State Dems refuse to meet lobbying firm that hired Jeff Klein

ALBANY — Two Democratic, freshman state lawmakers are trying to blackball a leading firm that lobbies on behalf of charter schools because it hired an ex-pol who was ousted amid a sex-harassment scandal.

Bronx state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and Queens state Sen. John Liu are refusing to meet with lobbyists from Mercury Public Affairs, which recently made disgraced ex-Sen. Jeff Klein a co-chair in its New York City office.

Klein — who lost his seat to Biaggi last year — is under investigation by ethics officials over a former staffer’s claim he forcibly kissed her outside an Albany bar in 2015, which he denies.

“Anyone under active investigation for harassment or discrimination should be barred from lobbying the Legislature and the Executive,” Liu’s chief of staff wrote to a Mercury employee in a March e-mail obtained by The Post.

Under the state’s revolving-door rule for ex-lawmakers, Klein is barred from lobbying the Legislature until 2021, but he can meet with Gov. Cuomo.

Klein once wielded great influence in Albany as the leader of a band of rogue Democrats who cut a power-sharing deal with Republicans in the state Senate.

Biaggi and Liu’s move against his employer comes amid controversy over a pending proposal to either raise or eliminate the statutory cap on New York City charter schools.

Current law permits 292 charters, with 235 in operation.

Both Biaggi and Liu oppose adding any more. Mercury’s clients include the pro-charter group StudentsFirstNY, which is run by Jenny Sedlis, a co-founder of Success Academy, the city’s largest charter-school network.

Mercury also represents the powerful health-care-workers union Local 1199 SEIU.

The firm ranked 10th among the state’s top-earning lobbying firms last year, raking in $4.6 million in compensation and expenses, according to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Biaggi defended her decision to freeze out Mercury by saying that combating sexual harassment was her “No. 1 priority.”

“We don’t have the answers to those questions of why [Klein] was hired and what are they are doing to make sure everybody feels comfortable and safe,” she said.

Biaggi also said that while she won’t meet with Mercury lobbyists, “My staff and I will meet with the firm’s clients.”

“And my positions will always be on the merits of the issues, not on who the lobbyist is,” she added.

Liu’s spokeswoman, Heather Stewart, also said that “groups can reach out to us directly.”

Mercury partner Michael McKeon said Biaggi and Liu’s boycott “hasn’t impacted us at all.”

“We know that responsible legislators make decisions based on the facts and the best interest of New York, and our advocacy on those terms yielded real results,” he added.

Additional reporting by Bruce Golding

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