Real estate’s political rainmakers

Which NYC industry moguls are opening their wallets and which candidates are they backing?

Sep.September 01, 2015 04:21 PM


Presidential candidates may be courting voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, but they’re courting donors in New York. And a sizable number of New York real estate players have already ponied up for their favorite 2016 White House wannabes.

With a little more than five months to go before the first ballots are cast, industry leaders from the Big Apple have forked over nearly $1.5 million for presidential candidates and their political action committees, according to a review of Federal Election Commission filings by The Real Deal.

As of the latest mid-July filing deadline, 13 candidates, mostly Republicans, have received real estate largesse, according to our search, which looked at contributions to presidential campaign committees and PACs from New York donors who used the words “real estate” in their profession when disclosing their donations. (We also searched a handful of other well-known, politically active industry leaders by name to ensure that we captured those who did not tick off their field when they donated).

If money talks, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is in good shape, if only when it comes to fundraising among New York City real estate moguls. Bush hauled in a full 70 percent of the $1.5 million the city’s real estate players donated, or $1.04 million. Most of that went to his “Right to Rise” PAC. Note that individual donations to candidates are capped at $2,700 per person per election (primary and general), but donations to PACs are unlimited. It’s also worth mentioning that all of these amounts are small potatoes in the larger fundraising landscape. Bush, for example, has raised $103 million total.

But, of course, every check adds up.

The chief financial officer at the Blackstone Group, Michael Chae, was the most generous of the industry’s donors, according to TRD’s review.

Chae spread out $165,000, including $150,000 to Bush’s PAC and $7,200 to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio,

Meanwhile, Edward Forst, the president and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield, George Klein of the Park Tower Group and Tishman Speyer’s Jerry Speyer all cut $100,000 checks to Bush’s PAC.

On the candidate side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ranked as the second most prolific fundraiser among New York’s real-estate-connected donors, pulling in $150,600 from the group. Unlike Bush however, Clinton’s donations almost all went directly to her campaign, at or below the legal limit, rather than big handouts to her PAC.

Prominent Clinton donors included William and Eric Rudin, CEO and president, respectively, of Rudin Management; John Catsimatidis, chairman and CEO of Red Apple Group; Jeffrey Gural, chairman of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank; and Stephen Green, chairman of SL Green.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki might be trailing distantly in the polls and in fundraising in general, but he was the third-most popular among the New York real estate crowd, receiving nearly $82,000 total from just six donors. Stephen Ross, chairman of the Related Companies who has reportedly donated to Pataki many times in the past, led the way, cutting a $50,000 check to Pataki’s “We The People, Not Washington” PAC. Donald Capoccia, principal of BFC Partners, contributed most of the rest, handing over $25,000 to the same PAC. (When Pataki was in office he appointed Capoccia to the board of Governor’s Island.)

Not all candidates got love from the industry in New York. In fact, a number of the declared candidates — Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana; John Kasich of Ohio; Dr. Ben Carson and Sen. Bernie Sanders to name a few — have not received any cash from the New York real estate community.

That’s despite the fact that donors are spreading their money around among different candidates, and different parties. Catsimatidis, for example, donated not only to Clinton, but also to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, while his wife, Margo, cut a check to Rubio.

Lest we forget, Republican front-runner Donald Trump (see related story on page 76) is largely funding his own campaign, but not rejecting donations. Still, he only nabbed $5,000 from the New York real estate community; of it  all came from Ralph Herzka, CEO of Meridian Capital Group, and his wife, Judy, according to campaign filings.

But that might change with the next disclosure deadline on Oct. 15.

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