Person

Ken Sunshine

Nationality:

American

Organization:

Sunshine Sachs

Ken Sunshine is the founder of Sunshine Sachs, a public relations consulting firm with connections to the Democratic Party.

Sunshine spent almost two decades working for Democratic campaigns and politicians, including former New York Governor Mario Cuomo (D), former U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), and former U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA). The first client at his newly founded firm was the Democratic National Convention.

Sunshine’s firm has become one of the premier public relations firms in the United States with numerous major celebrity, union, and left-of-center nonprofit advocacy clients. In 2006, New York magazine named Sunshine one of New York City’s most influential people. [1]

Activism and Early Career

Ken Sunshine attended Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations where he was involved in local political activism, particularly opposition to the Vietnam War. Sunshine “wasn’t part of the most radical groups, but [he] certainly allied with them on basic goals.” He later said of his time at Cornell: “I remember the politics more than I do the academics.” [2]

After graduating from Cornell, Sunshine worked at a social service agency for troubled teens in Long Island. Sunshine has said that he got “caught up with” the Democratic Party because of his outrage at the Watergate Scandal. Sunshine was elected as a delegate supporting George McGovern (D-SD) at the 1972 Democratic National Convention. He was extremely disappointed by the re-election of President Richard Nixon, whom he considers to be one of the worst American presidents of all time. [3]

Sunshine then worked on numerous campaigns and for numerous Democratic politicians mostly based in New York. He joined the Bronx borough president campaign of Ben Abrahms (D). He worked for Bella Abzug (D-NY), a leader of the feminist movement and a U.S. Representative in the 1970s, who was later an unsuccessful New York City mayoral candidate. Sunshine worked for Mario Cuomo (D-NY), former governor of New York and father of Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), also a former New York Governor. In 1980, Sunshine worked on the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who lost in the Democratic primaries to then-incumbent president Jimmy Carter (D). [4]

Throughout the 1980s, Sunshine worked on and off for the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in public relations. In 1989, Sunshine ran the New York mayoral campaign of his friend, David Dinkins (D). Upon his victory, Sunshine became Dinkins’s chief of staff. The following year, Sunshine left the administration and soon after founded his public relations company. [5]

Sunshine Sachs

Ken Sunshine started Ken Sunshine Consultants in 1991 [6] to earn more money and become his own boss rather than continuing to work in government. In 1991, Sunshine got his first client, the Democratic National Convention, which was hosting its convention in New York City in 1992. He also did public relations work for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. Sunshine worked closely with Ron Brown, the chairman of the Democratic Party and the future secretary of commerce under President Clinton. After the election, Sunshine was invited to the Clinton White House many times. [7]

Sunshine’s second client was Barbra Streisand. [8]

Ken Sunshine Consultants expanded from New York to Los Angeles and became well-established as a boutique firm for celebrities, with clients such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Natalie Portman, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Jennifer Lopez, and Michael Jackson’s family. [9]

The firm also brought on companies such as Lyft and Facebook; [10] labor unions, such as 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 237; [11] and left-leaning advocacy groups, such as Women’s March and Planned Parenthood. [12]

In 2007, Sunshine made his second-in-command, Shawn Sachs, a partner at the firm, and renamed it Sunshine, Sachs and Associates. [13]

Reputation

Through his work at Sunshine Sachs, Ken Sunshine developed a reputation for using tough tactics to defend his clients. The New York Times has described him using “bare-knuckle tactics,” and a British publication described him as a “wily old fox.” Sunshine has said: “We don’t play it safe, we’re not genteel. We name names and battle the media when we have to.” [14]

Sunshine emphasizes privacy with his clients and the media. He has said that he will never write a book about his experiences because he despises “kiss-and-tell stories.” [15] Sunshine has also said: “We pride ourselves on our anonymity… there are too many people who do this kind of work to get exposure for themselves—that’s the antithesis of the way we work. There have been many situations over many years involving high-profile, crisis-oriented situations with celebrities, that no one even knew we were working on.” [16]

Sunshine has been credited with encouraging celebrities to change their behavior to avoid the attention of tabloids. [17]

New Yorkers United Together

In March 2017, Ken Sunshine co-founded and then briefly ran New Yorkers United Together with Stephen Cohen and Christine Quinn. The group was started in reaction to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. [18]

In Jul 2017, the group attracted controversy for running an ad supporting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D-NY) immigration policies. According to a New York Times article, the ad arguably constituted a violation of campaign finance law since Governor Cuomo claimed no connection to the ad, but its funders were all close associates, and the ad director’s website labeled it with “Client: Andrew Cuomo.” [19]

Presently, New Yorkers United Together’s website links to the homepage of Siegel Strategies, the consulting company of Jimmy Siegel, who made the Cuomo ad. [20]

