Updated 10/18/2021: Analysis of Political Consultants tied to the Fox campaign (bookmark).
Brian Fox isn’t a well-known Bay Ridge figure. With no previous political or civic experience, he announced his candidacy with little fanfare. He had no primary challenger. He had an embarrassing website. He struggled to qualify for matching funds. And his pitch is always vague: he’s a local entrepreneur. He got into the race because Justin Brannan voted to defund the NYPD (he didn’t). When asked where he grew up, he demurs. When asked about his past, his handlers and go-betweens are quick to jump in. When asked anything he doesn’t have a scripted answer for, his staff don’t just jump in, they interrupt him and usher you away.
Never before have we seen a candidate so quick to pre-emptively block progressive activists in the neighborhood. Never before have we had one who seems to have arrived with so little establishing credentials. We’ve never seen Facebook comments from constituents, even innocuous questions, deleted with such relish. Quite frankly, never before has a local city council campaign been so secretive about its own candidate.
After intense and ongoing research, we’ve found that there is a simple explanation for this. Brian Fox is a right-wing extremist in sheep clothing, attempting to go through the motions of a normal Republican campaign in a left-of-center district.
Brian Fox’s campaign is attempting to correct the mistakes of last year’s Assembly Candidate, Mark Szuszkiewicz. Mark came from the same talent pool of young but mostly unknown local alt-right diehards, which is growing into a new GOP backbench after the collapse of ex-State Senator Marty Golden’s political fiefdom. But unlike Golden’s crew, the new blood is anything but your traditional old-school South Brooklyn Republican. Bred on memes and alt-right media content, they’re far more extreme than even the local GOP voting base would be outwardly comfortable with.
Fox’s campaign knows it cannot be as outwardly radical as Szuszkiewicz was. It’s a much more liberal-leaning district. However, it’s hard to hide everything about a candidate’s past. And it’s nearly impossible to hide his political allies, or Fox’s own tendency to trample the careful facade his campaign is trying to erect around him.
Today, we make a few modest steps to tear that facade down.
What We Do Know
We should start with some very basic information. Who is Brian Fox? Where does he come from? What sort of career has he had? Here’s a bit of context to help understand the rest of this article…
Brian Fox identifies as Greek and Italian
We actually have gotten this question a lot, both in-person and via. DM. Brian Fox has publicly identified as having both Greek and Italian heritage.
Work History with Information Technology Recruitment Firms
Brian Fox’s public LinkedIn page contains work history going back to 2011. His current career is in HR recruitment, specializing in tech and IT workers for Wall Street companies. His early career was in a brokerage firm that closed due to rampant corruption. He has cited his time working on Wall Street as having informed his conservative worldview.
His current firm is Phillip Martin Talent Advisors. The firm is Mr. Fox’s first foray into owning and running a business. He’s referred to it as a “headhunter” agency. At the moment, it seems to have only one employee: Mr. Fox himself. It was incorporated on November 16th, 2020.
We’re more or less headhunters, but we place talented individuals in with companies that are looking to hire certain technology, uh, individuals… I run a company, right now out of the house.Brian Fox as interviewed on the Urban Conservative podcast
His Family Originally Were From Bay Ridge
Brian Fox’s parents originally spent time in Bay Ridge, according to his interview on the Urban Conservative podcast, a Suffolk-county-based podcast. Fox’s father ran a business as a certified public accountant.
What We Don’t Know
How Long Has Brian Fox Lived in Bay Ridge?
We don’t consider this a valid concern. Sure, we could post stuff… but at Radio Free Bay Ridge, we believe that anyone can have something to contribute to our community, regardless of how long they have lived here. Giving in to Nativism has a chilling effect on the political voice of renters, immigrants, and marginalized people. So while Brian Fox has not made his history clear in any of his public statements, he has indicated that he identifies with the neighborhood, and that is good enough for us.
This is Fox’s one and only freebie.
Brian Fox’s Controversies
“Make Bay Ridge White Again”
This is (for us at least) where it all started. It’s when we were tipped off that something wasn’t quite right.
On July 1st, Brian Fox’s Twitter account liked a Twitter comment that declared that Brian Fox would “make Bay Ridge white again.” The Tweet, initially made by Santo (@Maliotakis4Prez), claimed that Brian Fox would restore NYC to its “former glory” by supporting cops and “make Bayridge [sic] white again!”
The comment was a white supremacist call to action at a time when Bay Ridge’s population is becoming increasingly more diverse.
Fox liked the comment from his official Twitter account until Radio Free Bay Ridge publicized it. On July 3rd, two full days after initially liking the comment, Brian Fox quietly un-liked the tweet. Neither Fox nor his campaign surrogates at the time, Liam McCabe or John Quaglione, made any official statement.
When unofficially asked at a recent street fair, a surrogate for Mr. Fox only claimed that the employee who liked the tweet “had been fired”. This cannot be confirmed. Based on our own research, all of Fox’s major volunteers (i.e. those who could conceivably have been given access to his social media) continue to be active with his campaign. It is also doubtful that anyone other than Mr. Fox and his campaign manager, Liam McCabe, would have had access to his social media in July of 2021. Most posts by Mr. Fox at this time were written as if they came from Mr. Fox himself, referred to him in the first person, and occasionally occurred outside of normal business hours.
