Way back in October, the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association, a group strenuously opposed to the city’s attempt to throw their businesses out of Willets Point so it could be redeveloped, accused former Queens borough president Claire Shulman of being an unregistered lobbyist for the Bloomberg Administration and the Economic Development Corporation on that issue. At the time, a spokesman for Shulman admitted to the Queens Gazette that she was a lobbyist and that she was going to revise the paperwork of her organization, the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation, to reflect that.
For their report today on Shulman’s possibly illegal lobbying efforts on Willets Point, the Times questions city officials, who insist they weren’t paying her to lobby — though during the Willets Point campaign Shulman was “promising to meet with every member of the City Council as it prepared to vote on the plan last fall,” says the Times…
The Mayor’s spokesman, Andrew Brent, tells the paper that when the city gave Shulman $450,000 — coincidentally, the same amount Shulman reported spending on lobbying work — they never expected her to lobby with it. She was supposed to do “outreach, public relations, and marketing,” says Brent — she never mentioned lobbying (which might be defined as outreach, public relations, and marketing aimed at elected officials).
An Economic Development Corporation spokesman says “the city regularly partners with local organizations that promote growth and economic development” such as Shulman’s, but presumably not to lobby.
For her part, Shulman says, “We hired lobbyists from the time we began, because we were told it was something we were supposed to be doing.” Unsurprisingly, no one in the story says, “OK, you caught us,” and offers himself or herself up for arrest.