« New York Times Credulity Friday Edition | Main | The State of American Architecture »

February 11, 2008

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Forest City Ratner Puts $58,000 Into New York Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee "Housekeeping" Fund

First Contribution By Developer In At Least Nine Years

Campaign Finance Loophole Allows for Huge Contribution After Atlantic Yards Approval, Before Project's Financing Agreements

New York, NY— Forest City Ratner gave $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee’s Housekeeping account on January 7, 2008. The real estate development firm had not made any New York State political contributions for at least nine years, which is as far back as the state's campaign finance database goes. The contribution was made through a New York State election financing loophole known as a "housekeeping" account. It is a loophole condemned by Common Cause.

Norman Oder first reported about it today on his Atlantic Yards Report, noting that it was the third-largest contribution received by the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee (DACC) since at least July, and represents more than ten percent of the DACC’s take for it’s Housekeeping account.

Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner seems to have decided to change strategy after having "sharply cut back" on campaign contributions--according to a 2004 article in Newsday--now moving beyond lobbying expenses, and back into direct New York State political contributions.

The donation goes to the DACC, which hardly needs such "generous" help, considering that the Democrats have a strong grip on the Assembly's majority. But the $58,000 does go to the body controlled by Sheldon Silver who approved Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards plan in December 2006, and who will have a lot of say over the developer’s housing, bonding and other financing needs over the coming months. Forest City Ratner’s key Atlantic Yards financing has not been finalized, including "affordable" housing subsidies, the arena bond, and the amount of Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT).

Oder reports that Common Cause issued an August 2006 report on New York State’s campaign finance "Housekeeping" loophole. The Common Cause report stated:
The size of these contributions, their origin and the fact that current or hopeful elected officials are involved in soliciting them raise serious concerns about the potential for corruption or its appearance.

The second major problem is that while the theory behind our state’s soft money loophole is that these funds will be used only for party building purposes and not for candidate elections, this legal barrier does not hold up in practice.

Common Cause concluded:
The potential it creates for corruption or its appearance means that New York State leaders must ban soft money.

Oder also reports that Ratner kin in Forest City Enterprises’ hometown of Cleveland and in Washington, DC have contributed to Governor Eliot Spitzer’s 2010 campaign fund.

Just last week Mayor Bloomberg decried the infusion of real estate industry contributions into the 2009 Mayoral campaign. According to the NY Times, the Mayor was saying it appears they [the real estate industry] are trying to buy influence in the 2009 mayoral campaign. He called it a "disgrace" that the three presumed "frontrunners" are receiving equal amounts from the industry.

Posted by eric at February 11, 2008 5:44 PM