As of the publication of this article, Brian Fox continues to follow the person who made the racist Tweet, nearly three months afterward. And as we’ll see below, this is not an isolated incident.
Calling Black Lives Matter a Domestic Terrorist Organization
During his interview with the Urban Conservative Podcast on May 2nd, Fox made the following statement:
“I one-hundred-percent denounce. I denounce Antifa. I denounce BLM. Any other major terrorist… major or domestic terrorist organization. I am one-hundred-percent not for that.”
Connections to Alt-Right Extremist Mark Szuszkiewicz
Brian Fox is significantly connected through campaign volunteers and campaign finance donations to multiple QAnon proponents, some of whom attended the January 6th Capitol Riots.
First and foremost is Mark Szuszkiewicz. Mr. Szuszkiewicz is a current (as of 2021) political candidate for City Council in District 47, which covers Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, and Sea Gate. He also previously ran in 2020 for the State Assembly District 46, losing to incumbent Democrat Mathylde Frontus in a very close race.
Mr. Szuszkiewicz has repeatedly pushed QAnon conspiracy theories for the past two years. Reporting from Curbed revealed that Szuszkiewicz used the #qanon hashtags repeatedly, and had made numerous COVID conspiracy posts to his personal and public accounts. He suggested that Tom Hanks was a pedophile in a deleted Instagram post, and attended the January 6th rally to overturn the election in Washington D.C.
There is no indication that Szuszkiewicz illegally entered the capitol building, though he did post photos on Instagram showing that he moved past the police barricades and climbed the scaffolding set up for the inauguration. He has also become a recurring speaker at anti-vaccine and anti-mask protests throughout the city, reinforcing conspiracy theories about vaccines causing unexplained deaths and comparing businesses asking people to wear a mask to Nazi Germany.
Since the January 6th riots, Szuszkiewicz has become involved in “Trump Flag Drops”. These stunts usually involve unfurling signs contesting the result of the Presidential election at public events. They are led by Dion Cini, who has been called a fringe white supremacist and provocateur. Mr. Cini was caught on video shouting “white pride” at a Trump boat rally that he organized in Tampa, Florida. The boat rally attracted such right-wing figures as Roger Stone, in addition to Mr. Szuszkiewicz himself.
Mark Szuszkiewicz was in the audience when Mr. Cini shouted “white pride”, and Mark gave a speech as part of the same event. In fact, Mark was personally handed the microphone by Mr. Cini. Afterward, Mr. Szuszkiewicz was photographed at a “smaller get together” with Mr. Cini on the beach. Szuszkiewicz can be seen giving a “thumbs up” sign while Mr. Cini flashes a white power hand gesture (the same gesture Cini made when yelling “white pride” earlier.) Mr. Cini subsequently showed up at Mr. Szuszkiewicz’s birthday party in Bay Ridge, and has donated to his campaign.
Brian Fox’s current campaign manager, Liam McCabe, previously served as Szuszkiewicz’s campaign manager in 2020. This sharing of staff continues through all levels of Fox’s campaign. For example, Brian Fox’s current Field Manager Luke Gemma is simultaneously serving a similar role as Mark Szuszkiewicz’s Volunteer Coordinator. Brian Fox also employs Szuszkiewicz’s Campaign Outreach Coordinator Michael DeMartino Jr. The Fox campaign has paid him over $930 as an hourly worker.
During the current election cycle, Fox has attended multiple joint fundraisers with Szuszkiewicz. So far, Fox has received $90 in campaign contributions from Szuszkiewicz and his campaign. They are longtime allies and had combined their resources to get each other on the ballot during petitioning. Even their campaign Twitter handles follow the same format: @BrianFox4NYC and @Mark4NY.
Brian Fox’s Personal Conspiracy Theory Posts
There is no evidence yet that Fox attended the January 6th capitol riots. He has expressed sympathy, however, with the capitol rioters, and has personally pushed QAnon-based conspiracy theories.
In one Facebook post, Fox lamented the use of the national guard to protect Washington D.C. in the aftermath of the riot, and suggested it was part of a Democratic conspiracy. The National Guard had been deployed past inauguration day due to concerns about another riot. Fox’s post arrived a few weeks after the supposed “Great Awakening”, which QAnon supporters believed would occur on January 20th before the inauguration of President Biden. According to the conspiracy theory, President Biden was to be arrested by the US military during his inauguration, and martial law was to be declared, ending in the reinstatement of Donald Trump. After this failed to occur, many QAnon supporters struggled to accept that their beliefs were wrong. Many supporters believed that Martial Law had been declared secretly, and Trump was still President. Others believed that they had been betrayed by the US military.
Rejection of 2020 Presidential Election Results and Radicalization
Brian Fox did not take the 2020 election results well. At all. Fed a steady diet of Alt-right YouTubers, Fox repeatedly posted on his Facebook profile that the 2020 Election was rigged.
