Friday, May 1, 2015

Real Estate $$$ In Politics LLCs 9876

Breaking Democratic BOE Commissioners Go To Court to Ban LLCs 
An important development. Democratic ElectionsCommissioners: Ban LLC Contributions Entirely  * Democratic Elections Commissioners: Ban LLC Contributions Entirely (YNN) The two Democrats who sit on the state Board of Elections have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a lawsuit the seeks to end the practice of allowing limited liability companies to donate unlimited funds to political campaigns.

Lawsuit Against NYSBOE Support of LLCs

Lawmakers, government reform group sue New York's Board ofElections over LLC campaign donation loophole (NYDN) Lawmakers, government reform group sue New York's Board of Elections over LLC campaign donation loophole (NYDN) A government reform organization and a bipartisan group of current and former state lawmakers are suing the New York state Board of Elections in hopes of closing a legal loophole that allows businesses to give virtually unlimited amounts of campaign donations. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Albany, takes aim atlimited liability corporations, which under the current system have donation limits 30 times higher than the $5,000 annual maximum imposed on regular corporations. Because LLCs are treated as separate entities, corporations can give basically unlimited amounts to state candidates by creating as many LLCs as they want. The Brennan Center of Justice and others called on the Board of Elections toclose the loophole that was created by the board in 1996. Among those who brought the lawsuit are Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn), and Maureen Koetz, a Republican who in 2014 challenged Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, who was speaker at the time. SUNY New Paltz Professor Gerald Benjamin, a Republican, and former state Sen. John Dunne, a former deputy GOP majority leader, are also listed as plaintiffs. A liberal and conservative coalition filed suit against the State Board of Elections, seeking to overturn the LLC loophole that critics say unleashed a torrent of cash in New York politics, The New York Timesreports:  * An eclectic group of liberal and conservative interests and individuals filed suit against the State Board of Elections, seeking to overturn a two-decade-old decision that critics say has unleashed an unending torrent of money into New York politics.

Schneiderman Takes From LLC Loopholes That He Said Should Be Closed 
Eric Schneiderman benefits from campaign finance loophole that he opposes LLC loophole, which allows wealthy campaign donors to skirt contribution limits by creating an unlimited amount of subsidiaries that have substantially higher donation limits than regular businesses. “The so-called ‘LLC Loophole’ has made a mockery of the campaign finance rules enforced by the Board of Elections,” he wrote. * State Controller Thomas DiNapoli has never been known as a fund-raising powerhouse, but the $264,372 he received the past six months was particularly paltry. It was his lowest July filing since 2008, when he had taken over the scandal-scarred office just months earlier and did virtually no fund-raising. * State Sen. Marc Panepinto pressed state Workers Compensation Board officials to take action favored by his multi-million-dollar law firm, the Daily New writes:  (NYDN)  State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations over the past six months — through a loophole he has said should be closed. Since January, Schneiderman has received a combined $267,850 from more than 40 different limited-liability companies, his latest campaign disclosure filings show. Schneiderman also in April wrote a letter to the state Board of Elections calling on the body to close what is known as the  Shell Companies  Seeking to increase transparency in the luxury real estate market, the de Blasio administration has imposed new disclosure requirements on shell companies buying or selling property in New York City, The New York Times reports:   * Seeking to increase transparency in the luxury real estate market, the de Blasio administration has imposed new disclosure requirements on shell companies buying or selling property in New York City. * New rules will help remove a “veil of secrecy” surrounding New York luxury realestate sales    Wednesday  Bill Hammond in the Daily News writes Cuomo, who has called for the close of the LLC Loophole while benefitting from it by accepting large campaign contributions, needs to return the donations he received and call for a self-imposed moratorium:

LLC Money From Bonomo is Not the Only Facts That Are Being Hidden in the NY1 Report
NY1 Ends the Story Attacking the GOP for Blocking LLC Campaign Finance Reform
"Today, in the state, if you want to give unlimited contributions and hide that fact, the LLC loophole lets you do it," said Daniel Squadron, State Senate. "Again and again we see the LLC loophole linked to the worst corruption allegations that come out of Albany."

Will the Same People Going After LLCs Go After Union Control of Campaigns?

The Union That Rules New York
The Union That Rules New York (City Journal) Powerful and well funded, 1199SEIU has unprecedented reach into city and state government.  The union’s clout can be assessed by several measures: the sheer size of its membership, its spending on campaigns and lobbying, and the depth and breadth of its connections with New York’s ruling elite. With well over 300,000 members in MassachusettsMarylandFloridaWashingtonD.C., and New York (where over half of that total resides), 1199SEIU is the largest union local in the nation, and possibly the world. (The union’s current name stems from 1199’s merger with the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, in 1998. For brevity’s sake, we will refer to that entity as “1199” throughout this article, except when referring to the national SEIU.) The contract terms established by 1199 also set the standard for the 10,000 workers in the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 37. Thanks to state laws that allow unions to deduct dues automatically from employees’ paychecks, the union’s massive membership means a massive treasury. According to its most recent filings with the U.S. Department of Labor, 1199’s annual budget is about $185 million, derived mostly from members’ $18 to $75 monthly dues. Adjusted for inflation, annual revenues between 2002 and 2014 grew from $118 million to $180 million as the union’s membership ballooned from 225,000 to 354,000, mainly through mergers with other unions.

