Bush's Voice of America

Pro-War Media Conglomerate Tries to Take Over New York

Accompanying Sheinkopf on at least one of his half-dozen lobbying meetings was Chris D'Amato, son of the former senator and his partner in Park Strategies LLC, a lobbying and public relations firm. Clear Channel attorney Strauss, who attended the same meeting with Comptroller Thompson, says that D'Amato said nothing during the meeting and attended it as an attorney, not a lobbyist. The D'Amato firm, which has represented Clear Channel and its predecessor, SFX, since the fall of 1999, has never registered as a lobbyist for either company.

Strauss says that D'Amato was retained "as a consultant weeks before" SFX submitted a bid to renew its Jones Beach amphitheater contract to State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro. It was able to win a 20-year extension, twice the length of the former deal. A Newsday investigation in 2001 revealed that SFX won the contract despite the fact that another major concert promoter, House of Blues, offered the state $3.6 million more in revenue. Strauss says that D'Amato "made no appearances" on behalf of the company with officials, though he said he did not know if the wheeler-dealer former senator from Island Park, near Jones Beach, ever made a phone call or whispered in a friendly Pataki ear.

The company also retains legendary lobbyist Sid Davidoff, who's pushed Bloomberg deputy mayor Mark Shaw and Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster on billboard regulations. Claudia Wagner represents it on the potentially multibillion-dollar street furniture franchise, which the Bloomberg administration is considering putting out to bid. That would seek to secure a city commission on all sidewalk advertising—on bus shelters, pay phones, rebuilt newsstands, pay toilets, information kiosks, etc.

Its most recent city deal was a memo of understanding with the city's taxi commission allowing it to put advertising screens in cab backseats, a privilege granted to several competitors as well. While Clear Channel has so far installed only two monitors in cabs, it has rapidly become, with commission approval, the biggest taxi-top advertiser, acquiring rights to the roofs of 2,668 cabs.

In December, the company also won a three-year extension of its contract with the MTA for the billboard space on subway entrances. It got the extension, according to MTA spokesman Tom Kelly, because it proposed converting the outdoor space to digital panels, which would permit additional advertisers on screens at high-traffic stations, increasing the commission paid to the MTA. Authority officials did not answer questions about whether D'Amato, whose lobbying activities at the MTA are notorious, had anything to do with the lucrative, no-bid contract.

Research assistance: Cathy Bussewitz, Alexa Hinton, Felicia Mello, Solana Pyne,E.B. Solomont, and Steven I. Weiss

« Previous Page