Two former Cuomo staffers who helped their old boss smear sexual harassment accuser Lindsey Boylan work for a politically connected public relations firm that is raking in millions from state contracts, according to government records and the attorney general’s investigation.
The PR firm Kivvit says its managing directors Josh Vlasto and Rich Bamberger — who are accused of helping Cuomo’s office “discredit and disparage” Boylan — were working for the governor in a “personal capacity” at the time.
But the firm also does extensive business with the state of New York and is responsible for distributing about $88 million in taxpayer money, public records show.
That includes a $75 million contract for media buying services with the state’s Office of General Services. The deal began in 2018 and ends in 2024, according to the records.
Kivvit also has a $10 million deal with the State University of New York system for “strategic planning and media buying services” that started in 2019 and runs through this December.
A spokesperson for Kivvit — which also counts Google, Tesla, Citigroup, Lyft, Delta Airlines, Madison Square Garden, Princeton University and the US Olympic Committee among its clients — said the company charges commissions of 4 to 10 percent on media buying contracts. That means the general services and SUNY deals put at least $3.4 million and $8.5 million of taxpayer money the company’s coffers.
Kivvit also has an ongoing $2 million consulting contract and two other smaller marketing and public relations deals with the New York Department of Health, records show.
Asked whether Vlasto and Bamberger’s personal roles advising the governor played any role in helping Kivvit secure contracts with the state of New York, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi replied, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”
“The fact is any state contract awarded to the firm was part of a public competitively bid RFP process,” a Kivvit spokesperson said. “Our national team of professionals execute similar work for many states across the country.”
Vlasto declined to comment and Bamberger could not be directly reached.
According to the attorney general’s investigation, Vlasto and Bamberger were part of an “inner circle” of outside advisors that “actively consulted” with the scandal-battered governor. The group also included CNN host Chris Cuomo, former Pete Buttigieg communications director Lis Smith, Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David and Facebook communications manager Dani Lever, among others.
In an interview with investigators, Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa testified that Vlasto first came up with the idea to leak Boylan’s personnel records to reporters after Boylan accused the governor of misconduct in December.
Bamberger was then one of several people who “coordinated with some of the reporters who received the documents to let them know that the Executive Chamber would be sending them,” according to the attorney general’s report.
Vlasto — who served as Cuomo’s chief of staff from 2013 to 2014 and has also worked for New York Sen. Chuck Schumer — told investigators that he believed Boylan’s files gave “relevant context for the reporters … given that Lindsey [Boylan] was making accusations of harassment” and added that he believed Cuomo had wanted or approved the leak.
Boylan’s attorneys say leaking her personnel files constitutes illegal retaliation and plan to sue the governor and his inner circle.
In March, when Cuomo was faced with a fresh set of sexual harassment allegations, the governor asked Vlasto to “take over the politics and press operation in leading the response to the assembly and all of [the] investigations,” Vlasto told investigators.
Vlasto added that he declined because of personal reasons and because he did not support the overly negative tone Cuomo’s team had taken in response to the allegations.
Back in December, Bamberger — who had served as Cuomo’s communications director before joining Kivvit — had helped Cuomo attempt to gather signatures for a letter in December that “impugned [the] credibility” of Boylan and suggested that she could be working with supporters of then-President Donald Trump and a politician who wanted to unseat Cuomo as governor, according to the attorney general’s investigation.
The letter was never released publicly but was reviewed by a Post reporter.
–Additional reporting by Alexandra Steigrad