The debunked conspiracy theories Fox shared included:
- Michican poll watchers finding “xeroxed” ballots (debunked)
- Dominion voting machines being hacked via wifi (debunked)
- Fake ballots being delivered overnight (debunked)
- Ballots being counted multiple times (debunked)
- Lack of video of voting drop boxes (debunked)
- Completed mail-in ballots were transferred from New York to Pennsylvania (debunked)
- Claims by anti-vax conspiracy theorist Shiva Ayyadurai about election fraud in Arizona and Michigan (debunked)
- Maricopa County GOP Chairwoman Linda Brickman witnessed votes being changed from Trump to Biden in tabulation machines (debunked)
- 35,000 votes were added to Arizona Democrats according to an anonymous, unverified email (debunked)
- The Department of Homeland Security were aware that the election could (or would) be stolen (debunked)
- A Dominion Server in Fulton County, Georgia “disappeared” (debunked)
- According to Judith Burns, an Maricopa, Arizona Poll Worker, unverifyable votes were counted (debunked)
- Sydney Powell has “check stubs” to prove paid ballot harvesting (debunked)
- Michigan poll workers were subjected to racist treatment if they weren’t Democrats (debunked)
- Google psychologically manipulated right-wing users to affect their voting likelihood (debunked)
- Sidney Powell has “hardcore” evidence of voter fraud (debunked)
- Hugo Chavez manipulated the election from beyond the grave through ownership of Dominion voting servers (debunked)
- The CIA hacked the election in Pennsylvania using “Hammer and Scorecard” technology developed to overthrow foreign Democracies (debunked)
- Trump won by so much it broke the algorithm Democrats were using to hack the election (debunked)
- Facebook tracks its users (duh)
- Facebook tracks its users to silence right-wing voices (debunked)
- People were mailed multiple ballots for the purposes of committing election fraud (debunked)
- Milwaukee had more votes than registered voters (debunked)
- A Philadelphia poll watcher was denied access as part of a voting fraud scheme (debunked)
- Numerous Nevada votes were fraudulent (debunked)
- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court went rogue and certified the election illegally (debunked)
- and more…
Honestly, it was depressing and tedious to listen through each of the videos Brian Fox found so convincing. We lost brain cells that we’re never getting back.
In all seriousness, Brian Fox’s apparent YouTube diet is a massive red flag. It contains numerous alt-right personalities and extremists. A few YouTube videos are from Steven Crowder. Crowder was demonetized by YouTube in response to his election misinformation and has been controversial for using homophobic slurs and mocking the killing of Ma’Khia Bryant, who was fatally shot by a police officer in April of 2021.
Another source Fox has shared is New Tang Dynasty News, a propaganda network run by the Epoch Times, which has been shut down numerous times for using fake Facebook accounts and pushed COVID-19 misinformation. Epoch Times is one of the biggest drivers of QAnon content on the internet.
Another, Next News Network, claimed Antifa was behind wildfires on the west coast, COVID is a false-flag operation meant to cover up deaths caused by 5G and chemtrails, and that Democrats murdered members of Seal Team 6. It is run by Gary Franchi, who managed to make it onto the Southern Poverty Law Center’s radar after claiming that FEMA was building concentration camps to jail right-wing “patriots” in 2009.
One of the videos Mr. Fox shared from Next News Network was so bad that YouTube had to delete it. We tracked down a copy by searching for the YouTube link Mr. Fox shared. The video referred to an upcoming “war” and claimed “battle lines are being drawn” over the election results, followed by numerous debunked election claims. The video ends with the host hawking a “survival pack” of gold that will help you survive of the upcoming “financial apocalypse”. Besides Facebook, the video was shared on blogs with titles such as “Red Pill Of Awakening” and “Conspiracy Daily Update”. Needless to say, such sources are unhinged from reality.
Yet another source Mr. Fox cited, the Right Side Broadcasting Network, is considered “Trump TV” by The Washington Post. It has frequently failed basic fact checks and has been cited by Reuters as an essential part of the alt-right media push that led to the Capitol riots. In the past, it provided a home to white supremacist leader Nicholas Fuentes.
In the video he shared from Right Side Broadcasting, Fox commented that there may be a conspiracy “targeting white male Republicans”. The belief that white men are being victimized by society has been identified as a sign of right-wing radicalization.
In addition to these disturbing sources, there were also the usual alt-right suspects, such as the One America News Network (OAN), Newsmax, Breitbart, Tucker Carlson, and more. Every one of Fox’s sources is listed as “Far-Right or Extreme Far-Right” on Media Bias Fact Check, an online news media misinformation tracker. None had anything higher than a “mixed” factual reporting rating.
Indeed, Fox seems to have been radicalized by this content. On his own Facebook page, someone told Fox that he was a victim of misinformation, to which Fox responded:
I dont find any of it to be false. It’s very clear as to what’s happening… Criminal activity has an expiration date for everybody… The end is dead or jail.Brian Fox, in response to someone pointing out he has been a victim of misinformation about the 2020 Presidential election (via. Facebook)
As a reminder, this is only what Brian Fox posted publically. This isn’t even going into what he may have posted privately. This is what he wants you to see.
Hiring of Alt-Right Campaign Firms and Staffers
There is only one connection between Brian Fox and an arrested capitol rioter. Aaron Mostofsky, a fur-clad rioter who allegedly stole a police riot shield and was photographed multiple times within the Capitol complex, was arrested and convicted for breaching the Capitol building. Aaron is the brother of Nachman Mostofsky, a Republican District Leader and the IT and Creative Director at Steeplechase Strategies, a political consultancy firm founded by Fox’s campaign manager Liam McCabe. The firm’s Communications Director Christine Sisto is Liam McCabe’s partner, and she also acts as the Brian Fox Campaign treasurer. The Fox campaign has spent over $21,000 on services from Steeplechase Strategies, nearly 20% of the entire campaign’s fundraising haul (including public matching funds).
