For-profit

Hilltop Public Solutions (HPS)

Website:

hilltoppublicsolutions.com

Formation:

January 2006 in Washington, D.C.

Founders:

Nick Baldick

Mo Eleithee

President:

Nick Baldick

Hilltop Public Solutions (HPS) is a left-of-center political consulting firm that manages Democratic political and left-of-center advocacy campaigns.[1] The company’s clients have included the campaigns of former President Barack Obama, 2016 Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, and numerous U.S. Senate and congressional candidate campaigns.[2] The company has also worked for environmentalist advocacy groups including Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action and the League of Conservation Voters, liberal opposition research groups American Bridge 21st Century and People for the American Way, [3] the far-left legislative advocacy group Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).[4]

In 2008, HPS and its founder, Nick Baldick, were embroiled in a sex scandal surrounding former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards (D-N.C.). Baldick admitted that he helped hide Edwards’ infidelity, testifying at Edwards’s trial on federal campaign finance charges that he had arranged for a no-show job through HPS for a former Edwards staffer who had falsely claimed paternity of Edwards’ illegitimate child and was in hiding with the senator’s mistress and new baby until after the election.[5]

HPS has claimed that it is not a lobbying firm; however, the company has filed at least one state lobbying registration.[6] In 2015 it was reported that HPS had contacted New York government officials on behalf of its corporate clients, which subsequently received million-dollar contracts from the city.[7]

Organizational Overview

Nick Baldick and Mo Elleithee formed Hilltop Public Solutions (HPS) in January 2006.[8] In 2013, Elleithee took a leave of absence from the company to serve as communications director for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). [9] HPS is a Democratic-aligned public relations and political consulting firm that serves Democratic political candidates and left-of-center issue advocacy groups.[10]

The company provides “public affairs” consulting advice, manages Democratic political campaigns and left-of-center advocacy coalitions, and runs left-leaning advocacy operations nationwide.[11]

Originally founded in Washington D.C., the organization has hired influential Democratic operatives and created satellite offices in eleven areas including, New York, Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, New England, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State.[12] [13]

Campaigns

According to Federal Election records HPS has been paid over $2 million by 39 different Democratic Party political campaigns, political action committees (PACs), and left-of-center political committees.  The company’s Democratic political campaign clients include the presidential campaigns of President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D); U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Illinois); numerous congressional candidate campaigns; the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC; and the state Democratic Parties of Virginia and Nevada.[14]

The company also worked for a number of left-of-center technology, healthcare, and energy issue committees as well as left-leaning non-profit organizations and American Indian tribes.[15] Their advocacy clients include billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action, the League of Conservation Voters, American Bridge 21st Century, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Committee for Justice and Fairness, the Coalition for Progressive Leadership, Democracy for America, and People for the American Way.[16] The company has also worked with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA).[17]

The HPS website claims that the company managed a nearly $100 million coalition advocacy campaign in support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).[18] HPS was “directly involved in the establishment” of the controversial political committees Healthy Economy Now and Americans for Stable Quality Care, which ran advertisements in favor of health care reform. These committees were funded by the pharmaceutical lobbying group PHRMA and were also supported by the Obama White House.[19]

John Edwards Scandal

In 2008 Nick Baldick served as an HPS-employed political consultant to the presidential campaign PAC of former U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolina), Alliance for a New America.[20]

In 2011, Baldick was listed on a grand jury subpoena investigating over $3 million in un-itemized “consulting” expenditures from the Alliance for a New America to a similarly-named private entity called Alliance for a New America LLC.[21]

The left-leaning Sunlight Foundation wrote that the PAC’s spending maneuver seemed to be “quite illegal” and “quite a bit more like money laundering” and other left-of-center tax experts claimed that the group was clearly attempting to hide the details of PAC’s expenditures.[22]

