keep Ward’s deal in mind lest they wish to engage in a very public fight with his union Ward has already demonstrated he has the chops to win.
Chancellor, New York State Board of Regents
The ultra-wealthy educator has been atop the Board of Regents since 2010, and has been a member since 1996. An uproar over Common Core standards has put the Regents under sharp scrutiny of late, and how Tisch steers the ship in the near future will play a role in determining the scope of her influence moving forward. But however the fight turns out, Tisch’s importance as a philanthropist and a thought leader will keep her a major player both in politics and policy.
Host, Capital Tonight
For upstate New York politicos, Time Warner Cable’s Capital Tonight is must-see TV. Benjamin’s political knowledge and fierce interviewing style leave audiences informed and intrigued. If you want to get your message out, or raise your profile, there is no better venue than Benjamin’s show—which is why downstate politicians line up to be guests even if their constituents can't tune in to her program. Plus, her talented team breaks news all day on the State of Politics blog, making Benjamin relevant 24/7.
Assemblyman; Chairman, Bronx Democratic Party
The Bronx power broker may still be reeling from his failed efforts to team up with Queens Rep. Joe Crowley to crown Dan Garodnick New York City Council Speaker, but his sway over his borough and clout in the Assembly as chair of the Labor Committee keep him a key player in Albany. Whether Heastie will use his might in the Legislature to pay back de Blasio and Co. for outdueling him in the Speaker’s race is an interesting question yet to be answered.
Albany Managing Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig
Iselin’s Greenberg Traurig moved up a spot on JCOPE’s annual tabulation of the state’s top 10 lobbying firms, landing at No. 3 with $6.1 million in total compensation and reimbursed expenses in 2013—over $200,000 more than GT made the previous year. Greenberg Traurig also ranked second to Wilson Elser in number of clients for a second consecutive year, with 126.
Commissioner of Education of the State of New York
For many parents, King’s name has become synonymous with headaches over the Common Core. And teachers are none too happy about the state’s direction on teacher evaluations under his leadership. Regardless of his popularity, Dr. King is still New York’s top education official, and thus a tone-setter in one of the state’s most important policy arenas. His successes or failures have a proud ripple effect upon the lives of the state’s millions of children attending public school.
Albany Bureau Chief, New York Daily News
Lovett combines a rat-tat tabloid writing style with a staggeringly deep list of sources to churn out copy that keeps politicians on edge. He knows how to properly keep those he covers in check with stories that get people talking and his scoops make him the envy of Capitol reporters. With Fred Dicker’s decline in prominence, Lovett has moved up the press corps’ pecking order and, together with Bill Hammond, made the Daily News the paper to read for anyone serious about following Albany.
Assemblyman; Chair, Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus
Camara is the leader on issues impacting minorities in the state Legislature, and one of the few Assembly members with influence who is not part of the Speaker’s inner circle. A firm ally of the governor’s, Camara has often stepped up to defend the chief executive when his vote of confidence was genuinely helpful. If there is any motion this year on the DREAM Act—his caucus’ foremost priority—Camara’s strong relationships are all but certain to be among the reasons it progresses.
Host, The Capitol Pressroom; WCNY News and Public Affairs Director
When Gov. Cuomo wants to get his message out or set the narrative for the day, his preferred method of communication is appearing on The Capitol Pressroom with Arbetter. This choice has made the morning radio show a must-listen for Albany insiders, and inspired many other lawmakers and advocates to jockey for an appearance on the hour-long program.
Executive Director, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Scrutiny of Foye’s Port Authority has dramatically increased since last year. While Bridgegate has led to the resignation of some of Foye’s colleagues from New Jersey and even threatened to dethrone Gov. Chris Christie, the Cuomo appointee has stayed on solid footing—and now looks to be indispensible given the appearance that in an authority overrun by shady figures, Foye was the rare honest public servant.
Governor’s Director of Communications
Formerly Eric Schneiderman’s acting chief of staff, DeRosa now has a year under her belt as the governor’s communications director. During that time DeRosa has earned a place within the governor’s inner circle—quite an accomplishment given how rarely the governor welcomes anyone new into the fold.
Founder and President, Kasirer Consulting
Kasirer’s firm has become the second highest compensated in the state according to JCOPE’s 2013 numbers, earning over $6,450,000 last year— nearly $400,000 more than in 2012. Kasirer is a giant in the for-profit lobbying realm, but she excels as a pro bono advocate for issues that matter to her as well, including through her work on the board of the New York League of Conservation Voters and as a member of the Association for a Better New York’s steering committee.
