From: "Anne Z. Whitman"
Subject: Fwd: NYTimes.com: Mayor Accuses Realty Firms of Seeking Undue Influence
To: "Jordi Reyes Montblanc"
Mayor Accuses Realty Firms of Seeking Undue Influence
By RAY RIVERA
Published: February 8, 2008
By RAY RIVERA
Published: February 8, 2008
In a rare public scolding of an industry that is friendly with his administration, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg criticized real estate companies on Thursday, saying it appears they are trying to buy influence in the 2009 mayoral campaign.
The city’s most prominent real estate firms have been flooding likely candidates with donations in recent months, and many of the companies have given identical or nearly identical amounts to three of those planning to run for mayor: the Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn; Representative Anthony D. Weiner; and the city comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr.
“I happen to think it’s a disgrace,” the mayor said about the firms’ giving equally to each of those three.
“I can’t think of any reason you’d do it unless you’re just trying to hedge your bets and be on the good side of every one of them,” he said. “And the only reason you want to do that is you think you’re going to get something for it.”
The donations were detailed in an article last week in The New York Times. The big donors included Rudin Management, one of the royal families of New York real estate and traditionally a generous supporter of city causes. Rudin gave the most among the firms examined, including $29,700 to each of the three likely mayoral contenders.
While the mayor did not mention any firms by name, the criticism appeared particularly stark given that his administration has worked closely with the industry during a period of explosive growth.
The mayor and the Rudins are close friends, and Jack Rudin, chairman of the company, is a major contributor to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group formed by Mr. Bloomberg last year that paid for pro-gun control newspaper ads that Mr. Bloomberg’s staff published in presidential primary states.
Mr. Rudin and the company president, William C. Rudin, were not available for comment Thursday, a spokeswoman said.
Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire, paid out of his own pocket for his two mayoral campaigns, spending more than $150 million.
Mr. Bloomberg himself had given to several candidates before he ran for office. In 1997, he gave $7,700 to Rudolph W. Giuliani in his re-election bid for mayor and $2,000 to Ruth W. Messinger, one of Mr. Giuliani’s opponents.
“At that point in his life, the mayor gave to local candidates because friends or business associates were fund-raising for them,” said his spokesman, Stu Loeser.
As mayor, Mr. Bloomberg has long advocated stronger curbs on so-called pay-to-play campaign contributions. He signed a law in July that sharply reduced the amount of money that people who do business with the city, including developers, can contribute to a candidate to less than a tenth of what was previously allowed. The Real Estate Board of New York, a trade group and lobbying arm for the industry, is one of several groups expected to challenge the law in court.
Spreading money out to top candidates is not unusual for the real estate industry. In 2001, some of the most powerful real estate moguls in the city pledged to raise $250,000 for each of the four Democratic contenders for mayor: Mark Green, Peter F. Vallone, Fernando Ferrer and Alan G. Hevesi. The strategy was spearheaded by Steven Spinola, the president of the Real Estate Board of New York.
In a recent interview, Mr. Spinola said there has been no industrywide coordination for the 2009 campaign. But he said he encouraged firms to give to multiple candidates in the same race.
“It’s a way of saying, ‘O.K., get your message out, here’s a contribution,’ ” Mr. Spinola said. “And unless somebody has demonstrated an outright hatred for the industry or has gone out of their way to attack the industry, the industry recognizes that it will need to get along with whoever the mayor is, and hopefully the mayor, whoever it is, will recognize that the industry generates a lot of money for the city in terms of taxes and economic activity.”
Mr. Spinola stood by those comments in the face of the mayor’s criticism on Thursday, calling the donations “totally appropriate.”
“The mayor has his strong opinions, and obviously he wants to speak out on them,” Mr. Spinola said. “I can only respond by saying what I understand as to why people are giving. There is a political process here and we deal with the political process in the best way we can, and we do so according to how the law permits it.”