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’
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
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.
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.