Underwriting Mr. Szuszkiewicz’s Campaign
The sharing of campaign staff between Brian Fox and Mark Szuszkiewicz becomes a bit more problematic when you dig into their campaign finance disclosures. As of the publication of October 16th, the Szuszkiewicz campaign has raised only $7,522 and spent nearly all of it on basics such as a campaign bank account, accounting consultant, and print media. Notably, nowhere in his expenditures can you find Mr. Gemma, his Volunteer Coordinator (i.e., the person who coordinates volunteers, not that he is a volunteer himself). Nor can you find Mr. DeMartino, his assistant coordinator.
However, you can find both Mr. Gemma and Mr. DeMartino on the Fox campaign disclosures, where they also work as shared campaign staff. So far, Fox has officially paid Mr. Gemma $1,926 and Mr. DeMartino $1,125.
Fox has qualified for public matching funds, so much of his campaign is taxpayer-supported. Compared to Szuszkiewicz’s $7,522, Fox has raised $166,324, 85% of which comes from taxpayer funds.
It is unclear if Mr. Gemma and Mr. DeMartino have ever worked on the Szuszkiewicz campaign while being paid by the Fox campaign. It is also unclear which candidate they were technically working for while staffing the multitude of events at which both Mr. Fox and Mr. Szuszkiewicz were present (as shown earlier in this article). Any help given to the Szuszkiewicz campaign while either Mr. Gemma or Mr. DeMartino was on the clock for Brian Fox, even using a printer in Brian’s campaign office, would amount to an in-kind donation from the Fox campaign.
No such in-kind donations are listed in the campaign finance disclosures.
Our opinion is this: that the fundraising-rich Fox campaign is bankrolling the Szuszkiewicz campaign under the table by paying for shared field staff, in addition to events and other miscellaneous expenses.
For example, Szuszkiewicz held a campaign fundraiser on June 19th at Lonestar Bar and Sports in Bay Ridge. The event billed itself as a fundraiser for his campaign. However, the bill for the venue never appears on Mr. Szuszkiewicz’s expenses. Lonestar Bar and Grill is not even remotely in Mr. Szuszkiewicz’s district. The only other campaign to hold an event at Lonestar has been the Brian Fox campaign, which spent $1,400 to hold a fundraiser there a few months earlier… and which conveniently misspelled it as “Loanstar Sparts Bar and Grill.” The typo, while humorous, also makes the venue challenging to find in a search.
It isn’t like Mr. Szuszkiewicz to skip out on his bills entirely. At a May fundraiser at Parkview Diner, Mark correctly lists a $94 expense on his disclosure. Surely, the bill must have been paid by someone.
$6k to a Mystery Firm
So how is the Szuszkiewicz campaign paying for his expenses? Why is his campaign website, for example, not listed on his disclosure? The answer may lie in the vast array of campaign consultants that the Fox campaign is bankrolling this election cycle and who do not need to report how they spend that money.
For example, the Fox campaign has paid $6,303.96 to a consultancy called Epeius. The only four city candidates to pay Epeius are Eric Ulrich in 2019, Fernando Mateo during his primary, Mark Szuszkiewicz, and Brian Fox.
Other candidates who hired Epeius included Steve Saperstein in his 2018 State Assembly race (when he was running as a Republican), which was heavily staffed by Liam McCabe’s Steeplechase Strategies. Marko Kepi, who was recently confirmed as having falsified absentee ballots in his 2021 City Council primary, paid Epeius over $18,000 this last year for “petition expenses” and unexplained reimbursements.
Epeius has been variously listed as a firm specializing in consultancy, petitioning, printing signage and cards, organizing robocalls, getting food for volunteers, and, no joke, locksmithing.
Its corporate headquarters had been 961 Gipsy Trail Road in Carmel, NY… a residential home on an isolated rural road. According to PropertyShark, the homeowners do not share a last name with the registered agent of the company, Paul Jenen, who is apparently running the company from that location.
Sometime in 2019, campaign finance disclosures began listing Epeiusas being run out of an unlisted suite at 506 83rd Street in Bay Ridge. Its official LLC documentation doesn’t reflect this change. In a remarkable coincidence, the 506 building happens to contain Brian Fox’s current campaign office at 510 83rd Street. We immediately assumed Epeius was a front for the landlord, hence the locksmithing bill… but further investigation found a more likely explanation.
When we decided to swing by 506 83rd street, the doorbell did not contain the names of the property owner, nor Mr. Jenen, nor DAL 5th Avenue LLC (whom the Brian Fox campaign is listed as paying $700 per month for office rent). However, one last name listed on the doorbell jumped out at us: McCabe. The tenant is presumably related to Liam McCabe, Brian Fox’s current campaign manager… and if not, the coincidence would be staggering.
Since Epeius LLC has its suite number conveniently left off of all campaign finance disclosures, and its corporate filings still refer to Carmel, NY, there is no way to confirm whether Epeius is simply another firm allowing Mr. McCabe to collect money from the Brian Fox campaign, in addition to his role at Steeplechase Strategies and his direct payments as Campaign Manager.
Neither Epeius and Mr. Jenen do not have any public web presence whatsoever, and despite their official upstate address, they seem to only work on right-wing political campaigns in Brooklyn, NY.