Politics

Political Views

Ken Sunshine’s political views generally align with the Democratic Party, though he dislikes many aspects of the organization. In a 2007 interview, he described his past work with the party and present consideration of it as “knocking my head against the wall.” [21] Sunshine has been described as a friend of former President Bill Clinton, former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York), [22] and former New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). [23]

In the same 2007 interview, Sunshine described President George W. Bush as the worst president in American history, followed by President Richard Nixon. [24]

Sunshine opposed the Vietnam and Iraq Wars. [25]

In December 2016, Sunshine Sachs cancelled its annual holiday party due to the election of President Donald Trump “as a gesture of support for immigrants, women, LGBT people and the environment.” Firm partner Shawn Sachs said of the election: “Being the diverse workplace we are, many of us felt under assault.” The party budget was donated to 16 advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Immigrant Defense Fund. [26]

Fundraisers

Sunshine hosted the first fundraiser for Bill de Blasio when he ran for mayor of New York City. [27]

In June 2015, Sunshine and his wife Nancy Hollander, along with Janet and Marvin Rosen, the former finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee, hosted a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) presidential campaign. [28]

Political Donations

Sunshine has donated to the political campaigns of numerous Democratic politicians, including former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), U.S. Rep. Bill Suozzi (D-NY), U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). [29]

Boards

Sunshine sits on the boards of the City University of New York, and the board of directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Community Service Society, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, the Type Media Center, and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC. [30]