Westchester County Executive
Perhaps the most impressive political accomplishment on the Republican’s résumé is his proven ability to overcome a 2-to-1 Democratic majority in Westchester County to win office. Now Astorino is setting his sights on putting one of his constituents out of work: Gov. Andrew Cuomo. To do so, Astorino will need to not only quickly grow his own brand, he will have to redefine the state Republican Party and become its public face. Whether Astorino winds up at the top of the Power 100 or off the list next year depends wholly on where he stands when the dust clears in November.
Chief Judge of the State of New York
As the head of the Court of Appeals Lippman is enormously influential, but his mandatory retirement at the end of 2015 looms large and diminishes his clout. Had Lippman prevailed in his battle against the governor to extend the retirement age of judges, he would have moved up the Power 100. Instead, he drops down it.
Founder, Metropolitan Strategies; Chief Strategist, State Democratic Committee Coordinated Campaign
Kwatra has been a force in state politics for years now, and as this year’s election cycle heats up his stock is rising. He was widely praised for the get-out-the-vote movement he orchestrated in 2010, helping elect Democrats to all three statewide offices. Since leaving the AG’s office and starting his own firm, Metropolitan Strategies, Kwatra has quickly become one of the state’s leading political consultants, with victories that include getting the casino referendum passed last November.
President, Real Estate Board of New York
There is no industry more powerful or important in New York than real estate. Democrats and Republicans alike trip over each over to curry favor with the titans of the business, and solicit the support of REBNY to fund their campaigns. Being so in demand gives Spinola tremendous influence when it comes to shaping legislation and policy that impacts his members.
Partner, The Parkside Group
Born into politics, Stavisky has proven time and again that he knows how to get Democrats elected. In a year in which state Senate Democrats need to have a strong showing if they want to reclaim the majority, Stavisky and Parkside are certain to play an integral role in positioning them for the best possible chance of success.
Chancellor, State University of New York
While John King leads the charge on Common Core, it’s Zimpher who gets the Common Core students after they graduate. She leads a vast university system, with 88,000 faculty members and a $10.7 billion budget, and the success of her efforts is a major factor in determining whether New York is an educational leader or just another state with mediocre public colleges.
Mayor of Syracuse
Though Miner has resigned as co-chair of the state Democratic Party, she persists in being influential through the niche she has carved out for herself as a no-nonsense, straight-talking mayor with the guts to stand up to anyone, especially Gov. Cuomo.
While Jeff Klein leads the Independent Democratic Conference, Savino is its second-most powerful member. Savino’s fiery nature has long made her a standout in the Senate, and enables her to succeed in getting her point across even when her colleagues don’t want to listen. Her strong union ties as former vice president for political action at AFSCME give extra heft to her convictions. The Staten Islander is currently leading the charge in the Senate to legalize medical marijuana and will likely have her name stamped on whatever bill passes.
Partner, Bolton-St. Johns
The powerful lobbying firm Bolton-St. Johns boasts several worthy candidates for the Albany Power 100, including Ed Draves and Giorgio DeRosa. We went with Giske to acknowledge the depth of her relationships with members of the Legislature, particularly in the Assembly. A power player in New York City too, Giske helps weave together Bolton’s city and state practices.
President and CEO, The Business Council of New York State
The Business Council has Gov. Cuomo’s ear, which means that Briccetti has a real say in helping to craft the administration’s economic development policies. Briccetti’s predecessor, Ken Adams, now heads the Empire State Development Corp., so she has multiple points of entry to make sure the interests of the 2,500 member businesses she represents are protected and prom oted.
President, New York State United Teachers
Though she was not a completely unknown figure prior to her recent election as NYSUT’s president, Magee wouldn’t have made the Power 100 if she had not succeeded in knocking out her predecessor, Dick Iannuzzi. Magee now finds herself at the helm of the state’s largest teacher’s union at a time when the state’s education system is in turmoil. Her baptism as a statewide leader will more than likely be by fire.
Cardinal; Archbishop of New York
By the numbers, Catholicism is still the state—and the nation’s—top religion, and Dolan draws a crowd every time he comes to Albany. Legislative leaders, regardless of their religion, listen when he speaks. As a Catholic leader, he has focused on touchy social issues like abortion, but he has also taken an interest in more secular concerns like income inequality and education funding.
Columnist, New York Daily News
Hammond brings a level of cleverness to the Capitol that is matched by few, if any, other members of the Albany press corps. He leaves lawmakers and aides, especially the governor and his staff, hoping they don’t fall victim to one of his critical columns. His writing can sway opinion and his reporting is air-tight.
Founder and Managing Director, Park Strategies
D’Amato’s Park Strategies was fourth on JCOPE’s 2013 list of the top 10 state lobbying film by compensation after scoring over $2 million more in business than it did in 2012. The former U.S. senator has grown his firm into one of the most powerful in the state through his wealth of top-level connections from his days as a politician. Always a gifted talent scout, D’Amato bet right raising money for Bill de Blasio, and now looks to be on the winning side of the gubernatorial race as one of the most prominent Republicans for Cuomo.