$11k to a Shell Company
Another firm that has been hired is Politika. It has been hired by Mr. Fox, Curtis Sliwa for Mayor, Leticia Remauro for Staten Island Borough President, and Sam Pirozzolo for City Council. Politika seems entirely devoted to social media and media management and currently runs Mr. Fox’s Facebook page.
Despite netting $14,000 from the Fox campaign, Politika has never existed before this current election cycle. This is because it seems to be a shell company for Mrs. Remauro’s Von Agency.
The Von Agency previously worked on Vito Bruno’s State Senate campaign to unseat Democratic State Senator Andrew Gounardes. The similarities between Politika and Von are striking. Both firms consistently abuse image copyrights, and in Bruno’s campaign, went so far as to entirely fabricate a quote that supposedly appeared in Gotham Gazette.
So why not just directly hire the Von Agency again? The likely reason is to distance the campaign from Von’s president, Leticia Remauro. In addition to her role at the Von Agency, Remauro functioned as Nicole Malliotakis’s campaign media advisor in her race against Max Rose and previously acted as Malliotakis’s campaign manager in her race for Mayor. She is currently running for Staten Island Borough President.
In January, Remauro made her name toxic to other campaigns when a video of her shouting “Heil Hitler” at a rally made the news. Remauro was attempting to conflate vaccine mandates to the holocaust. Remauro has also publicly hoped that Alexandria Ocasio Cortez would be sterilized by the COVID vaccine, which helps to contextualize Mr. Fox’s anti-vaccine stance. She has a long history of making racist remarks, according to The Forward.
Mrs. Remauro made the remarks in December of 2020. The New York Times wrote about it on January 12th, with a lengthy explanation of Remauro’s role at the Von Agency. According to a WhoIs lookup, Politika’s website was first registered two months later, on March 24th, 2021.
Politika is run by George Passariello, who is simultaneously employed as Chief Marketing Officer at the Von Agency. According to LinkedIn, Mr. Passariello is one of only two people listed as working at the Von Agency other than Remauro herself. Further, Mr. Passariello lists his Von Agency phone number as the contact number on Politika’s website.
Politika is so insubstantial that Mr. Passariello doesn’t even list it on his LinkedIn page, emphasizing its status as a shell company.
It isn’t surprising that Mr. Fox would seek to distance himself from someone like Mrs. Remauro. But when you pay an agency run by someone who casually shouts “Heil Hitler,” you end up getting what you pay for. On September 15th, Brian Fox’s campaign Facebook page briefly wished his potential Jewish constituents a “Happy Yom Kippur,” referring to the decidedly non-joyous day of reflection and fasting meant to atone for one’s sins. Politika continues to run Mr. Fox’s social media advertising.
Mr. Fox isn’t alone in cozying up to Mrs. Remauro this cycle. Sam Pirozzolo, whose previous claim to fame was building a massive Trump “T” in his lawn in 2016, is the only other City Council candidate paying Politika. Pirozzolo attended the Capitol riots on January 6th, riding on the same bus as the Von Agency’s Mrs. Remauro and Mr. Passariello. On video, he can be seen marching to the Capitol building on the National Mall, saying, “We’re going down to the capitol building now. I know Nicole Malliotakis is there. Hopefully, she’ll do the right thing.”
Consultancies Tailored to Fringe Alt-Right Candidates
These various campaign consultancies, which do not need to report how they spend their money and are rarely investigated, make up a vast amount of Fox’s expenditures. These consultants are simultaneously employed by cash-starved fringe City Council races, such as the Szuszkiewicz and Pirozzolo campaigns. Overall, these consultants account for nearly $40,000 of Brian Fox’s expenditures, much of it taxpayer money.
The Fox campaign is a perfect example of how a new breed of political consultancies help sustain fringe alt-right campaigns across South Brooklyn and Staten Island. When a single campaign (in this case Brian Fox’s) taps into a controversial issue, such as the anti-vax movement or anger over supposed police defunding, the resulting fundraising soon qualifies the campaign for public matching funds. Instead of using those taxpayer dollars for the intended candidate, the money goes to an array of alt-right consultancies. These consultancies then provide their services to less popular fringe campaigns, both in this election and the next. This was also the strategy employed by last year’s Vito Bruno campaign, which similarly fundraised off of alt-right backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement.
This niche network of shady political consultancies has only begun to grow. Its survival depends on dividing our neighborhood and riling up its base, bleeding them dry of money while making them feel continually under attack and at war with their progressive neighbors. They are likely to grow bolder. This year, we have Oath Keepers secretly running for public office in Brooklyn, endorsed by the Conservative Party, the same political party affirming Fox, Szuszkiewicz, and others.
Campaign Door-Knocker Vaccination
On September 13th, Radio Free Bay Ridge asked Mr. Fox and Mr. Brannan if their campaigns would mandate vaccinations for door-knockers and canvassers during the campaign season. Mr. Brannan announced that all his canvassers would be vaccinated. Mr. Fox’s campaign manager, Liam McCabe, refused to reply (using the account Verrazzano Republicans, which he manages as president of that organization). Mr. McCabe instead deflected by talking about Former Councilman Vincent Gentile’s lawsuit brought by Michael Bistreich.
