The Real Deal New York

City real estate moguls play politics

As GOP primaries heat up, New Yorkers get involved
By V.L. Hendrickson | December 30, 2011 06:25PM

Real estate lawyer Phil Rosen (left) with GOP hopeful Mitt Romney.

The GOP this month is gearing up for presidential caucuses in far-flung locales like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Here in New York, prominent real estate players are getting in on the action, stumping (and raising money) for their favorite candidates.

Philip Rosen, cochair of the real estate practice at law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges, recently cohosted two events for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney: a breakfast at Cipriani and a soiree at Manhattan’s Union League Club. Each raised over $1 million for the campaign, Rosen said. According to the Federal Election Commission, Rosen himself has personally donated $2,450 to Romney. How do his clients feel about his passionate political leanings? Rosen said he invites them to his fund-raisers.

“Most are happy that I have such a strong involvement,” he said. “It’s part of who I am.”

Plus, he said, many New York City real estate players are backing Romney because of what they perceive to be his pro-business stance.

Real estate mogul Stephen Ross, for example, is a long-time Romney supporter. The Related Companies CEO is hosting a fund-raiser for Romney on January 19 at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., a Related spokesperson confirmed. According to FEC filings, Related employees gave over $25,000 in campaign donations to Romney last year.

President Barack Obama’s coffers aren’t hurting for New York real estate money, either. Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner gave $5,000 last year to Obama’s campaign, according to the FEC. Ratner’s cousins Deborah and Ronald, who also work at Forest City, have committed to raising at least $200,000 for Obama.

Some stumpers have already seen defeat. Brookfield Financial’s Eric Anton cohosted a Herman Cain fund-raiser in November, according to Cain’s website, just weeks before the candidate dropped out of the race. (Anton was not available for comment.)

Perhaps that’s one reason not everyone is so open about their personal leanings. Massey Knakal realty chairman Bob Knakal, for example, often writes about politics and attends fund-raisers for candidates of both parties. But, he told TRD, he doesn’t “discuss my personal preferences, or the candidates I support.”

And what about the biggest real estate political heavyweight in the city, Donald Trump? He’s given over $30,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee this year, but hasn’t yet donated to one particular candidate. Presumably, he’s saving his dollars for just the right candidate — maybe himself?

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