REBNY-backed PAC dominates council spending in key ‘hoods

TRD ranks the candidates

TRD New York /
Aug.August 16, 2013 05:30 PM

The political action committee backed by the city’s strongest landlord organization, the Real Estate Board of New York, has doled out more for City Council candidates than most of them spent on their own behalf, a review of campaign filings by The Real Deal reveals.

The PAC, called Jobs For New York, has pledged to raise $10 million. So far, the group has doled out $1.34 million to candidates in 14 City Council races, data from the New York City Campaign Finance Board reveals.

The PAC has thrown its heaviest support — in the form of independent expenditures — behind candidates such as Sara Gonzalez, running for reelection to represent neighborhoods with booming development such as Red Hook and Sunset Park; and Vanessa Gibson, who is running for a seat that includes the South and West Bronx.

The PAC has spent $167,341 during this 2013 campaign cycle on behalf of Gonzalez, about double the $83,589 that her campaign alone has spent so far; and $122,726 on behalf of Gibson, who has spent just $64,556 on her own behalf.

Rounding out the top five recipients of the PAC’s largesse were City Council member Margaret Chin, running for re-election to represent Lower Manhattan, including Soho and Chinatown, with $121,108; Alan Maisel, running for a seat in South Brooklyn covering Sheepshead Bay and Canarsie, with $120,451; and Paul Vallone, an attorney running in a crowded contest for a seat in northeastern Queens, including Bayside and Whitestone, for whom the PAC has spent $113,134.

Virtually all the money was spent on printed campaign literature either for mailing or for handing out, city campaign records show.

Some chafe at the federal law allowing unlimited independent expenditures by groups not connected to campaigns, while others see it as freedom of expression. City campaign regulations require that the independent organizations, which must not coordinate their expenditures with the candidates, must disclose the source of the money.

The law allows big real estate players such as Brookfield Office Properties, the Durst Organization and Fisher Brothers to each contribute $425,000 to Jobs For New York this year, as The Real Deal reported.

A spokesperson for Vallone, Austin Finan, called the use of outside expenditures “an unfortunate reality,” but the campaign did not oppose the assistance, noting that he was backed by unions, Democratic clubs, elected officials, as well as business groups.

“He is happy to accept the support of anyone who wants to lend a hand to his campaign,” Finan said.

In contrast, Laurie Cumbo, who had received at least $79,715 in independent assistance from Jobs For New York during her quest for a Brooklyn seat covering the gentrifying Fort Greene and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods, asked the group on July 29 to stop spending on her behalf, the campaign said in a statement to The Real Deal.

A spokesperson for Mark Treyger said, the campaign in accordance with the law had no contact with Jobs For New York, or other independent groups, and added, “endorsements do not shape policy, or priorities.”

Overall, Jobs For New York, which had taken in $6.35 million as of Aug. 5, according to the most recent expense reports filed last Friday, has spent $4.4 million. The vast majority of that, some $4.2 million, was sent to the influential lobbying and consulting firm Parkside Group, based in Midtown.

The Parkside Group, in turn, has reported spending $1.34 million of its revenues as independent expenditures in 14 City Council races, mostly for mailers and palm cards.

Correction: A previously published version of the chart accompanying this article incorrectly identified Manuel Caughman as a candidate for a council seat in Brooklyn. In fact, he is running for City Council District 27, representing neighborhoods such as St. Albans and Hollis, in Queens.

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