Albany Bureau Chief, The Buffalo News
Precious is a reporter’s reporter who has the institutional memory and fact-gathering ability to put out comprehensive, yet easy-to-understand daily stories. When other reporters zig, Precious zags, finding the right insiders to give his stories astute commentary no one else has. He’s a fly on the wall at the Capitol—never the loudest in the room but always a keen observer of everything going on in and out of the shadows.
Executive Director, Working Families Party
Coming off a banner year in New York City’s municipal elections, Cantor has been making headlines again threatening not to back Gov. Andrew Cuomo for reelection. That power play could either end up forcing Cuomo to beg for the WFP’s endorsement— thus validating the third party’s clout on the statewide level—or the governor could call his bluff and leave the WFP struggling to get the 50,000 votes it needs to secure a guaranteed ballot line. The outcome of this battle will have a significant impact on where Cantor lands on the Power 100 next year.
Commissioner, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens is best known as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s point man on hydrofracking, the controversial natural gas drilling procedure that has been under review for years. But Martens portfolio is larger than any one issue; he also enforces the state’s environmental regulations, oversees its land conservation efforts and plays a key role in responding to natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy.
Partner, Mercury Public Affairs
Among the most powerful government relations experts in Albany, McKeon is tight with bigwigs across the political spectrum. He founded Republicans for Cuomo in 2010, was a senior communications adviser to Rudy Giuliani during his mayoralty and led the Pataki communications staff post- 9/11. He continues to enjoy a strong relationship with the governor and has earned his stripes as an adviser and pundit both his colleagues and elected officials listen to closely.
Counsel to the governor
Denerstein has been a loyal and trusted member of the governor’s inner circle since his days as attorney general and Cuomo’s foremost advisor on a host of critical legal issues tackled by his administration. She would have continued to have a prominent place in the top half of the Power 100 if she were sticking around for the second term, but sources indicate that she is eyeing an opportunity to move on if the governor is reelected.
Chief of Staff to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
When the Power 100 was compiled last time, Lasher was new to his job as the AG’s top aide, stepping in to fill Neal Kwatra’s big shoes. Since then Lasher has demonstrated why Schneiderman recruited him for the position, continuing his prodigious career as a political operative. A founding partner of SKDKnickerbocker, former chief Albany lobbyist for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and an executive director of StudentsFirstNY, Lasher’s broad expertise makes his insights valuable in any sector the AG wants to pursue.
Chief Investment Officer, New York State Common Retirement Fund
Anyone in charge of $150 billion worth of state money has considerable clout in Albany. As the chief investment officer of the state’s retirement fund— the third-largest public pension fund in the nation—Fuller is responsible for the assets in trust of more than one million employees and retirees. A lot rides on her financial acumen. If she makes a smart investment the state’s retirees prosper; if she makes a poor one they suffer. Good thing she has 30 years of asset management experience to guide her picks.
State Senator; Chair, Senate Republican Campaign Committee
Young holds a good hand in the upcoming election cycle, but she’s still new to the game, having only been named to her post with the SRCC in August—the first woman ever to serve in the position. If Senate Republicans preserve their slim majority through their coalition with the IDC, or better yet, rack up enough seats to control the chamber outright, Young will be on the receiving end of the praise. If, however, they falter, Young will be on the hook for their losses.
State Senator; Chair, Democratic Senate Campaign Committee
Gianaris and the regular state Senate Democrats are playing the long game, eyeing the 2016 election cycle as their opportunity to take back the majority—that is, unless Gianaris pulls off a deal earlier to draw the IDC rebels back into the fold. Still, this election year will be a critical one for Gianaris, enabling him to point to a track record of victories in a tough climate or shouldering him with blame if he can’t overcome the odds.
Managing Partner, Larkin Development Group; Chair, Niagara Frontier Trans. Authority
Arguably Western New York’s most powerful developer, Zemsky is chairman of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and a co-chair of the Western New York Regional Council for Economic Development. With the Cuomo administration pouring $1 billion into the region, insiders say Zemsky has become one of the governor’s most trusted advisors for how best to distribute that hefty amount of money in the area.
Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education of New York
Easton was on the frontlines of pushing for universal pre-K long before Mayor Bill de Blasio transformed the effort into a cause célèbre. With de Blasio’s ascendance, Easton now has a powerful ally in his longtime fight to increase education funding and distribute it more equitably. Often irksome to the governor, Easton is a tenacious advocate who always manages to be heard even in a space crowded with loud voices and strong convictions.
Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Mayor Bill de Blasio
Wolfe is the point person for driving the mayor’s agenda at all levels of government, Albany included. Her prime directive this session was to secure funding for the mayor’s proposed universal preschool program. She ended up scoring a $300 million from the state, though without the tax hike to pay for the program. A shrewd operator, Wolfe likely learned some valuable new lessons this past session watching Gov. Cuomo outflank de Blasio at every turn, and it will be interesting to see how she adapts her game plan in the future.
New York City Budget Director
One could argue that Fuleihan is more of an insider in Albany circles than he is in New York City, having served as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s longtime chief fiscal and policy adviser. While Fuleihan is largely apolitical, his mastery of budget minutiae make him an invaluable resource for legislators in both the city and state arena. With his move downstate to work for Bill de Blasio, Fuleihan’s familiarity with the Albany terrain will be big help to the mayor as he develops his future budget priorities—some of which will likely require Albany approval—and gives Silver an embedded ally in City Hall.
President and Founder, The Empire Center for Public Policy
McMahon is a potent mix of conservative policy wonk and activist. He knows his stuff inside and out, and he doesn’t pull punches when it comes to providing analysis. Also a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, McMahon is a respected go-to for journalists looking for insight into the governor’s fiscal proposals, who often offers erudite observations that make the administration cringe.
Former President, New York Gaming Association
Featherstonhaugh has long been one of the state’s foremost experts on casino issues, and he was at the vanguard of the push to expanding gambling as president of the New York Gaming Association, a coalition of existing racetrack casinos. Since the successful passage of last year’s constitutional amendment, Featherstonhaugh has stepped down from the Association to focus on an expected bid from the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, of which he is a part owner, to build a full-fledged casino in Rensselaer County.
Chairman, Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Leading the largest transportation authority in the nation makes Prendergast inherently important, but he is a still relatively unproven as an advocate for his authority at the state level. When the Cuomo administration tried to pry away $40 million of his funding for the state budget, Prendergast pretty much had to just grin and bear it, pretending he didn’t need the money when he desperately does. Prendergast has the standing to be a power player in Albany, but with fare hikes on the way and a massive deficit looming, the MTA chairman’s skill as a lobbyist will be severely put to the test.
Partner, Meara Avella Dickinson
With Senate Republicans power growing, thanks to the troubles of Senate Democrats and Speaker Silver, Avella’s ties to Dean Skelos as former chief counsel to the conference have served his lobbying firm well. His fortunes are not completely tied to the GOP though. His firm has developed deep connections with both sides of the aisle.
Vice President and Director of State Studies, Citizens Budget Commission
Last year we put Carol Kellerman, the president of the Citizens Budget Commission, on the Power 100 as a nod to the importance of the independent fiscal watchdog organization. This year we're going with Lyman, the CBC's state chief. In a city where budget spin is everywhere, Lynam has emerged as a credible, well respected voice of reason. Reporters trust her to give them a fact-based analysis of the budget, and her reports on state spending are must-reads for everyone at the Capitol.
State Senator; Chair, Senate Finance Committee
The veteran senator wields significant power simply by virtue of being one of the main lawmakers on the dais during budget hearings each year. A close friend of Dean Skelos’, DeFrancisco is the highest ranking elected Republican in Syracuse and a trusted dealmaker in Albany. A renowned straight talker, DeFrancisco doesn’t take flack from anyone, Gov. Cuomo included.
New York Post columnist, talk show host
Dicker used to command far more attention when the governor employed Dicker’s weekday morning radio show as a platform to get his message out. But since the pair had a falling out and Cuomo moved over to talking with Susan Arbetter, Dicker’s show and his weekly column in the Post have become a bully pulpit from which Dicker hurls barbs at the governor. Dicker is still a mainstay at the Capitol and a must-listen for many Republicans and conservatives, but he isn’t at the center of the action any more.
Counselor to the Governor
A longtime pollster for the governor and former aide to his father, Zambelli is a model Cuomo insider. Perfectly happy to maintain a low profile, Zambelli dedicates himself to keeping the governor attuned to the pulse of the electorate both in the present and future tenses. In an administration that takes polling very seriously, Zambelli has a real effect on shaping policy decisions big and small.
President and CEO, Long Island Association
The election cycle has hardly begun, but we already see Gov. Cuomo and likely GOP gubernatorial nominee Rob Astorino battling for support on Long Island. Law has his hands in every big decision impacting the economy in Suffolk and Nassau counties and is someone lawmakers and candidates alike listen to and respect.
CEO, Ellicott Development Company; former Republican nominee for governor
Ed Cox is the head of the state’s Republican Party, but Paladino is increasingly the face of its populist movement, especially for conservative Republicans. While Paladino might be best known statewide for some of the headline-grabbing shenanigans of his gubernatorial campaign, in Western New York he is a giant, afforded enormous respect by power players on both sides of the aisle, as well as by everyday Erie County residents.