Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Will Mayoral Candidates Disgorge Corrupt Real Estate Donations ?

From Crain's : Longshot Dem blasts rivals' real estate cash

Sal Albanese, a former City Councilman and longshot candidate for mayor, is calling on his fellow Democrats to return campaign contributions they've received from real estate firms being examined by a state anti-corruption panel.

The Moreland Commission, a group created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate corruption in state government, recently issued subpoenas to five top developers in New York : Extell Development, Thor Equities, Silverstein Properties, Fisher Brothers and Friedman Management. The five firms have collectively donated tens of thousands of dollars to each of the top four candidates for mayor, Mr. Albanese notes.

"When you've sold your integrity to the highest bidder, how can we trust you to follow through on building affordable housing or holding developers accountable?" Mr. Albanese asked in a statement. "The simple truth is: we can't. That is why I have not accepted a single cent from developers or lobbyists."

But it is not clear if any developers or lobbyists have even offered to donate money to Mr. Albanese's campaign, which is barely registering in public polls. The former Bay Ridge councilman was out of public life for 15 years before launching his mayoral bid, and only 1% of likely Democratic primary voters polled by Quinnipiac in the last few days said they would vote for him.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn has accepted a total of $79,125 from employees of the five real estate firms subpoenaed by the Moreland Commission. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has received $42,100, former Comptroller Bill Thompson $30,660 and ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner $37,550, according to Mr. Albanese. None of the firms has been accused by authorities of doing anything wrong, and the amounts they donated represent 0.8% of the $22.2 million raised by the four leading Democratic candidates.

News of the subpoenas hit the papers in early August. The commission plans to investigate whether the five developers building luxury housing projects opened their wallets to curry favor among state legislators to secure millions in tax breaks. An explicit exchange of a donation for a tax break would be illegal. The Real Estate Board of New York, an industry association, did not comment Tuesday afternoon on Mr. Albanese's call.

None of Mr. Albanese's rivals responded to his call to return the campaign contributions. A debate scheduled for Tuesday night, hosted by WABC, the Daily News and the League of Women Voters, will exclude Mr. Albanese based on his low fundraising numbers. The New York Times editorial page has called for him to be included.

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