Stringer, With Eye on 2013, Is Big on Real Estate Money

stringer2 Stringer, With Eye on 2013, Is Big on Real Estate MoneyBetween January and July, Scott Stringer amassed more money than anyone else raising funds for city elections in 2013. The Manhattan borough president, who is eyeing a run for mayor, took in $655,163.

To raise this quite formidable sum (which was more than any candidate raised in the first filing period four years ago as well), a parsing of his filings shows that Mr. Stringer went far and away to one industry above others: big real estate.

Based on a quick tally, Mr. Stringer took in at least $195,000 from real estate executives and their spouses or through intermediaries who are real estate executives.

To name a few donors who maxed out: CB Richard Ellis top broker Steve Siegel; RFR Holdings’ Aby Rosen and Michael Fuchs; and Sherwood Equities’ Jeff Katz.

Of course, Mr. Stringer is by no means the only candidate to amass a campaign war chest filled with cash from developers and landlords–one need only look at the long list of individuals who gave more than $25,000 to Andrew Cuomo’s campaign to find the names of most every top landlord in the city.

But it’s still a notable sum, even within the context of a mayoral election. Back in January 2008, I tallied up the real estate industry’s donations to mayoral hopefuls Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Representative Anthony Weiner, and then-Comptroller Bill Thompson. Respectively, at that point in the cycle, they took in 28 percent, 25 percent and 14 percent of their money from real estate executives and their spouses. While it was at a different point in the cycle, Mr. Stringer’s real estate contributions represent a greater proportion of his total: 30 percent.

This is impressive given that the 2008 numbers came mostly before new donation restrictions on those who do business with the city went into full effect, restrictions that greatly limit the maximum contributions of any real estate developer or landlord who has a city contract or is undergoing a zoning approval. Those individuals are capped at $400 for a citywide election, rather than the $4,950 that anyone else can give.

The law on the campaign limits is not without its loopholes (which, by definition, are legal), in which many developers who have projects before the city or who are soon to have projects before the city can give more than the limited amount to candidates. For instance, Vornado chairman Steven Roth, who is in the middle of a rezoning of the Pennsylvania Hotel site that received approval from Mr. Stringer, gave $1,000 to Mr. Stringer on July 2 (well after the approval). Due to a provision in the law that does not require subsidiary LLCs to list the owners of their parent companies, Mr. Roth is not on the city’s list of those who are limited in their ability to donate. (Asked about this, a Vornado spokesman said the donation was a mistake, and Mr. Stringer’s campaign said the contribution had been refunded.)

More broadly, Mr. Stringer’s fundraising numbers overall are impressive, and lay the groundwork for a rather competitive war chest should he run for mayor. He also has $990,000 on hand in his 2009 account, according to state filings. (However, he is playing catch up for now: Ms. Quinn and Mr. Weiner both have $2.7 million and $4.6 million, respectively, left over from their 2009 runs, which were shelved when Michael Bloomberg changed term limits to run again).

They also speak to his concentrated, but middle-of-the-road approach to real estate issues. He has made land use a major focus of his office, and generally seems to straddle the line well on development issues, coming down in favor of community concerns while not infuriating the development world.

“I just like the guy, plain and simple,” said Mr. Siegel of CBRE, who held a fundraiser for Mr. Stringer with numerous real estate executives. “I like the simple approach to things. No nonsense, no bullshit, no high-end snobbery. He tells it like it is, at least as I see it.”

In a statement, Mr. Stringer’s campaign highlighted the large number of total donations–over 1,000. From Stringer 2013 finance director Catherine Butler:

We’re proud of the over 1,000 contributors who have joined the Stringer 2013 campaign in just six months since we started fundraising.  We’re represented by New Yorkers from every industry and every borough, and we’re equally proud of the success we’ve had raising money through low-dollar contributions and online.

As for the real estate money, there’s another factor to consider: The big developers, flush with money, often give to all the campaigns, so as not to create any enemies.

“We’re real estate; we give to everyone,” quipped one donor.

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