Mr. Fox has yet to announce whether he will require vaccinations for his staff, or indeed, whether he himself is vaccinated or not. We don’t normally agree with requiring people to publicly disclose their vaccination status, especially for folks who may have sensitive medical issues that preclude vaccination, but in this case, we find it to be in the public’s interest. Mr. Fox and his surrogates are speaking and contacting folks across our community, and their goal is to engage with a large number of people. While much of this contact is outdoors, the sheer volume of people being engaged makes it a concern for us.
In 2020, many Democrats did not conduct door-knocking operations while many Conservatives did. Reduced canvassing is one of the reasons we believe Nicole Malliotakis won her congressional seat, and why Vito Bruno and Mark Szuszkiewicz got so close to winning their respective elections in Bay Ridge and beyond. That is changing this year as vaccines are now more readily available.
If you do encounter a door-to-door canvasser this election season, follow some basic health and safety tips. Wear a mask while engaging with the door-knocker. If they aren’t wearing a mask, insist they put one on in order to have layers protection (both vaccine and mask). Finally, if you can, take the conversation outside. If you are in an apartment, heading outdoors can be very difficult. In that case, try to head to a ventilated area while maintaining six feet of distance, and keep the conversation as brief as possible. Canvassers are usually looking for how likely you are to vote for their candidate: telling them that directly can often end a conversation before they launch into their script.
On June 4th the Radio Free Bay Ridge staff were grabbing lunch together, sipping coffee and making jokes about ordering both an English Breakfast and an Irish Breakfast at a diner on 3rd Avenue. And who happened to walk by but Brian Fox. We personally witnessed Mr. Fox disregarding masking signage at multiple stores and restaurants while distributing campaign palm cards up and down 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge. This occurred a week before any COVID-19 mask mandates had been eased in New York City, and Fox repeatedly ignored businesses posted signage requiring a mask while inside the establishment.
We don’t mean to make a huge deal out of this, but yeah, Brian Fox was that guy who refused to wear a mask while you were in line ordering your bagel and coffee back in the spring.
Brian Fox has repeatedly claimed during interviews that he’s not against vaccines per se, only mandates. However, when things get less formal, that facade seems to drop.
On August 15th, Mr. Fox attended a rally outside Gracie Mansion, where he was allowed to speak to the crowd. Despite a large “NOT ANTI-VAX, ANTI-MANDATE” sign behind him, Fox quickly abandoned that line of reasoning. At first, Fox says that he is opposed to Justin Brannan’s support of the vaccine mandates. But, seemingly unable to help himself, Fox pivots to opposing the vaccine in general. He begins distinguishing between the mandates and vaccines, reinforcing that he opposes both. He then leads the crowd in a chant of “lock him up”, seemingly directed at Mr. Brannan over his support of vaccines.
The “NOT ANTI-VAX” sign was an outlier at the rally. In fact, in numerous photos and videos, it ends up being placed carefully behind the speakers while they are on camera. Photographers at the event captured the real mood, luckily. Surrounding Mr. Fox were other signs. These included “#NoCOVIDVaccine.”, references to the Illuminati, 5G cell phone towers, forced sterilization, and debunked conspiracy theories that the vaccine is killing people.
It was an extremist anti-vax crowd. And Mr. Fox’s speech fit right in.
My opponent actively supports the mandates. My opponent actively supports the vaccines. And everything that’s going on right now he supports… supporting the vaccines. I said you know what, I’m coming out here today to call him out. Enough is enough.”Brian Fox, on Justin Brannan’s support of the COVID-19 vaccine
Fox has also liked Tweets promoting Hydroxychloroquine, which many anti-vaxxers consider a cure for COVID-19 (similar to the recent trend of taking horse dewormer, Ivermectin). The tweet also derided mask-wearing and Dr. Anthony Fauci (Fun fact: Fauci grew up in Dyker Heights!).
Additionally, Mr. Fox has followed and liked anti-vaxx users on Facebook and Twitter. For example, he follows a user and liked a Tweet that said commercials encouraging people to get vaccinated were “pathetic”. He was not tagged or mentioned in the Tweet; unlike some of the others, he went out of his way to like this one.
Lack Of Experience
Confusing City Council with State Senate
On June 21st, the Fox campaign criticized Mr. Brannan for not voting against the Police Stand Down Act. The bill in question was acknowledged by Fox as a bill currently in front of the State Legislature in committee. The State Assembly and Senate are political bodies in Albany, and in no way related to the New York City Council. They do not vote on the same legislation and are not in any way related to each other.
It was clear that Brian Fox, a City Council candidate, had no idea how legislation works in New York. Legislating is essentially the job Mr. Fox is applying for.
John Quaglione, the local Republican District Leader, acting as an official campaign surrogate, later attempted to explain that Fox’s announcement did not refer to a vote. Quaglione attempted to clarify that Fox was merely criticizing that Mr. Brannan’s had not signed an NYC Policeman’s Benevolent Association “petition” in opposition to the Police Stand Down Act. However, this excuse does not explain why Fox claimed to have voted against this bill, nor why the post made no reference to the petition or the PBA.
Even more confusing is that the “petition” against the Police Stand Down Act does not have a public directory of signatories… and it’s hard to even discern what petition Mr. Fox may have been referring to. Neither Mr. Fox nor Mr. Quaglione ever shared a link to the petition itself across his social media accounts, and there was no previous evidence that Fox had ever called on Mr. Brannan to sign such a petition. The website hosting the “petition” instead simply seems to be an email and phone-number harvesting operation. We cannot verify that Mr. Fox ever signed this petition or what effect (if any) it would have if Justin Brannan signed it as well.
