Best city lobbyist (2008)

Gene Russianoff

Lobbying is a bigger business than ever in New York's City Hall, with $36 million spent last year—more than double the amount doled out just five years ago. The reason for this unsightly splurge is that everyone from Time Warner to World Wrestling Entertainment is seeking some little edge or favor in city legislation or contracting and needs to get someone who knows someone to pigeonhole the right official to just hear them out! We won't say that everyone is wasting his or her money (many do quite well by this insiders' game), but no matter how much desperate clients ante up, they'll never land the one lobbyist who's been at it longest, knows more, and gets things done the most effectively. The lobbyist who can't be purchased for any price is Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group. Russianoff, 53, has been working his trade at City Hall since 1978. He was a prime moving force in winning the new City Charter in 1988, which helped open up municipal government. He helped spawn the city's system of public campaign finance, which has leveled the political playing field, as well as the Independent Budget Office, which has been providing a crucial reality check on city budgets, programs, and projects. And that's just in City Hall. Russianoff, a Brooklyn College grad who went on to Harvard Law, also launched the Straphangers Campaign, a transit riders' group that since 1979 has helped win cleaner subways, free transfers, and the reduced fares of the bulk-ride MetroCards. Dollar for dollar, Russianoff is a lobbying bargain. But then, that's because he can't be bought.


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