During the ensuing legal case against Edwards, Baldick testified that he and billionaire donor Fred Baron knew that during the 2008 campaign Edwards was having an affair with Rielle Hunter and also knew that campaign staffer Andrew Young had “taken one for the team” by “falsely claiming paternity” over Hunter’s child. Baldick also testified that he and Baron devised a plan to have the billionaire Baron pay Young’ a salary for a no-show job with Baldick’s firm HPS through the end of the 2008 campaign “while he [Young] was on the run with the senator’s mistress and new baby.”[23]

Lobbying and Issue Activities

Hilltop has claimed that it is not a lobbying firm.[24] However, HPS has registered as a state lobbying firm. In 2018, the firm registered as a lobbying firm representing 1-800-Contacts against two Rhode Island state bills.[25]

In 2013, HPS’s Nick Baldick and Bill Hyers advised Bill De Blasio’s mayoral campaign. Additionally, the firm had numerous other ties to City Hall and was described as “a veritable revolving door of former de Blasio staffers. [26]

As a result of these relationships, in the 18 months after De Blasio’s victory HPS was paid approximately $330,000 from De Blasio’s campaign and a controversial De Blasio-aligned organization, the Campaign for One New York. During that time HPS provided communications advice to De Blasio’s City Hall. At the same time the company had a number of clients with issues before the New York City Council, including Airbnb and Fortis Property Group, which was redeveloping the former Long Island College Hospital complex in Brooklyn.[27]

In response to concerns from public watchdog group Common Cause New York, HPS claimed that it did not lobby city hall.[28] However, the New York Post reported that HPS employees sought to set up a meeting between city officials and HPS’ client Spruce Technology. Subsequently Spruce was awarded over $6 million in city contracts.[29]

People

Nick Baldick

Nicholas “Nick” Baldick is the president and founder of Hilltop Public Solutions. Prior to forming HPS Baldick served as the national campaign manager for Senator John Edwards’ 2003 presidential campaign.[30] Baldick, has been involved with every Democratic presidential campaign since 1992.[31]

Other Partners

In 2015, HPS hired former U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) to increase the firm’s presence in Alaska. [32]

In 2013, HPS hired Bill Hyers in the firm’s New York office. Previously Hyers served as campaign manager for U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio. Hyers also served as President Barack Obama’s Pennsylvania State Director in 2011.[33]

In 2015, HPS hired New York Assemblyman Michael Blake (D-Bronx) as a partner in its New York office. The liberal-leaning watchdog group Common Cause New York criticized Blake’s hiring as “particularly brazen and disturbing” [34]

In 2014, HPS hired Missoula City Councilwoman and outspoken left-of-center activist Caitlin Copple in the firm’s Montana office.[35]

In 2013, HPS hired the “powerful Colorado Democratic operative” Craig Hughes. Hughes previously worked for the campaigns of President Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado).[36]

