Albany Odd Couple Hitting the Jackpot as Big Lobbyists

On a recent early-spring evening in Albany, as the sun set

in a flare of orange through a clear blue sky over the State Capitol, a

honey-blond lobbyist made her way up Washington Street toward the University

Club for a fund-raiser honoring the newest star of New York’s Republican Party,

U.S. Representative John Sweeney. She hurried through a doorway, past a

twinkling fire and into a room painted brick red. From a table in the center of

the packed room wafted the unmistakable smell of pigs in a blanket. The

honey-blond lobbyist caught the eye of a certain silver-haired, blue-eyed

ex-Marine. They embraced.

The blue-eyed ex-Marine was William Powers, until a few

weeks ago the chairman of the New York Republican State Committee. The

honey-blond lobbyist was Patricia Lynch, until three months ago the most

powerful aide to the most powerful Democrat in Albany, Assembly Speaker Sheldon

Silver. Together, Ms. Lynch and Mr. Powers are quietly becoming Albany’s newest

odd couple. Although they do not work for the same lobbying firm, they plan to

parlay the influence and access they enjoy from their previous lives to work

together for that great bipartisan cause known as personal enrichment.

The speed with which Ms. Lynch, 43, and Mr. Powers, 58,  have been able to capitalize on the access

and power they had in their previous jobs is not uncommon in the cozy world of

state politics. On Dec. 31, 2000, Ms. Lynch was the communications director for

the State Assembly-“in the bunker” with Mr. Silver, as she puts it. On Jan. 1,

2001, she was a lobbyist. Three months later, she is billing more than $1

million a year, making her one of Albany’s top 10 lobbyists. “I know I’m the

flavor of the month,” she said, “but I need to build a business now, for the

long term, when I’m not the flavor of the month.”

Mr. Powers resigned as head of the state G.O.P. in early

March, but Republicans still call him “Mr. Chairman,” even though that title

now officially belongs to Alexander Treadwell. Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Powers

was based at his party’s headquarters at 315 State Street. Now, he works just a

few blocks away, at a lobbying firm formerly known as Crane Consulting.

It was Mr. Powers who paid for Ms. Lynch’s ticket to the

Sweeney fund-raiser. She and he will work together for her largest client, GMR,

a group that wants to buy the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. (GMR is

paying Ms. Lynch $110,000 a year.) Ms. Lynch said that she and Mr. Powers will

share more clients in the future.

Such a pairing is not entirely unheard of in Albany-after

all, Armand D’Amato, the brother of the former Republican Senator, shares

Albany offices with Democrat Mel Miller, the former Assembly Speaker. But given

the level of partisan rhetoric Mr. Powers and Ms. Lynch aimed at each other,

it’s not a marriage many insiders would have predicted.

Mr. Powers, after all, was in charge when New York’s

Republican Party ran a series of advertisements, complete with a Jaws -like soundtrack, attacking Ms.

Lynch’s boss at the time, Mr. Silver, as a shark ready to swallow upstaters’

wallets.

And Ms. Lynch was at Mr.

Silver’s side on innumerable occasions as he tore into Governor Pataki and the

state Republicans on everything from school funding to Medicaid cuts. Mr.

Powers’ crowning achievement in rebuilding the state G.O.P. was Mr. Pataki’s

election as Governor in 1994.

Now, Ms. Lynch and Mr. Powers have kind words for each

other. “I have the utmost of respect for him,” Ms. Lynch said. “He goes for the

win. He has a clear strategy in his mind of how to get there.” Winning is key

for Ms. Lynch.  In a corner of her

otherwise undecorated office, she has a framed photo of the legendary football

coach Vince Lombardi, along with an extract from his famous views on matters of

competition: “Winning is not a sometime thing, it’s an all-the-time thing.”

(For the record, she also displays snapshots of her children, Jason, 12, and

Kara, 9.)

Mr. Powers was no less effusive in his praise for Ms. Lynch.

“She’s a friend and a nice person,” he said. “The Republican Party likes strong

women, and Pat Lynch is a strong woman and a leader.” And a Democrat, he might

have added, but didn’t.

