State lawmaker urges investigation of Kivvit’s contracts under Cuomo

Assemblyman Ron Kim asked for an audit of New York State’s contracts with the PR firm.

State lawmaker urges investigation of Kivvit’s contracts under Cuomo. (Image via Getty)
State lawmaker urges investigation of Kivvit’s contracts under Cuomo. (Image via Getty)

NEW YORK: Kivvit’s $88 million worth of contracts with New York State are now coming under scrutiny. 

Assemblyman Ron Kim of Queens requested an “audit and release of all information pertaining to contracts between the State of New York and the public relations firm Kivvit,” in a letter released late Thursday to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. 

This follows information coming to light with New York attorney general Letitia James’ independent investigation and report regarding sexual harassment claims against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo which led to his resignation earlier this month.

Kim noted two managing directors at Kivvit, Josh Vlasto and Rich Bamberger, who were former staff members for Cuomo, continued to assist the governor. The report claims they were part of the governor's "inner circle" of advisors who actively worked to smear Cuomo's accusers.

Vlasto was Cuomo’s chief of staff from 2013 to 2014. Bamberger and Vlasto have subsequently left Kivvit.

Kivvit managing director Tom Meara stated that the two were "acting in their personal capacity" while helping Cuomo, The New York Post reported. But Kim’s letter noted that the possibility of unethical behavior involving contracts of $88 million in taxpayer money was deeply disturbing and that the full and complete truth behind the matter must be uncovered.

A Kivvit spokesperson told PRWeek: “The contracts referenced were competitively bid in a public, transparent process, and awarded in compliance with New York State Finance Law.”

According to Kim’s letter, Kivvit stated that any state contract it was awarded was part of a “public competitively bid RFP process.” However, Kim demanded “an explanation of the full RFP process for each contract Kivvit received, including how many other firms applied, and how Kivvit was ultimately chosen for that contract.” 

He also requested, if determined appropriate, that the state end the contracts and that Kivvit return the money back to the state.

The Kivvit spokesperson noted that the majority of the $88 million consisted of media buying activations, for which the agency received in the range of 4% to 10% of the total contract value as pass-through payments.

Kivvit's client roster includes brands such as Google, Tesla, Citigroup, Lyft, Princeton University and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

* This story was updated on August 23, 2021 with comments from Kivvit.

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