The Real Deal New York

Hotel Council, RSA gave $25K to lawmakers who sponsored anti-Airbnb bill

Controversial short-term rental startup plans to fight back with $1M political committee

July 19, 2016 07:30AM
By Rich Bockmann

From left: Airbnb's Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, Joe Gebbia and the Capitol Building in Albany (inset from top: Peter Ward and Joseph Strasburg)

From left: Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, Joe Gebbia and the Capitol Building in Albany (inset from top: Peter Ward and Joseph Strasburg)

Two lobbying groups that have fought Airbnb tooth-and-nail gave sympathetic Albany lawmakers nearly $25,000 in campaign contributions during the first half of the year.

Through their political action committees, the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council and the Rent Stabilization Association donated a combined $24,200 through June to 10 lawmakers who sponsored a last-minute anti-Airbnb bill, a review of state campaign finance records by The Real Deal shows.

Both groups back politicians who support a variety of issues, but few were as significant a concern during this session as clamping down on the controversial startup.

Following months of heated public debate over illegal short-term rentals, the Assembly and Senate passed a bill as the state legislative session drew to a close in mid-June. The legislation, which now sits on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for approval, places fines on users who advertise illegal apartment listings online.

Cuomo has not signaled if he will sign the bill.

The Hotel Trades Council, a political powerhouse upstate that represents 30,000 city hotel workers whose jobs are endangered by competition from Airbnb, gave $22,950 to 10 members of both chambers who ultimately sponsored the legislation.

Democratic Assembly Members Deborah Glick (Greenwich Village) and Margaret Markey (Maspeth, Queens) each received checks for $4,400, records show.

A spokesperson for Markey said the politician has long supported the hotel and tourism industries as a matter of economic development.

“Tourism is job development in New York state, as simple as that,” communications director Mike Armstrong said.

Upper West Side Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, who sponsored the bill and has been an outspoken critic of Airbnb, received a campaign contribution of $1,400 from the council following the Assembly vote.

The Rent Stabilization Association cut checks to sponsors for a total of $1,750, including a $500 contribution to Staten Island Senator Adam Lanza, the Republican who sponsored the bill in the upper chamber.

Airbnb, which is reportedly in talks to fund a valuation worth around $30 billion, isn’t taking the battle lying down. The San Francisco-based company launched a $1 million political action committee earlier this month to help drum up public support for its cause.

Despite a recent purging of over 2,200 listings, the percentage of New York City units booked through the site for more than 180 days in a year — considered commercial listings — remains on the rise, according to data recently released by Airbnb. The number of hosts with multiple listings has also increased, a recent TRD analysis found.

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