Avella Proposes Bill to Require Consultants to Disclose Clients

In the wake of a NY1 investigation into the communications firm BerlinRosen and its relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, the chair of the state Senate Ethics Committee is calling for reform. State Senator Tony Avella introduced legislation Thursday that would require firms like BerlinRosen to publicly disclose all of their clients. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

After watching NY1's report last month about BerlinRosen, a public affairs firm with close ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio, state Senator Tony Avella says he was inspired to act.

"The bill that I'm introducing is called the consulting bill," Avella says.

Avella's legislation would require communications and consulting firms like BerlinRosen to disclose all of their clients.

Jonathan Rosen, who co-founded the firm, is a close adviser to the mayor. At the same time, he also advises clients with business before City Hall. Because he is not a registered lobbyist, he does not have to reveal the clients he represents.

"We're saying you have to disclose it so the public has an opportunity to know exactly what's going on and who has influence above and beyond what the average citizen may have," Avella says.

Avella's bill is modeled after the state lobbying law. He says he is most concerned about consultants who advise private clients and also advise public officials. He says that special relationship between a consultant and a politician may mean clients could be getting favorable treatment from the government.

"It's that relationship that provides his or her clients access that anybody else would not normally have," Avella says.

Avella's bill is quite broad and, as written, would require any consultant in the state who earns more than $5,000 from consulting work to disclose all clients, even if they do not have business with the city or with Albany.

Avella is a member of the Independent Democratic Caucus in Albany, and part of the Senate majority, which means his bill may get more serious consideration.

"The consulting bill puts the onus on the consultant, not the politician. So hopefully we'll have an opportunity to pass this legislation," he says.

A spokesman for BerlinRosen declined to comment on the legislation.

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