Monday, August 01, 2016

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned arena is an odd place to host one of American democracy’s premier events.
The dubious optics extend to Forest City Ratner’s other partner, the Greenland Holding Group, a Chinese conglomerate that owns most of the planned 16-tower project tethered to the arena. Owned by the government of Shanghai, Greenland now reaps the benefit of the subsidies, tax breaks and cheap land that Forest City Ratner wangled for the project in the 2000s.
Perhaps the diciest symbolism regards Greenland and Forest City Ratner’s extensive use of a federal program called EB-5, which allows foreign investors to get visas in exchange for a short-term $500,000 investment (an amount that, on paper, is purported to create 10 jobs).
Since then, Prokhorov bought Forest City Ratner's remaining share of the arena--actually, the arena operating company, since the Barclays Center is nominally owned by New York State to enable tax-exempt financing.

I wrote well before the rise of nationalist Republican candidate Donald Trump, but couldn't he and some surrogates have slammed the role of a Russian billionaire, a Chinese government-owned adjacent project, and the role of immigrant investors?

Or perhaps, given Trump's warm feelings toward Putin, maybe he would've left the Russian billionaire alone. (Then again, Prokhorov is now on the outs with Putin. Complicated!)

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