Special Counsel, Mayor Bill de Blasio
Plenty of advisers have the ear of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
One of them who largely stays behind the scenes is Henry Berger, the mayor’s special counsel.
The veteran election lawyer helped keep de Blasio on the ballot in his bid for New York City public advocate, paving the way for a come-from-behind victory. When de Blasio was elected mayor four years later, Berger was brought on as a special assistant corporation counsel and adviser.
Despite his low profile, he is a trusted aide. According to one report, Maya Wiley left her position as counsel to the mayor in part because de Blasio relied more frequently on Berger and the city’s corporation counsel.
And in a re-election year for the mayor, the election lawyer could be called on once again.
Partner, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
Now that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been cleared by state and federal prosecutors following high-profile investigations into his campaign fundraising, he appears to have an easy path to re-election.
One of the people the mayor has to thank for that is Barry Berke, who represented the mayor during the probes.
Berke, a co-chairman of the litigation department at the white-shoe law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, had a strong reputation as a trial lawyer and years of experience defending clients under investigation or facing allegations of white-collar crime.
He also has been a staunch ally of the mayor, having served as his campaign treasurer and being appointed to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City board and representing de Blasio on the Lincoln Center board.
Executive Vice President, Capalino+Company
Capalino+Company once again landed atop the list of New York City’s lobbyists last year, and while CEO James Capalino deserves much of the credit, he’s always credited his team.
One of those experienced team members who’s on the rise within the firm is George Fontas, who was promoted to executive vice president in 2015.
Fontas has spent more than a decade at Capalino, working for high-powered clients like Airbnb and Uber and having a hand in major land use projects, such as the Chelsea Market rezoning.
Prior to his jump to the private sector, Fontas ran political campaigns and worked as director of communications and legislative affairs for David Weprin, who was then the chairman of the influential New York City Council Finance Committee.
In a field largely dominated by men, election lawyer Sarah Steiner is one of the notable exceptions.
The Manhattan-based attorney, who runs her own one-woman operation, has earned a reputation as an independent-minded advocate for reform. She has accused the New York City Board of Elections of making politically motivated decisions, put a spotlight on voters turned away from the ballot box and criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising scheme to pay his legal bills.
Before she began practicing election law over two decades ago, she served as an assistant district attorney in Queens. Until recently, she served as chairwoman of the New York City Bar Association’s Election Law Committee and she helps run the organization’s annual program on how to get on the ballot.
Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig
Some New York politicians make a name for themselves in Albany. Others build a record in New York City.
Mark Weprin has made it in both places.
He served in the Assembly for 15 years, where he led the Small Business Committee and focused on issues that included autism. He then was elected to the New York City Council, where he served until 2015. At that point, he returned to Albany as deputy secretary for legislative affairs to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The son of former Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin and the brother of Assemblyman David Weprin, Mark Weprin left public office early this year to join Greenberg Traurig, where he continues to capitalize on his experience while working on legislative and regulatory issues.