Josh Riley Plays Up His 'Deep Roots in Upstate New York.' He Just Moved Back After a Decade in D.C.

Dem congressional hopeful was partner at elite law firm, where he defended corporate clients

September 16, 2022

In his campaign materials, Democrat Josh Riley is a flannel-wearing, beer-drinking, fifth-generation upstate New Yorker with blue-collar values. In real life, Riley spent years at an elite Washington, D.C., law firm and returned upstate just months ago to launch his congressional run.

Riley's campaign site says the Democrat is "running for Congress to give working families a Square Deal" and touts his upbringing "in a working-class neighborhood" in upstate New York. Riley's campaign launch video, meanwhile, features the flannel-and-hoodie-clad candidate alongside run-down factories and modest homes. Later in the spot, before clinking a Miller Lite glass in a dimly-lit dive bar, Riley pledges to put himself "back at the kitchen table" with his "neighbors [in] upstate New York and ask what's best for them."

Prior to his congressional run, however, those upstate New Yorkers hadn't been Riley's neighbors for well over a decade. Instead, Riley spent years in D.C. at a top international law firm defending corporate clients such as Apple and Uber, and he only registered to vote in his upstate New York district after launching his campaign—facts that could tarnish the Democrat's local, blue-collar image as he runs against Republican county executive Marc Molinaro in the state's 19th Congressional District.

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2007, Riley spent four years in Florida and California before moving to D.C. to serve as former Democratic senator Al Franken's general counsel, his LinkedIn shows. In 2014, he began working at international law firm Boies Schiller Flexner's D.C. office, a lucrative gig that has helped the Democrat amass a net worth of up to $4 million, according to his candidate financial disclosure.

Two years later, in 2016, Riley married his wife, a strategic consultant, at the Memorial Continental Hall in the nation's capital, a venue the self-described "urban" couple "loved" because it "was totally D.C." The couple went on to purchase a four-bedroom home in the city for $1.6 million in June 2020—Riley still pays property taxes on the home as of this year, according to local records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

Riley, whose campaign did not return a request for comment, swapped Boies Schiller Flexner for fellow international firm Jenner & Block in January 2021 before leaving the firm in October 2021. Just one month later, he returned to upstate New York to launch his congressional campaign, his LinkedIn states. In February 2022, Riley registered to vote in the area, using an address that's located in a "luxury" apartment building with "sophisticated stylings" and a "world-class amenity collection," including "wine storage," a "pet spa," and a "yoga studio." Prior to the move, Riley had not been registered to vote in New York since 2006.

While Riley's campaign site says the Democrat "fought back against big corporations," Riley's time at Boies Schiller Flexner saw him defend Uber and from patent and trademark infringement claims, legal filings reviewed by the Free Beacon show. Riley also represented Apple in a class action lawsuit that accused the tech giant of illegally censoring conservative content online.

Still, Riley's launch video stresses the candidate's bipartisan bonafides by showing Riley praising a self-proclaimed Republican voter in a parking lot. His Twitter account, meanwhile, does not mention his degrees from Harvard and William & Mary but does list his graduation year from Union-Endicott High School in upstate New York.

Beyond Riley's corporate clients, the Democrat's stint at Boies Schiller Flexner came at a controversial time for the law firm. In the fall of 2016—shortly before Riley became a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner—the firm aided Harvey Weinstein in his quest to suppress allegations that the disgraced Hollywood mogul sexually assaulted numerous women. Hunter Biden also served as a consultant at Boies Schiller Flexner from 2011 to 2017, during which he brought the firm a now-infamous client: Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings. Riley has raised more than $140,000 from Boies Schiller Flexner employees, federal campaign finance disclosures show.

Riley won his August primary by 28 points and will face Molinaro in November. Despite Riley's extensive ties to D.C., Molinaro has a slight financial advantage over the Democrat—Molinaro has raised $1.6 million to Riley's $1.4 million as of Aug. 3.