Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bruce Ratner re-invests in Cuomo, DiNapoli; Forest City gives to Democratic slush fund

A look at the state campaign finance database shows that Forest City Ratner Chairman Bruce Ratner, and his wife, Pamela Lipkin, have given a total of $29,000 to the re-election campaign of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who controls Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing and shepherding Atlantic Yards.

ESD is about to approve changes to the Atlantic Yards plan as well as a court-ordered Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement that indicates no major impacts from a potential 25-year project buildout. Ratner's line to Cuomo makes it less likely that the state will welcome community pressure for more oversight of both the project as a whole and the process of construction.

Ratner also gave $5000 toward the re-election of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who's "responsible for ensuring that the taxpayers’ money is being used effectively and efficiently to promote the common good," including audits of agencies like ESD.

And Ratner and Lipkin each gave $12,500 to Renew New York, the political actional committee (PAC) run by lobbyist Al D'Amato.

Ratner's contributions


Lipkin's contributions


Note that while the limit for contributions in citywide races is $4950, Lipkin's second contribution to Public Advocate candidate Daniel Squadron, who ran unsuccessfully against longtime Forest City critic Letitia James, came in the runoff election.

A gift to the Democratic slush fund

After giving $58,420 in 2008 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account, last year Forest City Ratner gave $25,000 to what appears to be a similar Housekeeping account run by the New York State Democratic Committee, to the benefit of Cuomo.

"As widely reported in the press, the NYSDC's record-breaking soft money fundraising in 2013 is the result of Governor Cuomo's decision to use it as the fundraising vehicle for an advertising campaign promoting his policy agenda," Common Cause said last year.

Such Housekeeping accounts, which are not supposed to be used for campaigning but often seen as helping campaigns, are called slush funds by good-government watchdogs.


As indicated in the file below, Forest City's contribution was relatively modest, given much larger sums from various donors. But it's all part of New York State's curious political culture, where public gestures are often less important than access gained (and maintained) through strategic spending.

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