References

  1. Shafrir, Doree. “Ken Sunshine Would Never Have Paris Hilton.” Gawker. July 2, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.gawker.com/274443/ken-sunshine-would-never-have-paris-hilton. ^
  2. Weiss, Rebecca. “The Cornell Connection: Ken Sunshine ’70.” The Cornell Daily Sun. October 24, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://cornellsun.com/2007/10/24/the-cornell-connection-ken-sunshine-70/. ^
  3. Weiss, Rebecca. “The Cornell Connection: Ken Sunshine ’70.” The Cornell Daily Sun. October 24, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://cornellsun.com/2007/10/24/the-cornell-connection-ken-sunshine-70/. ^
  4. Weiss, Rebecca. “The Cornell Connection: Ken Sunshine ’70.” The Cornell Daily Sun. October 24, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://cornellsun.com/2007/10/24/the-cornell-connection-ken-sunshine-70/. ^
  5. Weiss, Rebecca. “The Cornell Connection: Ken Sunshine ’70.” The Cornell Daily Sun. October 24, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://cornellsun.com/2007/10/24/the-cornell-connection-ken-sunshine-70/. ^
  6. “The History of PR Firm Sunshine Sachs.” Everything PR. June 2, 2018. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://everything-pr.com/sunshine-sachs-public-relations/. ^
  7. Weiss, Rebecca. “The Cornell Connection: Ken Sunshine ’70.” The Cornell Daily Sun. October 24, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://cornellsun.com/2007/10/24/the-cornell-connection-ken-sunshine-70/. ^
  8. “A Special Place in His Heart.” Cornel Industrial Labor Relations. October 26, 2017. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.ilr.cornell.edu/news/alumni/special-place-his-heart. ^
  9. Leonard, Tom. “Dark arts of Meghan’s Mr. Sunshine, the Manhattan PR who ‘employs bare-knuckle tactics’ to protect his A-list clients – as experts warn US firm will struggle to understand the relationship between the public and Royal Family.” Daily Mail. September 6, 2019. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7437193/Meghans-Mr-Sunshine-Manhattan-PR-employs-bare-knuckle-tactics-protect-clients.html. ^
  10. “ILRAA: Student-Alumni Career Pathways.” Cornell University. October 27, 2017. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://events.cornell.edu/event/ilraa_student-alumni_career_pathways. ^
  11. “ILRAA: Student-Alumni Career Pathways.” Cornell University. October 27, 2017. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://events.cornell.edu/event/ilraa_student-alumni_career_pathways. ^
  12. “ILRAA: Student-Alumni Career Pathways.” Cornell University. October 27, 2017. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://events.cornell.edu/event/ilraa_student-alumni_career_pathways. ^
  13. Weiss, Rebecca. “The Cornell Connection: Ken Sunshine ’70.” The Cornell Daily Sun. October 24, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://cornellsun.com/2007/10/24/the-cornell-connection-ken-sunshine-70/. ^
  14. Leonard, Tom. “Dark arts of Meghan’s Mr. Sunshine, the Manhattan PR who ‘employs bare-knuckle tactics’ to protect his A-list clients – as experts warn US firm will struggle to understand the relationship between the public and Royal Family.” Daily Mail. September 6, 2019. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7437193/Meghans-Mr-Sunshine-Manhattan-PR-employs-bare-knuckle-tactics-protect-clients.html. ^
  15. Weiss, Rebecca. “The Cornell Connection: Ken Sunshine ’70.” The Cornell Daily Sun. October 24, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://cornellsun.com/2007/10/24/the-cornell-connection-ken-sunshine-70/. ^
  16. Shafrir, Doree. “Ken Sunshine Would Never Have Paris Hilton.” Gawker. July 2, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.gawker.com/274443/ken-sunshine-would-never-have-paris-hilton. ^
  17. Shafrir, Doree. “Ken Sunshine Would Never Have Paris Hilton.” Gawker. July 2, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.gawker.com/274443/ken-sunshine-would-never-have-paris-hilton. ^
  18. Rosenthal, Brian M. “No Links to Cuomo? Their Ad Was Labeled ‘Client: Andrew Curomo’.” The New York Times. July 26, 2017. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/26/nyregion/watchdogs-say-cuomo-is-skirting-campaign-finance-rules.html. ^
  19. Rosenthal, Brian M. “No Links to Cuomo? Their Ad Was Labeled ‘Client: Andrew Curomo’.” The New York Times. July 26, 2017. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/26/nyregion/watchdogs-say-cuomo-is-skirting-campaign-finance-rules.html. ^
  20. [1] Rosenthal, Brian M. “No Links to Cuomo? Their Ad Was Labeled ‘Client: Andrew Curomo’.” The New York Times. July 26, 2017. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/26/nyregion/watchdogs-say-cuomo-is-skirting-campaign-finance-rules.html. ^
  21. Weiss, Rebecca. “The Cornell Connection: Ken Sunshine ’70.” The Cornell Daily Sun. October 24, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://cornellsun.com/2007/10/24/the-cornell-connection-ken-sunshine-70/. ^
  22. Karni, Annie. “De Blasio ally to hold Clinton fundraiser.” Politico. June 5, 2015. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/de-blasio-ally-to-hold-clinton-fundraiser-118694?cmpid=sf&fbclid=IwAR0ZrV2u_QN7I8VeLqtB6PuL1OembEEDUl_Q0nNEeeMlzRV1dn070XiUB9Y. ^
  23. Fanto, Clarence. “The Bottom Line: Can NY’s tough-guy governor fight his way out of this mess?” The Berkshire Eagle. February 26, 2021. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.berkshireeagle.com/news/local/clarence-fanto-the-bottom-line-can-nys-tough-guy-governor-fight-his-way-out-of/article_5bcbd9aa-7876-11eb-b52c-43cb31afe86b.html. ^
  24. Weiss, Rebecca. “The Cornell Connection: Ken Sunshine ’70.” The Cornell Daily Sun. October 24, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://cornellsun.com/2007/10/24/the-cornell-connection-ken-sunshine-70/. ^
  25. Weiss, Rebecca. “The Cornell Connection: Ken Sunshine ’70.” The Cornell Daily Sun. October 24, 2007. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://cornellsun.com/2007/10/24/the-cornell-connection-ken-sunshine-70/. ^
  26. Donnelley, Matt. “Hollywood PR Firm Cancels Holiday Parties in Post-Trump Funk.” The Wrap. December 6, 2016. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.thewrap.com/hollywood-pr-firm-cancels-holiday-parties-sunshine-sachs-post-trump/. ^
  27. Karni, Annie. “De Blasio ally to hold Clinton fundraiser.” Politico. June 5, 2015. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/de-blasio-ally-to-hold-clinton-fundraiser-118694?cmpid=sf&fbclid=IwAR0ZrV2u_QN7I8VeLqtB6PuL1OembEEDUl_Q0nNEeeMlzRV1dn070XiUB9Y. ^
  28. Karni, Annie. “De Blasio ally to hold Clinton fundraiser.” Politico. June 5, 2015. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/de-blasio-ally-to-hold-clinton-fundraiser-118694?cmpid=sf&fbclid=IwAR0ZrV2u_QN7I8VeLqtB6PuL1OembEEDUl_Q0nNEeeMlzRV1dn070XiUB9Y. ^
  29. “Donor Seach: Ken Sunshine.” Open Secrets. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/search?q=ken+sunshine&type=donors. ^
  30. “Ken Sunshine.” Long Island University Global Service Institute. Accessed February 23, 2022. https://globalserviceinstitute.org/honorary-advisory-board/ken-sunshine/. ^

Connected Organizations

  1. State Innovation Exchange (SIX) (Non-profit)
    Director
  2. Sunshine Sachs (For-profit)
    Founder and co-CEO
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