ALBANY – A major Republican advertising firm favored by former President Donald Trump is behind a New York television ad attempting to ward off tax increases on the wealthy by prominently featuring President Joe Biden in a positive light.
Jamestown Associates, a Philadelphia-based firm that crafted many of Trump’s presidential campaign advertisements, is listed on the state registration of a newly formed lobbying group known as the Don’t Bankrupt New York Coalition, which has been airing the ad on CNN, MSNBC and other cable news networks in recent days.
Don’t Bankrupt New York registered with the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics earlier this month, listing Jamestown as a “beneficial client” — meaning it is an organization the group is lobbying on behalf of.
The group’s ad has been airing across New York, pushing back against efforts at the state Capitol to increase taxes. The ad lays the blame on “Democratic socialists in Albany” and suggests they could “bankrupt our state.”
But the ad makes its case in part by prominently using images of Biden, a Democrat who as recently as Monday has signaled he’s open to increasing taxes on the wealthy.
Instead of raising taxes, the ad encourages support for “the Biden plan,” an apparent reference to the recently approved $1.9 trillion stimulus package that included $12.5 billion in direct funding for New York’s state government to help close its budget gap.
As the narrator speaks, glowing images of Biden walking with his family, signing a bill and delivering a speech appear on the screen.
“There is a better way,” the narrator says. “President Biden has a plan to help New York without raising New York taxes. Tell your state senator to support the Biden plan. Tell them: Don’t raise our taxes.”
Who is funding the group? It’s unclear
Jamestown Associates did not immediately return requests for comment Tuesday.
While Jamestown has a hand in Don’t Bankrupt New York, it’s unclear who is funding the group. And it may remain that way until mid-July at the earliest.
The Don’t Bankrupt New York Coalition’s state lobbying registration was filed March 3 by David Grandeau, an Albany-area lobbyist known as an expert on the state’s disclosure and reporting laws.
Grandeau, former executive director of the now-defunct Temporary State Commission on Lobbying, is listed as the coalition’s chief administrative officer. The group’s listed address is the same Schenectady County address used by Grandeau’s consulting business.
Under state law, lobbyists are required to report the name of any person or organization who spends more than $2,500 funding their activities, with certain exceptions.
But those “source of funding” disclosures are only required when a lobbying client files their twice-annual reports with the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
Don’t Bankrupt New York’s report for January through June won’t be due until July 15.
In a brief phone interview Tuesday, Grandeau declined to discuss Don’t Bankrupt New York.
“I do not discuss my clients with the media,” he said. “We will follow all of the JCOPE rules and regulations.”
Lawmakers propose higher taxes in budget
Ad-buying contracts filed with the Federal Communications Commission show the group has reserved slots on CNN, MSNBC and CNBC through April 1.
That date is significant: It’s the start of the state’s fiscal year, by when Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature are required to have a state budget in place.
On Monday, the state Senate’s Democratic majority approved a one-house budget resolution that supported raising taxes on those making more than $1 million annually in an effort to raise $4 billion in revenue.
The state Assembly, also controlled by Democrats, backs raising taxes on the wealthy and will pass its one-house budget this week, too.
“The final state budget passed at the end of this month must reflect this commitment to taxing the wealthy and prioritizing everyday New Yorkers,” said Jess Wisneski, co-executive director of Citizen Action, a left-leaning advocacy group.
Cuomo, who is facing calls for his resignation amid multiple scandals, has sounded concern about raising taxes.
“How you raise revenue can actually raise revenue or can cost you revenue,” Cuomo said Monday on Long Island. “If you’re not careful with the way you do it, you may actually lose money for the state because businesses and residents will make changes.”
Jon Campbell is a New York state government reporter for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JCAMPBELL1@Gannett.com or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.
Support local journalism
We cover the stories from the New York State Capitol and across New York that matter most to you and your family. Please consider supporting our efforts with a subscription to the New York publication nearest you.