The Real Deal New York

After the inauguration, New York, LA and South Florida real estate rewarded Trump with even more money

Industry donors to Trump Victory joint campaign committee accounted for about 20% of the committee’s 2017 haul
By Will Parker | February 01, 2018 04:00PM

From left: Geoff Palmer, Joe Cayre, Bennett Lebow, President Donald Trump and Richard LeFrak (Photo illustration by Lexi Pilgrim for The Real Deal | Credit: Getty Images)

The coastal elite real estate moguls that helped bankroll Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential victory didn’t stop cutting the checks after their candidate entered 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

A review of federal contributions records for the Trump Victory fund, a joint committee of the Trump campaign and the Republican Party that allows for nearly $450,000 to be donated per individual, shows that since the inauguration at least 21 percent of the $16.4 million raised for the fund came from New York, Los Angeles or South Florida real estate interests.

Many of the top donors to the fund last year were also rather generous with their pocketbooks during the 2016 election and the inauguration. The biggest spender of that crew in 2017 was Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman, who gave $344,400 to the Trump Victory fund after already giving $250,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee a year ago. Two other previous top donors, Midtown Equities’ Joseph Cayre and Vector Group’s Bennett Lebow, gave $170,000 and $135,000, respectively. Florida-based Nicholas Mastroianni, the founder of the EB-5 visa fundraising group U.S. Immigration Fund that’s hyperactive around the New York area, gave $150,000. Vornado Realty Trust’s Steve Roth, who was previously an economic advisor to the Trump campaign, gave $100,000.

For others close to the president, it was a family affair. Developer Richard Lefrak, who co-chaired Trump’s short-lived infrastructure advisory council with Roth, joined in with two of his sons to give a total of $350,000. The family members of James Dolan, best known for formerly owning Cablevision but who also own Madison Square Garden and other sports properties, gave $250,000. Red Apple Group’s John Catsimatidis, his wife Margo and son John Jr. together gave $100,000.

Howard Lorber, CEO of Vector Group and chairman of Douglas Elliman (and whom President Trump appointed to chair the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), gave $35,000. As did Elliman CEO Dottie Herman.

Others in the New York property crowd giving substantial money include Stanley and Frieda Chera ($100,000), Steve Witkoff ($94,400), Eliot Tawil ($50,000) and Lloyd Goldman ($35,000). Chera and Witkoff were also among the fund’s largest real estate donors during the campaign.

Lesser known names from New York real estate included Coleman Burke, the head of a commercial real estate company called Waterfront NY that owns the Terminal Stores in Chelsea, who gave $35,000. Arnold Gumowitz, president of AAG Management, gave $74,000. And as was previously reported in USA Today, the would-be developers behind something called “China City” in the Catskills, a $6 billion multi-use development project that had been seeking financing through the EB-5 visa program, gave a staggering $600,000.

Los Angeles real estate developers and executives were also among major donors. Developer Geoffrey Palmer, one of Trump’s biggest donors during the election, gave $100,000. Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel owner Robert Zarnegin and his wife also contributed $100,000. Michael and Miriam Miller, the parents of White House aide Stephen Miller who run the multifamily real estate company Cordary, gave $40,000.

One of the biggest donors from Southern California, however, is a name that few will be familiar with. As Politico previously reported, a Lily Tang and Ben Tang of Upland, California gave $300,000 to the fund. Contributions records list Lily Tang’s occupation as real estate and her employer as the brokerage Coldwell Banker.

The largest Florida real estate donor was sugar baron and developer José Fanjul, who gave $200,000. His company is currently building a 271-unit rental project in Palmetto Bay.

Per federal election rules, some of the money raised by the joint committee will go directly to the Trump’s re-election campaign, while the bulk of it will go to Republican National Committee and state parties, which then have limitations on how they can spend it. In addition to Trump Victory, Trump and the party have another joint committee, Trump Make America Great Again, which raised more money last year but with much smaller individual contributions.

Several of the Trump Victory donors have publicly expressed their support of Trump’s major policy priorities, especially tax reform, which is expected to benefit most commercial real estate investors. The EB-5 visa program, meanwhile, faces the possibility of major reforms or even dissolution by Congress that would come as a shock to the many developers that have tapped it for financing, as well as to the world of brokers and middle-men that built their businesses around the program. Trump has never officially commented on the program, but a Trump-branded rental tower in New Jersey, that was built by his son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner’s Company, received $50 million in construction financing through EB-5.