City Council’s Lander looks to undercut REBNY influence

Councilperson proposes the trade group be required to disclose donors on campaign material
August 27, 2013 08:10AM

The co-chair of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus is looking to limit the real estate industry’s ability to influence political campaigns. The council should look to close the so-called “LLC loophole” in state campaign finance law that allows limited liability corporations to give up to $150,000 to entities such as Jobs For New York, the political action committee backed by the influential Real Estate Board of New York, according to a memo from Councilperson Brad Lander.

Lander’s memo, which was obtained by Crain’s, says that campaign literature such as mailers and advertisements produced by PACs should be forced to disclose the group’s top five donors — a regulation similar to current law in California and Connecticut. In the memo, he also cites the state investigation into donations from firms such as Extell Development and Silverstein Properties related to the 421a tax exemption.

“Jobs for NY, one of numerous independent expenditure efforts currently spending money in City elections, is fully complying with city and state campaign finance rules,” a spokesman for the PAC told Crain’s. “Considering that much of what Mr. Lander is proposing does not appear to be legal — based on what the Campaign Finance Board itself has said — it is clear that that this proposal is a political document that has no chance of withstanding legal scrutiny.”

Lander also gave no indication in the memo as to how his proposed limit would navigate the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which held that the government cannot restrict independent expenditures.

Any changes proposed by Lander would also have to happen at the state level, Crain’s noted. Politicians in Albany, of course, are the beneficiaries of millions of dollars each year from the real estate industry, Crain’s said, and have historically been slow to embrace campaign finance reform. [Crain’s]Hiten Samtani