Ms. Lynch has set up her own firm, Patricia Lynch Associates

Inc. Meanwhile, with the addition of a well-known Republican power broker to

Crane Consulting, Mr. Powers’ new place of employment has been renamed Powers,

Crane and Company. Its founder, Constance Crane, is a former aide for the state

Department of Environmental Conservation and the State Senate. She is the

sister-in-law of former Pataki counsel Michael Finnegan.

Barely three full months after leaving Mr. Silver’s

employment, Ms. Lynch has 22 clients, including United Parcel Service,

Accenture and Westchester County. She spends three nights a week in Albany at a

budget hotel; the other nights find her in Chappaqua with her family.

The daughter of a single mother who held three jobs to raise

four girls, Ms. Lynch is well known in Albany for her drive and her ambition.

Work starts at 7 in the morning as she reads bills while working out on the

treadmill. Then it’s meetings and phone calls-and people take notice when she’s

on the other end of the telephone. When she called the office of Attorney

General Eliot Spitzer recently about a routine matter, said a source with

knowledge of Mr. Spitzer’s schedule, the Attorney General himself was notified.

“She is still seen as Silver’s person,” said the source.

A Silver Lining

That’s not surprising, since she can still be found in Mr.

Silver’s company or in his offices, in the same space she once occupied as a

top Albany policy-maker. At a recent fund-raiser in Washington, D.C., for the

Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, Ms. Lynch was spotted pulling her

client, Congressman Maurice Hinchey, in Mr. Silver’s direction. Mr. Hinchey is

trying to protect his Congressional district from the map-makers in the state

Legislature, so Mr. Silver is a good person to know. And hiring Mr. Silver’s

former top aide is a prudent gesture at such a moment.

After the meetings and telephone calls come the fund-raising

receptions. They are endless, several each night. The menu is almost always the

same-cheese cubes, cut-up vegetables, fried foods. The guest lists are also the

same; all the powerful Albany lobbying firms make sure they are

well-represented. Ms. Lynch knows the importance of being seen.

Friends guess that Mr. Powers’ schedule will soon be as

hectic as Ms. Lynch’s. New to the lobbying business, he has not yet filed

registration forms with the New York Temporary State Commission on Lobbying.

But no one doubts he’ll soon be one of Albany’s hottest lobbyists. At the

Sweeney fund-raiser, lobbyist James Featherstonehaugh recited a top-10 list of

reasons why “it’s a good thing” Mr. Powers 

has joined the ranks of lobbyists. The No. 1 reason: “We’ll all get rich

fighting Bill’s clients.” Not to mention how rich Mr. Powers himself will

become. “He will give new meaning to the words ‘doing well,'” said Mr.

Featherstonehaugh.

That certainly seems likely. Companies and individuals who

hire lobbyists prize access, and Mr. Powers is known for his close relationship

with Governor Pataki. At Mr. Pataki’s fund-raising party on March 22 at the

South Street Seaport, Mr. Powers was the first person Mr. Pataki invited up

onstage with him. “Willie!” said Mr. Pataki, chuckling warmly off-mike as Mr.

Powers joined him at the podium. Was this a sign that Mr. Powers was the new

Republican power lobbyist? “I think you can figure that out,” said Assembly

Minority Leader John Faso as he left the Pataki event.

When he announced that he would leave as Republican state

chairman, Mr. Powers told reporters he had been at last year’s Republican

National Convention in Philadelphia when his second grandchild was born. His

wife reminded him that he’d been at the Republican convention in San Diego in

1996 when his first grandchild was born. “I don’t feel like doing this

anymore,” he said. And at the reception for Congressman Sweeney, he joked about

having time to share dinner with his wife. “We have to get to know each other

again,” he said.

But friends expect Mr. Powers to be just as manic as a lobbyist

as he was as state chairman. “After all those years when he worked for the

Assembly, for [former U.S. Senator Alfonse] D’Amato, as state chairman, he has

never really been compensated for his talents and abilities,” said attorney

Lawrence Mandelker, who counts both Mr. Powers and Ms. Lynch among his friends.

“Things he would do as a political leader, people are being paid a fortune to

do. It’s time to take care of his family. At some time, you have to kick back

and earn the rewards of a lifetime.”

Mr. Powers and Ms. Lynch, both.