PAC Tied To Real Estate Lobbying Firm Spreads Campaign Contributions Across 2021 Candidates


Forward of the 2021 main election in June, a distinguished legislation agency whose lobbying arm recurrently weighs in on zoning issues and housing payments has poured 1000’s of {dollars} into candidates lengthy rumored to be contenders for the subsequent Council Speaker.

The Cozen O’Connor Political Motion Committee, created by their eponymous Philadelphia-based legislation agency, has to date contributed $13,275 to candidates in mayoral, comptroller, borough president, and New York Metropolis Council races, in line with marketing campaign finance information for the 2021 cycle. Whereas the funds quantity to a relatively small sum when in comparison with unbiased expenditures, they stand among the many high PACs to contribute funds to 2021 candidates to date.

Benefitting essentially the most from the PAC are council members, together with three incumbents who’ve been rumored to be contemplating a run for Council Speaker since 2018. The chief of the 51-member Council—at the moment Corey Johnson, who’s term-limited—helps set the agenda by assigning members to all committees and prioritizing payments for a vote, together with rezoning proposals within the metropolis. (Exterior Council races, the PAC additionally contributed to Scott Stringer.)

The Council incumbents, all elected to workplace in 2017, embody Brooklyn’s Justin Brannan, the Bronx’s Rafael Salamanca Jr. (at the moment the council’s Land Use chair), and Manhattan’s Keith Powers. Whereas Salamanca Jr. and Powers every obtained the utmost allowable PAC contribution of $1,000, Brannan obtained $750. Brannan, who chairs the Committee on Resiliency and Waterfronts, additionally obtained $500 from ACEC New York Metropolis PAC, one other Cozen-tied PAC, marketing campaign information present. Powers additionally obtained a further $500.

In a press release, Salamanca Jr. stated as Land Use chair for almost 5 years his file has proven that “marketing campaign contributions have by no means influenced my vote.” He added that he is “authorized over 7000 models of 100% reasonably priced housing, […] mandated a 15% homeless put aside and obtained it handed into legislation” and rejected the “Southern Blvd rezoning as a result of 90% of the empty heaps have been privately owned and I believed it might of led to displacement of my constituents. I’m additionally the lead co-sponsor of the Racial Impression Examine for rezoning.”

In an emailed assertion, Brannan stated he isn’t swayed by donations.

“I simply voted in favor of Intro 1116-B, which Cozen lobbied strongly towards,” Brannan stated, referring to a invoice increasing the variety of avenue vendor permits. “So no, I am not influenced by donations. That is not how I function.”

A spokesperson for Powers reiterated as a lot, saying that “contributions don’t have any bearing on any final result or choice.”

The contributions come at a time when New York’s actual property business faces higher scrutiny from progressive teams which have mobilized towards expansive tasks whereas championing higher protections for New York Metropolis residents. It additionally comes on the heels of defeats for the actual property foyer, together with a transfer by builders of Business Metropolis to again out of a rezoning utility, blaming a “lack of management” on the a part of New York Metropolis authorities.

The hostility towards the actual property foyer can grossly influence the pursuits for Cozen, which has an workplace at One World Commerce Heart. Metropolis information present its lobbying arm had represented 66 shoppers in 2020, with just below half of them associated to actual property. In 2020, shoppers included Chris Papamichael, the principal proprietor of a property in Gowanus, a neighborhood in the course of a large rezoning battle; Two Bushes Administration Inc., which seeks to construct a beachside neighborhood on Williamsburg’s River Avenue; and the Nationwide Civic Artwork Society in relation to a redevelopment undertaking at Penn Station.

Metropolis information present the Cozen O’Connor legislation agency’s lobbyist to be Stuart Shorenstein, who additionally chairs Cozen’s PAC. A name to the PAC was not returned.

George Artz, a seasoned guide on New York Metropolis politics, stated PACs should not essentially trying to purchase lawmakers however to easily get into their appointment e book.

“Entry to the speaker is extraordinarily essential,” Artz stated. “If you will get within the door, you possibly can argue your case. And also you may even persuade her or him to go together with you, however she or he shouldn’t be going to do something with out a feeling from his caucus.”

Kenneth Fisher, a fellow lobbyist for Cozen who works with Shorenstein and doubles as Cozen’s land use legal professional, stated there have been no strings connected to the contributions, telling Gothamist that any suggestion of a quid professional quo are “insulting to the elected officers and to us to suppose that any person could possibly be purchased to the small quantities of cash that the New York Metropolis marketing campaign finance legislation permits us to contribute.”

He added, “The explanation that these are candidates for speaker and different management positions within the Council is as a result of they’re among the many brightest, hardest working, accessible, and efficient members of the Council.”

Whereas many of the candidates have accepted the cash, others have returned it. They embody Council Member Mark Levine, who’s working for Manhattan Borough President; and Council Member Brad Lander, who’s working for comptroller.

“It is arduous for, in lots of circumstances, a traditional New Yorker to know the factors of entry on one thing that issues,” Lander stated. “So there’s nothing untoward a few agency constructing relationships and other people hiring them. But when these companies have additionally contributed to those self same elected officers, then I believe the general public would may elevate their eyebrows and ask questions on potential conflicts of curiosity.”

Fisher, who stated the Metropolis Council’s failure to embrace the Business Metropolis’s rezoning would value 1000’s of jobs, argued that PAC marketing campaign contributions don’t carry the identical affect as they may as soon as have in NYC, given town Marketing campaign Finance Board’s 8-to-1 matching funds program, by which particular person donations can go even additional.

“A number of the Council members have determined to not take any PAC cash or any actual property cash. And that is their alternative. After which I believe it illustrates the truth that they do not want the cash. No one’s depending on PAC cash anymore,” Fisher stated. “No one’s depending on contributions from companies like ours. That is why the marketing campaign finance legislation is so transformative.”

The story’s been up to date to mirror that the PAC contributed to Stringer’s marketing campaign solely.