References

  1. “Our Services.” Hilltop Public Solutions Website. Undated. Accessed June 27, 2018. http://hilltoppublicsolutions.com/ ^
  2. Center for Responsive Politics. “Vendor/Recipient: Hilltop Public Solutions.” Opensecrets.org. As of June 11, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/expends/vendor.php?year=2018&vendor=Hilltop+Public+Solutions ^
  3. Center for Responsive Politics. “Vendor/Recipient: Hilltop Public Solutions.” Opensecrets.org. As of June 11, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/expends/vendor.php?year=2018&vendor=Hilltop+Public+Solutions ^
  4. Foran, Clare and Geman, Ben. “Inside a Green Billionaire’s Brain Trust.” The Atlantic. June 10, 2014. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/06/inside-a-green-billionaires-brain-trust/443961/ ^
  5. Dimond, Diane. “Witness Testifies He Took Rielle Hunter to an Airport in the Dead of Night.” The Daily Beast. May 7, 2012. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.thedailybeast.com/witness-testifies-he-took-rielle-hunter-to-an-airport-in-the-dead-of-night ^
  6. “Lobbying Firm Activities Report: Hilltop Public Solutions.” The Rhode Island Department of State. February 2018. Filed April 26, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://apps.sos.ri.gov/generated_reports/view/11465 ^
  7. Gonen, Yoav. “De Blasio-tied p.r. firm cashed in after pitch to City Hall: emails.” N.Y. Post. August 25, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://nypost.com/2017/08/25/de-blasio-tied-p-r-firm-cashed-in-after-pitch-to-city-hall-emails/ ^
  8. Allen, Mike. “Politico Playbook.” Politico. August 12, 2013. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.politico.com/tipsheets/playbook/2013/08/mo-elleithee-named-dnc-communications-director-attorney-general-holder-in-sf-today-we-must-never-stop-being-tough-on-crime-but-we-must-also-be-smarter-on-crime-twitter-taking-steps-to-go-011401 ^
  9. Allen, Mike. “Politico Playbook.” Politico. August 12, 2013. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.politico.com/tipsheets/playbook/2013/08/mo-elleithee-named-dnc-communications-director-attorney-general-holder-in-sf-today-we-must-never-stop-being-tough-on-crime-but-we-must-also-be-smarter-on-crime-twitter-taking-steps-to-go-011401 ^
  10. Beckel, Micael. “Drug lobby donation went to pro-Democratic nonprofit.” The Center For Public Integrity. November 30, 2012. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/11/30/11878/drug-lobby-donation-went-pro-democratic-nonprofit ^
  11. “Our Services.” Hilltop Public Solutions Website. Undated. Accessed June 27, 2018. http://hilltoppublicsolutions.com ^
  12. Allen, Mike. “Politico Playbook.” Politico. August 12, 2013. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.politico.com/tipsheets/playbook/2013/08/mo-elleithee-named-dnc-communications-director-attorney-general-holder-in-sf-today-we-must-never-stop-being-tough-on-crime-but-we-must-also-be-smarter-on-crime-twitter-taking-steps-to-go-011401 ^
  13. “Our Team.” Hilltop Public Solutions Website. Undated. Accessed June 27, 2018. http://hilltoppublicsolutions.com/our-team/#new-york ^
  14. Center for Responsive Politics. “Vendor/Recipient: Hilltop Public Solutions.” Opensecrets.org. As of June 11, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/expends/vendor.php?year=2018&vendor=Hilltop+Public+Solutions ^
  15. Hilltop Public Solutions. “Press Release: Former Senator Mark Begich Joins Hilltop Public Solutions As Special Counsel.” Politico. September 17, 2015. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.politico.com/f/?id=0000014f-d7d7-d11e-afcf-fff7ef130000 ^
  16. Center for Responsive Politics. “Vendor/Recipient: Hilltop Public Solutions.” Opensecrets.org. As of June 11, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/expends/vendor.php?year=2018&vendor=Hilltop+Public+Solutions ^
  17. Foran, Clare and Geman, Ben. “Inside a Green Billionaire’s Brain Trust.” The Atlantic. June 10, 2014. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/06/inside-a-green-billionaires-brain-trust/443961/ ^
  18. “Our Services.” Hilltop Public Solutions Website. Undated. Accessed June 27, 2018. http://hilltoppublicsolutions.com/ ^
  19. Majority Staff. “Staff Memo On Obamacare Negotiations.” The Committee on Energy and Commerce. June 8, 2012. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.fdanews.com/ext/resources/files/archives/0/06/06-11-12-PhRMA1.pdf ^
