Melissa Mark-Viverito Drops Advance Group for Speaker Bid

Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo: Getty)

Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo: Getty)

As controversy simmers around the Advance Group, Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito revealed tonight she is no longer taking free advice from the leading consulting firm in her bid for City Council speaker.

The Daily News reported last week the pro bono assistance may run afoul of election law by actually functioning as an unreported in-kind contribution. Ms. Mark-Viverito insisted today that this was not the case but out of an “abundance of caution,” the relationship would end.

“I am completely confident that my engaging, moving forward in my speaker’s race has met all of the regulations and is in full compliance,” Ms. Mark-Viverito told Politicker. “And just in terms of being overly cautious and in terms of abundance of caution, we will not be receiving any additional advice from the Advance Group.”

“They were never employed by my campaign to be clear,” Ms. Mark-Viverito added, speaking after a council speaker forum in Manhattan tonight.

After Politicker first reported that the Advance Group’s president, Scott Levenson, was working with Ms. Mark-Viverito, other controversies began to swirl around the speaker candidate. In one report, an unnamed council member bashed Ms. Mark-Viverito for working with a Democratic shop that profited from an “anti-gay agenda” last election cycle–the firm sent mailers on behalf of an anti-same-sex marriage group, which they’ve since apologized for.

The Advance Group, according to several insiders, was helping Ms. Mark-Viverito network with important Democratic county leaders and played a role in aiding Ms. Mark-Viverito at a pivotal political conference in Puerto Rico last month. Now a front-runner in the backroom contest to succeed Council Speaker Christine Quinn–the 51 members of the council will choose a new speaker in January–Ms. Mark-Viverito is battling six other candidates, including other leading contenders like Councilmen Dan Garodnick and Mark Weprin, for the second most powerful post in the city.

A spokeswoman for the Advance Group, which also does lobbying work, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Crain’s New York Business reported earlier today that Ms. Mark-Viverito has hired two well-known operatives to boost her speaker candidacy: Jon Paul Lupo, the chief of staff for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and Amelia Adams, the political and legislative director for New York Communities for Change. Ms. Adams and Mr. Lupo also did work for now-Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio during the general election, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Additional reporting by Colin Campbell.

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