ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Tuesday's local Democratic primary that will decide whether Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner survives her frosty year with Gov. Andrew Cuomo has drawn a political operative who once worked for Cuomo and one of New York's most powerful lobbying groups.
Cuomo said this week he would stay out of the race and refused to make an endorsement.
But one of his former top staffers in his term as attorney general, Joseph Rossi, works for the mayoral campaign of Pat Hogan, according to state records that show reimbursements made to Rossi. Park Strategies, where Rossi is vice president, was also hired as a Hogan campaign consultant, getting paid at least $4,000 in August, campaign financial filings also show.
Rossi said he continues to be paid by Park Strategies, a New York City lobbying firm that contributes to Republicans and lobbies Cuomo in Albany. Its principals include former Republican Sen. Al D'Amato and former Assembly Speaker Mel Miller.
Checks from the Hogan campaign are mailed to Park Strategies at Rossi's home in the village of North Syracuse, according to state Board of Elections records.
But Rossi said Park Strategies isn't consulting the Hogan campaign. Instead, he said, a small political consulting firm purchased by Park Strategies is doing the work. That newly purchased company, Verus Consulting in Albany, is co-managed by David Catalfamo, former communications director for Republican Gov. George Pataki.
"Joe and Pat are old friends and he is supportive of Pat's efforts," the Hogan campaign responded when asked about Rossi's role in Hogan's campaign.
When pressed, the campaign and Rossi said the Hogan campaign filings that show Park Strategies is consulting were filed in error and will be corrected.
Rossi worked in Cuomo's attorney general's office from January 2007 to September 2008, beginning as a project assistant at $62,000 a year and resigning as a conference administrative assistant paid $76,385, according to state records.
Rossi said he's had no contact with Cuomo or his aides in advising the Hogan campaign, which he said is about serving his community. He said Hogan is running an underdog campaign with about a tenth of Miner's campaign funds with inexperienced volunteers who made a mistake in the campaign filings.
"I have not gotten along with Stephanie Miner since 2005," Rossi said Friday.
Rossi said he was involved with an initial conversation when two Hogan supporters were considering the unusual step for a local campaign of creating a political action committee under federal law. Syracuse Citizens for Change is a so-called 527 organization could raise large amounts of money to be spent in the final days of the campaign without many of the restrictions and transparency of state campaign donations. Rossi said Hogan volunteers told him they were planning to start the PAC to provide a way to raise money by donors fearful of opposing a powerful incumbent but hasn't coordinated with the campaign since.
Cuomo had appointed Miner co-chairwoman of the state Democratic Committee more than a year ago. But the relationship cooled since Miner opposed Cuomo's pension-saving proposal, calling it a "gimmick" beginning with a New York Times opinion piece.
Neither Cuomo nor Miner responded to requests for comment.