State BOE Files Lawsuit Against LLC Donations and Settles It Quickly 

LLCs Are the Money Pump That Led to the Silver and Skelos Arrests
Right on the money: An Albany crackdown on LLC spending is limitedbut welcome (NYDN)* * A settlement agreement was reached in a lawsuit filed by the state Board of Elections' independent enforcement counsel Risa Sugarman targeting the so-called "LLC loophole" in election law, the Times Union reports:  The settlement is likely to include a fine, though the exact amount was not clear. If the fine stems from Patterson's acceptance of LLC donations, it could allow Sugarman to claim something of a victory in her test case targeting the loophole — and to target candidates who accept similar types of contributions from limited liability corporations. Some good government advocates had hoped that Patterson's case would result in a court ruling validating Sugarman's approach under state law. Some legal experts also had questioned whether Sugarman's lawsuit would stand up in Albany Supreme Court, given that neither the Legislature nor the state Board of Elections has amended the 1996 ruling creating the LLC loophole. Patterson, a little-known candidate who lost her race in May, is just the latest in a long line of candidates to accept what appear to be coordinated campaign donations from LLCs controlled by the same person, a list that also includes Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
State elections watchdog files lawsuit against 'LLC loophole' (TU)  LLCs skirt donation limit, candidate knew, still took money, filing contends. The civil lawsuit, filed in Albany County Supreme Court on July 2, pits Risa Sugarman, the chief enforcement counsel for the state Board of Elections, against the campaign of Shirley Patterson, a little-known candidate who ran unsuccessfully for a Brooklyn state Assembly seat in a May special election.The Times Union writes that state officials should revisitthe law governing the Joint Commission on Public Ethics to remove any unnecessary “muzzles” and the body should revise rules to improve transparency:  More 421-a Corruption Nearly 200 Buildings in New York City Flouted Tax Rules, Officials Say(NYT) The developers received discounts on property taxes under a state program known as 421-a, which is meant to spur construction. * New York City office construction at 25-year high (PoliticoNY) 9.7M square feet of new space to be built in Manhattan* Man accused of fleeing securities fraud suit is top GOP donor (PoliticoNY) He gave $100,000 weeks after settling with the SEC for almost $6 million * The state’s top elections watchdog quietly filed a lawsuit last month that could set a precedent curbing candidates’ ability to accept coordinated donations through the so-called “LLC loophole.” The civil suit pits Risa Sugarman, the chief enforcement counsel for the state Board of Elections, against the campaign of Shirley Patterson, a little-known candidate who ran unsuccessfully for a Brooklyn state Assembly seat in a May special election. * Board of Elections sues over contribution limit loophole (NYP) * Good government groups praised a court case challenging the LLC loophole by the state’s elections watchdog, Risa Sugarman, whose independence from the governor has previously been questioned, the Times Unionreports:  * * Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has raised substantial sums from limited liability companies, says he isn’t concerned about a lawsuit that seeks to fine a candidate for accepting large sums from such donors, Politico New York writes:   * Election watchdog's donation case mirrors giving to Cuomo -Times Union  * By LLC lawsuit's logic, Cuomo could be docked nearly $5million | POLITICO * The Times Union writes that the most outrageous loopholein the state’s campaign finance system, the LLC loophole, may finally be removed, but not thanks to lawmakers who have milked it for all it’s worth: * While modest, the state Board of Elections’ recent enforcement action, which targets Shirley Patterson, a losing candidate for state Assembly in Brooklyn, for a few thousand dollars’ worth of donations, is still progress towards closing the LLC loophole, the Daily News writes: 