A secondary “petition”, also hosted by the PBA, is simply a form that sends a pre-generated email to local representatives. Needless to say, this is also not a petition.
Not Knowing How Our Community Board Works
On September 24th, the Fox campaign criticized this podcast (and its current producer Daniel Hetteix). Fox called for Justin Brannan to remove Mr. Hetteix from his position on Brooklyn Community Board 10.
The reason Fox gave was that Radio Free Bay Ridge and Mr. Hetteix were “scurrilously and unfoundedly” attacking local businesses. In truth, Radio Free Bay Ridge had merely compiled a list of local Bay Ridge stores that had decided to publicly place signs in their window explicitly saying that they would refuse to treat vaccinated customers any differently than unvaccinated ones. In short, the sign is an explicit statement that the business refuses to comply with vaccine mandates. Radio Free Bay Ridge compiled a list of these stores after first-hand confirmation, alongside a list of stores that we had confirmed were properly checking vaccination status. The list doesn’t contain anything the store itself doesn’t publicly advertise and allows for customers to make informed choices about their health and safety while shopping or dining.
Unfortunately, Fox’s demand that Brannan dismiss Mr. Hetteix is not how Community Boards work. This is likely because Fox has never attended a Community Board 10 meeting, from what we can discern based on publicly available Community Board minutes and sign-in sheets. Board members can only be removed by the Borough President or a vote of the Community Board itself. While Mr. Brannan could refuse to list Mr. Hetteix on his recommended list of board members in 2023, he could still be appointed by the Borough President. The Borough President makes all appointments to Community Board, selecting half from a list provided by local council members.
This is another unfortunate example of Fox not understanding the job he’s running for or how it works. It betrays a remarkable lack of insight and experience in a job that demands it.
Assumption That Bay Ridge’s Population Has Declined Due To Quality Of Life Concerns
Brian Fox has claimed in the Urban Conservative podcast that, as he saw it, the city’s population was declining and that people were leaving due to crime, “even Democrats”. The interview occurred on May 2nd. It later turned out that Bay Ridge’s population had increased by 4,863 people. The city overall gained more than 629,000 residents.
Brian Fox’s Lies and Campaign Violations
Brian Fox’s extremism is one thing. The other is his unsuitability for office due to his inexperience and tendency to lie to his constituents. This extends to himself, his campaign, and his understanding of Bay Ridge itself.
Restauraunt Ownership Claims
One absolutely confusing moment for the Fox campaign came at the previously mentioned rally against vaccine mandates at Gracie Mansion on August 15th. Fox opened up his speech by proclaiming that he has owned “three or four” restaurants. As mentioned above, Fox’s career has been entirely within Information Technology hiring companies and SEC-censured brokerage firms. There is no indication, anywhere, of his owning even a single restaurant… let alone “three or four”. The fact that he couldn’t even remember how many restaurants he owned is incredibly suspicious.
We could find no ownership records or incorporation documents with Mr. Fox’s name on them, no social media posts, and indeed, no other references by Mr. Fox himself to this baffling claim.
The only explanation we can see is that Brian Fox, seeing a crowd in front of him, decided to lie in order to get a better reaction from the crowd (and seem more knowledgeable and trustworthy) before proceeding to attack the vaccine mandate for certain businesses in NYC.
I am a small business owner that has come forward that has owned three or four restaurants and decided to run for public office because I have had enough!Brian Fox at a Gracie Mansion rally against COVID-19 Vaccines
Getting Firefighters Into Trouble With Campaign Violations
On the 4th of July, Brian Fox decided to visit a local FDNY firehouse within the district. He had the uniformed firefighters pose with him and had them hold up his campaign literature. He subsequently included the photo in a post explicitly promoting his campaign and mentioning his opponent Justin Brannan by name (though Fox misspelled it).
There is one problem: New York City and State employees cannot engage in campaign activities while in uniform or on the job. It is a major violation. Fox ended up keeping the post live for almost a full 24 hours before taking the post down on Facebook due to backlash. His campaign Manager, Liam McCabe, blamed this error instead on Justin Brannan and his supporters rather than themselves for not understanding basic campaign ethics law.
Being A “Small Business Owner” With Out-Of-State Registration
On Brian Fox’s campaign webpage, he is introduced with the following sentence:
Brian Fox is a longtime Brooklyn resident, a small business owner, and an entrepreneur.The first sentence about Brian Fox on his campaign webpage
In all of Brian Fox’s campaign material, his small-business owner status is emphasized. So what is this small business Mr. Fox thinks is key to his likeability and familiarity as a candidate?
Phillip Martin Talent Advisors LLC is the firm that Mr. Fox claims give him unique insight as a “mom and pop” business owner in Bay Ridge. It was incorporated less than a year ago in Wyoming. The firm is run out of his apartment since it operates digitally and only has one employee: Mr. Fox.
Wyoming is one of three states that are commonly used by businesses to avoid taxes and oversight. With no income taxes, it has been called the “Switzerland of the Rockies” for its lax enforcement and strict privacy for businesses (foreign and domestic) that need to hide their financial activities or gain protection from litigation. It’s also a great location to set up shell companies.
Further distancing itself from Bay Ridge, the firm’s listed phone number is a wireless number originating in area code 609 aka Trenton, New Jersey.