  20. Gerstein, Josh. “Nick Baldick: 527 backing John Edwards in 2008 kept clean.” Politico. May 8, 2012. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2012/05/nick-baldick-527-backing-john-edwards-in-2008-kept-clean-122733 ^
  21. Associated Press. “Grand jury probing what John Edwards knew about money used to cover up sex scandal, love child.” N.Y. Daily News. January 18, 2011. Accessed June 27, 2018. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/grand-jury-probing-john-edwards-knew-money-cover-sex-scandal-love-child-article-1.152230 ^
  22. Blumenthal, Paul. “The John Edwards Loophole?” Sunlight Foundation. January 18, 2011. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://sunlightfoundation.com/2011/01/18/the-john-edwards-loophole/ ^
  23. Dimond, Diane. “Witness Testifies He Took Rielle Hunter to an Airport in the Dead of Night.” The Daily Beast. May 7, 2012. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.thedailybeast.com/witness-testifies-he-took-rielle-hunter-to-an-airport-in-the-dead-of-night ^
  24. Hilltop Public Solutions. “Press Release: Former Senator Mark Begich Joins Hilltop Public Solutions As Special Counsel.” Politico. September 17, 2015. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.politico.com/f/?id=0000014f-d7d7-d11e-afcf-fff7ef130000 ^
  25. “Lobbying Firm Activities Report: Hilltop Public Solutions.” The Rhode Island Department of State. February 2018. Filed April 26, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://apps.sos.ri.gov/generated_reports/view/11465 ^
  26. Kaplan, Thomas. “Mayor de Blasio’s Hired Guns: Private Consultants Help Shape City Hall.” N.Y. Times. November 4, 2015. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20151217143020/https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/05/nyregion/mayor-de-blasios-hired-guns-private-consultants-help-shape-city-hall.html ^
  27. Kaplan, Thomas. “Mayor de Blasio’s Hired Guns: Private Consultants Help Shape City Hall.” N.Y. Times. November 4, 2015. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20151217143020/https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/05/nyregion/mayor-de-blasios-hired-guns-private-consultants-help-shape-city-hall.html ^
  28. Kaplan, Thomas. “Mayor de Blasio’s Hired Guns: Private Consultants Help Shape City Hall.” N.Y. Times. November 4, 2015. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20151217143020/https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/05/nyregion/mayor-de-blasios-hired-guns-private-consultants-help-shape-city-hall.html ^
  29. Gonen, Yoav. “De Blasio-tied p.r. firm cashed in after pitch to City Hall: emails.” N.Y. Post. August 25, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://nypost.com/2017/08/25/de-blasio-tied-p-r-firm-cashed-in-after-pitch-to-city-hall-emails/ ^
  30. “Alumnus/Alumna of the Month: Nicholas R. Baldick ’95.” NYU Law. July 2005-06. Accessed June 27, 2018. http://www.law.nyu.edu/alumni/almo/pastalmos/20052006almos/nicholasrbaldickjuly ^
  31. Beckel, Micael. “Drug lobby donation went to pro-Democratic nonprofit.” The Center For Public Integrity. November 30, 2012. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/11/30/11878/drug-lobby-donation-went-pro-democratic-nonprofit ^
  32. Hilltop Public Solutions. “Press Release: Former Senator Mark Begich Joins Hilltop Public Solutions As Special Counsel.” Politico. September 17, 2015. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.politico.com/f/?id=0000014f-d7d7-d11e-afcf-fff7ef130000 ^
  33. Haberman, Maggie. “Hyers to join Hilltop Public Solutions.” Politico. December 12, 2013. Accessed June 27, 2018. https://www.politico.com/story/2013/12/bill-hyers-to-join-hilltop-public-solutions-101070 ^
  34. Bredderman, Will. “Good Government Groups Blast Bronx Assemblyman’s New Side Gig.” The Observer. December 11, 2015. Accessed June 27, 2018. http://observer.com/2015/12/good-government-groups-blast-bronx-assemblymans-new-side-gig/ ^
  35. Catlett, Ron. “Leftist Missoula City Councilwoman Joins Hilltop Public Solutions.” MediaTrackers.org website. April 30, 2014. Accessed June 27, 2018. http://mediatrackers.org/2014/04/30/leftist-missoula-city-councilwoman-joins-hilltop-public-solutions/ ^
  36. Lee, Kurits. “Craig Hughes, Democratic political operative, headed to national firm.” The Denver Post. April 17, 2013. Accessed June 27, 2018. http://blogs.denverpost.com/thespot/topic/hilltop-public-solutions/ ^
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