Albany July Finance Reports
State AG Eric Schneiderman plans to report $2.3 million in cash on hand in his campaign account, underscoring the Democrat’s efforts to prepare for a possible gubernatorial bid. Cuomo 2018 Has $12.7M In Cash (YNN) * Senate Repubs Report Solid Numbers (YNN) * Skelos Fundraising Slows After Arrest (YNN) * Astorino Cashes Out Gubernatorial Account * State campaign fundraising filings are strong for Republicans, with the GOP raising nearly $2 million this year so far and currently sitting on $1.2 million in cash on hand, State of Politics reports: * Assemblyman Keith Wright raised almost $150,000 in the race to replace Rep. Charles Rangel, with the help of prominent donors including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the Teamsters Union, the Observer reports * Cuomo’s campaign account for 2018 is flush with nearly $12.7 million in cash, the Times Union reports: * Sen. Dean Skelos’s fundraising efforts slowed dramatically following his arrest on corruption charges, though he still has $2.4 million in cash on hand, according to a campaign finance filing with the state Board of Elections, State of Politics writes:  * Skelos fund-raising slowed after leadership ouster (Capital) Former majority leader reports $2.4 M. in cash on hand  * More From Cuomo’s Campaign Filing (YNN) * Allies of Dean and Adam Skelos have set up a “family defense fund” to help them pay their legal bills before their looming corruption trial. * Andrew Cuomo gets $5.2M in campaign donations in 6 months; has $12.7million on hand (NYDN) * Senate GOP gave disgraced Dean Skelos $50K following arrest (NYP) *  Cuomo pays $100K in legal fees, donates to Yankees, Plaza hotel (NYP) * Gov. Andrew Cuomo spent roughly $100,000 in campaign cash white-collar defense attorneys during federal prosecutor Preet Bharara’s probe into the closure of the Moreland Commission panel, the Post reports:  * New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito raised a whopping $289,160 over the past six months for her 2017 campaign, and spent just over $143,000, which left her with $144,442 in the bank, the Daily Newsreports:  * Gov. Andrew Cuomo took in $5.2 million in campaign donations the past six months andused $100,000 of it to pay legal fees. He also paid out nearly a quarter of a million dollars in 2014 campaign bonuses – including $120,000 that went to his campaign manager and longtime aide, Joseph Percoco. * The $5.2 million Cuomo raised is a lot of money, but it’s his smallest haul for the first half of a year since 2008, when he was state attorney general. * Cuomo had a number of prominent donors who lined up behind him. Some of them included Wall Street executives: Daniel S. Loeb, Philip A. Falcone and Ronald O. Perelman, who each cut a $25,000 check to the governor’s campaign. * Cuomo ended the six-month period with $12.7 million still on hand. AG Eric Schneiderman, who has been mentioned as a potential 2018 primary challenger against Cuomo in 2018, is expected to report having raised about $2 million in donations since January, leaving him with $2.3 million in his coffers.* Allies of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos have begun raising funds for his legal defense, establishing a website and sending out letters seeking contributions. * The state Senate Republican Campaign Committee shoveled $50,000 into the re-election coffers of its disgraced former leader just two weeks after he was busted on federal corruption charges. * NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito raised a whopping $289,160 over the past six months for her 2017 campaign, dwarfing the anemic $17,350 that de Blasio raised over the same time period. * Low Poll Numbers? Cuomo Blames Albany ‘Writ Large’ (YNN) * Elected Officials Already Fundraising for Potential Future Campaigns (NY1)* As he fights federal corruption charges, former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has so far avoided paying for his attorneys with funds from his political campaign, Gannett Albany reports: * Not surprisingly, the recently elected legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate have seen their campaign accounts swell. *  Senate Democrats are receiving political contributions from an unlikely source — hedge funders* Records show new state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie both saw big jumps in campaign contributions since they took their leadership posts, the Daily News reports:  * The recent campaign filings are a glaring example of how money in politics isn’t just about getting candidates elected, but about trying to influence them once they’re in office and it’s a reminder of how much New York needs campaign reform, the Times Union writes:

Leonard Litwin is a major New York political donor who amplifies his political speech by making large donations through his network of LLCs. Via the LLC loophole, each company may contribute as if it is a distinct individual (with separate campaign finance limits).
Using a new database which automatically loads up all of the New York State Board of Elections campaign finance filing data, we have conducted a unique analysis of Litwin's political finance network in order to paint a picture of his sprawling influence - presented in graphic form below.
One problem with the public data is that when filers describe the counter-parties to their campaign finance transactions (such as donors and vendors), there is no objective standard for names and addresses. Any one name or address may be described limitless ways, accounting for truncation, abbreviation, punctuation, nicknames, typos and other errors. With that in mind, this research gathered up 302 different references to Litwin and his businesses. Litwin's home address and office address are collectively described 104 ways in the data.
With these selections in hand, our research to identify the Litwin network activity (going back to January, 2000) resulted in a product of 1,834 specific contributions totaling $13.2 million dollars. We tallied the dollar sums on the relationships between Litwin and each of his beneficiaries. The chart below sorts recipients of Litwin's cash from largest to smallest, by sum. First, the top five beneficiaries:
Top 5 Recipients from Leonard Litwin LLC Network, 2000-2014
2. ANDREW CUOMO 2014, INC. $1,089,200
4. JOBS FOR NEW YORK, INC. $587,600

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