Mr. Fox’s choice of Wyoming is suspicious to us… especially for a candidate that is claiming to represent and understand local business owners.
Additionally, Brian Fox has claimed to have “bought and sold” businesses in Bay Ridge, specifically during an interview with conservative YouTuber Arielle Scarcella. Arielle has recently collaborated with one of Fox’s favorite YouTubers, Steven Crowder, as well as Gavin McInnes, founder of the Proud Boys. Scarcella has also been accused of being a TERF (trans-exclusionary feminist).
Brian Fox has no record of ever purchasing or selling an existing business in Bay Ridge, much less a brick and mortar store. These casual slips of the tongue, in addition to claims of “owning” restaurants, none of which can be backed up by a paper trail, further contextualizes his incorporation of an LLC in Wyoming. Mr. Fox’s business credentials are, to put it plainly, unverifiable… perhaps intentionally so. We’d be interested to see a more public accounting of his business interests, as we would with any local candidate for office.
Work History Irregularities As A Stock Broker
One of Brian Fox’s early jobs was at J.P. Turner & Company, a brokerage firm where Fox worked as an Account Executive out of their Brooklyn office. This was before Fox pivoted into the IT hiring business. On LinkedIn, Fox mentions that he worked for J.P. Turner between August of 2012 and October of 2016. Unfortunately, J.P. Turner & Company effectively closed in July of 2015, over a year before Mr. Fox claimed to have left the company.
Even more disturbing is the reason the brokerage company closed: rampant corruption. After the company closed, investors were warned to stay away from former employees of the company. One member of the Brooklyn office churned the account of an Iowa farmer, fleecing them of over $90,000 dollars in a single year with fraudulent transactions. The firm was so flagrant that its SEC license was permanently revoked after closure, and was censured numerous times by the SEC.
The firm that ended up buying the company after its corruption had become apparent (and which oversaw its closure) moved as many trustworthy brokers as it could to one of its other firms. While there is no legal documentation implicating Brian Fox in any illegal activities, Mr. Fox did not get transitioned by the new owners into another firm. Instead, Mr. Fox seems to have changed careers, choosing instead to pursue IT hiring.
What is depressing is that this widely hated company, which spent its time cheating its clients, operated right here in Bay Ridge on 5th Avenue. Its address was listed as 9017 5th Ave Brooklyn, directly next to P.S. 104.
Reliance on Divisive Stunt Posts
Brian Fox’s campaign specializes in stunt social media postings, usually involving Mr. Fox pointing at something he perceives as a menace to the neighborhood. He then sends out the photo, often without context or fact-checking, to rile up people on social media. The campaign understands that social media algorithms respond to anger more than positive or uplifting content.
However, once the stunt is over, there is usually no follow-up. No legitimate attempts at resolving the issue. And, often, the issue turns out to have been staged or mischaracterized.
Lying About Park Sanitation
One excellent example of this came on June 20th in Owls Head Park. Brian Fox posted a photo of himself pointing at “another prime example of the deterioration of the quality of life of our community”… in other words, some trash bags neatly tied next to a trash can. Fox claimed that the Parks Department failed to pick up the trash from the Bay Ridge Viking Festival, which occurred the day before on June 19th. “Such a breakdown in services is not uncommon in our parks.”, Mr. Fox said, “This needs to change. We deserve better.”
The entire post was a masterclass in how local GOP candidates have been manipulating social media to gin up outrage and increase the likelihood of their posts appearing on people’s feeds.
Unfortunately for Mr. Fox, a bright red table could be seen in the background of the photo, as well as a white tent. Needless to say, these are unusual items to find on an average day in Owls Head Park… but you could find them easily if you referred to photos taken at the Viking Festival the day before. In short, Brian Fox did not take the photo the day after the event… he took it during the event. He then waited until the next day to post it.
And of course, Mr. Fox is wearing the same outfit in both photos. Same shoes. Same pants. Same tie.
Mr. Fox’s supporters would later attempt to explain that he simply misspoke in the post. Despite referring to the festival as having happened “yesterday”, they insisted that he was in fact complaining that the trash was there before and during the festival.
This too fell apart pretty quickly. As one commenter pointed out:
“I was at this festival and actually witnessed a bunch of politicians taking pictures at the end as things were getting packed up and cleaned up. Now I know why… It’s amazing what perspective can do… Let’s take a picture at the end and say it was like that from the start. Not saying it was clean or not but these pictures were taken at the end of the Festival. I know because that’s when I was there. I was standing 10 feet in front of that couple sitting on the bench waiting in line for my son to sit with lady reading Runes. That being said, I witnessed three park employees changing garbage, replenishing the bathroom and other cleaning while I was there. I felt was staffed generously compared to a typical weekend.”
“Nice Try. All bagged up, and lawn looks spotless. What else ya got?”
In the end, the post was shared 14 times, gathered 119 reactions, and 188 comments… and that’s just on the parts of Facebook that are publicly visible. There is no telling how many impressions it gathered. No matter the truth, it was successful in spreading misinformation on a hyper-local level.
More To Come
We’re not done with this article yet! We still have a lot more to research and document from Brian Fox’s 2021 City Council campaign. Stay tuned for updates in the coming weeks as we continue to build on our existing work. Do you have a favorite controversy from the Brian Fox campaign we haven’t documented yet? DM or reach out to us on Twitter or Instagram.