New York Governor’s daughter-in-law, Kathy Hochul, is a top lobbyist at a pharmaceutical company actively seeking to influence lawmakers at the federal and state levels.
Hochul took over the governor’s office on Tuesday after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation over a sexual harassment scandal.
Christina Hochul, who is married to the governor’s son, is a federal policy director at Biogen, according to her LinkedIn page. Biogen develops therapies to combat Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy. The company’s headquarters are in Massachusetts.
The company recently participated in a lobbying campaign in New York. State lobbying disclosure reports show that Biogen paid $ 20,000 to Harter Secrest & Emery between January and June to contact state lawmakers on multiple bills.
The disclosure report reveals that the Biogen lobbyists have deliberately hired senior figures in the state’s Senate for “possible laws related to Alzheimer’s disease.”
The report does not list Christina Hochul as a lobbyist working on the campaign. However, if Biogen continues to do business in the state, it could be an ethical hurdle the new governor will face in getting used to the job.
A Biogen spokeswoman told CNBC that Christina Hochul does not and will not lobby at the New York state level. The representative didn’t rule out the company itself working with New York state lawmakers while Kathy Hochul is governor.
“Christina Hochul works for Biogen on federal health policy; she has not and will not be involved in state-level government affairs in New York,” Biogen spokeswoman Allison Parks said in an email Tuesday. “Biogen continues to be committed to working with government officials in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations as well as our own internal ethics and compliance principles.”
Christina Hochul did not respond to requests for comments.
The governor’s daughter-in-law is featured in disclosure reports of federal lobbying, showing that she and her team have actively sought to influence members of Congress and those within President Joe Biden’s administration.
Hochul’s daughter-in-law is not the only close family member who is causing visual problems for the new governor.
Hochul’s husband, William Hochul, is a retired federal attorney who serves as senior vice president and general counsel for gambling and hotel giant Delaware North. The Daily Beast noted that the Hochul administration, as governor, has authority over key regulators that have ties to the gambling industry, including the New York State Gaming Commission.
At the time, Hochul’s team said there was “an already negative process” regarding her husband’s work for Delaware North. The Buffalo News previously reported that William Hochul will remain in Delaware North despite his wife becoming governor.
A governor’s office spokesman told CNBC that Delaware North has put in place a firewall preventing Bill Hochul from interfering in state affairs, limiting his remuneration on business related to New York State, and closely monitoring communications with Delaware North ensuring compliance .
The speaker did not answer questions about possible ethical issues related to Christina Hochul’s companies doing business in the state.
Blair Horner, the executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group Fund, told CNBC in an email that Hochul should request an opinion from the Joint Public Ethics Committee on how to deal with potential family conflicts of interest.
“In the 21st century, it’s not surprising that spouses and descendants have their own careers that can affect a public official,” Horner told CNBC on Tuesday. “The governor should request a formal statement from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) on how to separate the work of the state from her family members who are lobbyists. According to the law, JCOPE cannot publish its opinion, but the governor can – and should. “
Ethics experts have already urged Hochul to bolster the Executive Chamber’s stance on possible ethical dilemmas after former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s nearly 12-year tenure.
“It is no longer time to reform, strengthen, and FOIL the state ethics oversight system. to be followed completely [Freedom of Information] Creating laws and increasing transparency about conflicts of interest, “said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause, New York, in a previous statement.” We are confident that the new Governor, Kathy Hochul, recognizes and understands the importance of these sensible issues the role they play in restoring the integrity of the executive office and confidence in our state government. “
Lerner spoke as part of a coalition of organizations calling on Hochul to implement important reforms during his tenure.
Hochul’s daughter-in-law was an important lobbyist at the federal level. Lobbying disclosure reports for the first half of 2021 show Christina Hochul lobbied for Biogen in the House of Representatives, Senate, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which are part of the U.S. Department of Health.
The lobbying reports indicate that Hochul and her Biogen colleagues focused on topics related to Medicare and Medicaid. The disclosure reports say Hochul and her team had “discussions about the Medicaid 340B drug rebate program” and a focus on “reducing the cost of biosimilars in Medicare Part B”.
Before Biogen, data from the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics [CRP] shows that Hochul was lobbying for the McManus Group, a healthcare consultancy. There, according to CRP, Hochul represented pharmaceutical companies such as Amgen, Allergen and Merck.