“Being powerful is like being a lady,” mused the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
In Albany, as in every political arena, bluster is often mistaken for true power. Of course, even the perception that one has influence can yield genuine authority, but more often that not, those with true power in government are not the grandstanders but those who work dutifully, quietly and shrewdly behind the scenes to achieve their aims.
With this ranking of the 100 most powerful players in Albany, we have aimed to pull back the curtain on who really has the clout to get things done in the Capitol. Through off-the-record discussions with a number of the most respected insiders in state politics, the insights of our readers and a series of online polls, we have tried our utmost to construct a list that credibly reveals the politicians, staffers, advisors, lobbyists, advocates, consultants, business bigwigs, members of the media and labor leaders who really wield power in New York.
In making our selections, we have sought to insulate our process from any preconceived notions or considerations beyond this exercise’s only objective: accuracy. We have attempted not to be awed by titles or egos, and instead to make a clearheaded evaluation of a person’s power not on paper but in practice.
Some may be surprised by how comparatively few elected officials are on this list. Others may be angered by the glaring lack of diversity among our selectees, and the paucity of women, particularly at the highest rungs of this ranking. These observations cannot be disputed. We have made our choices based upon what we believed to be a genuine reflection of Albany—even while being disheartened by the image cast.
As our savvy readers can surely appreciate, the challenges in compiling a list such as this one are daunting and many. One particularly noteworthy difficulty is the shifting sands of power amid the current dynamics at play in state government. Several of the insiders we consulted pointed out that more so than ever, victories in Albany are achieved by coalitions, not individuals, and as such it is problematic to determine who deserves credit for what.
All we can say in response is that we have done our best to cut through the noise. We fully acknowledge that the following list is subjective; in no way do we assert its infallibility. On the contrary, we hope that it provokes discussion and that, through the collective expertise of its defenders and critics, we all get a clearer understanding of our government and its internal workings.
We also grant that these rankings represent only a snapshot of this current moment in state history. Time and again we have learned all too well that those who are riding high in Albany right now could already be in line for a precipitous downfall tomorrow. Our intention has not been to prognosticate but to capture the present.
If by the time you are reading this list, one or more of its members are under arrest or shattered by allegations, we will not be surprised. All we can promise is that when we compile it again next year it will be updated to reflect all of the wild twists and turns that are certain to occur between now and then.
Correction: An earlier version of this list said that Casey Seiler is the president of the Legislative Correspondents Association. In fact, he used to be the LCA president.
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