The Richie Kessel NYPA Watch, December 1, 2008 – By George J. Marlin

Newsday’s Rick Brand reported on November 17, 2008 that Suffolk County had paid $100,000 in order to market the County’s non-emergency call number to Zimmerman-Edelson, a Long Island PR firm headed by Robert Zimmerman, a member of the Democratic National Committee and a “Democratic Strategist” who frequently appears on CNN.   Brand also disclosed that since 2006 Zimmerman-Edelson has received another $336,000 from the County’s DWI program. Newsday detailed Zimmerman’s work including $28,500 for billboards, $21,462 for radio ads, and $5,400 for 5,000 promotional pens and 10,000 magnets (overpriced kitchen magnets are a critical part of any political messaging effort).

A review of LIPA’s spending shows that under long-time Chair and CEO Richie Kessel, LIPA paid over $1,000,000 to Zimmerman-Edelson for PR and marketing work over a period of years to burnish LIPA and Richie Kessel’s reputation. Of course, we over-taxed and over-burdened ratepayers paid for this critical work.

Who says bipartisanship in Albany is dead?  Not only did Kessel hire Democratic rent-seekers and hangers-on, he hired Republican hacks as well when Pataki was Governor. Thus, the Citizens Budget Commission reported these two instances of LIPA procurement controversies on his watch:

“State Comptroller’s audit finds that LIPA bypassed its own bidding requirements when it paid [the Republican lobbying organization] Strategic Planning Systems $45,000 to conduct “political polls,” LIPA is required to put contracts of $5,000 or more up for competitive bid “to the maximum extent possible.” . . .

An investigation by Assembly member Richard Brodsky revealed that LIPA awarded a $120,000 a year no-bid contract to former top advisors to Governor Pataki, Kieran Mahoney and Michael McKeon.  McKeon and Mahoney recently left the Pataki administration to become private political consultants.” (Then there was the time Richie did “customer service” polling on Long Island and improperly charged electric customers for polling about candidates for office and other clearly political matters. More about that on another day.)  To his credit, new LIPA CEO, Kevin Law, terminated these and other suspect lobbying and PR contracts.

Street Corner Conservative will be watching NYPA’s procurement going forward to see whether Zimmerman-Edelson ends up back at the NYPA trough.

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