A super PAC, largely funded by real estate billionaire Stephen Ross, spent a little over $ 1 million to sway New York City’s main race for the city council, with some of that investment going against progressives who care for important ones Candidate for council positions.
Common Sense NYC has raised over $ 2 million. Ross, the chairman and founder of real estate giant Related Companies, donated $ 1 million, and Ronald Lauder, also billionaire and youngest son of makeup legend Estee Lauder, donated $ 500,000. According to Forbes, Ross and Lauder have a combined net worth of over $ 12 billion.
Ross, who also owns the Miami Dolphins, came under fire in 2019 when he hosted a fundraiser for former President Donald Trump in the Hamptons. Related principals, including Ross, are investors in luxury fitness brand Equinox. SoulCycle and Equinox distanced themselves from the Trump event when customers threatened to boycott. In August, CNBC reported that Lauder, who has been friends with Trump for years, has not yet started raising funds for the re-election of the then president.
The group’s financial power was evident in the 24 hours leading up to the official pre-election day. The New York Campaign Finance Board reveals that on Monday, the day before the election, the organization spent over $ 100,000 and distributed at least nine mailers opposing a group of progressive candidates for the city council.
The PAC may not seek to distract voters from various candidates for the city council. A committee chairman told CNBC that they are leaving open the option to continue their efforts until the general election in November.
“In the event that there are NYC Council competitive races in the general election, Common Sense NYC may be involved. Personally, I don’t expect more than two or three council races to be competitive in November,” said Jeff Leb. the treasurer of the PAC in an email to CNBC on Tuesday.
The sheer amount the group, officially known as the Independent Spending Committee, raised and spent on Tuesday’s primaries shows the importance of business leaders influencing the city council’s lesser-known races. The PAC’s messages have in part focused on rolling back the idea of paying the police and other progressive causes.
The New York City Council is the legislative body responsible for drafting and voting on proposed New York City laws. A group like Common Sense can raise and spend unlimited money on the city council races they think are important. Wall Street executives have already put over $ 9 million into the race for the next New York mayor, with most of the money going to former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and Brooklyn President Eric Adams.
Long-time New York Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf told CNBC that the move by the Ross-backed PAC to spend a ton on progressive candidates for the city council, aside from the group’s concern for New York in a post-pandemic world, is a power game of the Real real estate represents real estate community.
“This is an attempt … to prove how powerful you are,” Sheinkopf said in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday. Sheinkopf noted that members of the city council had publicly cracked down on New York’s big business leaders and said the Common Sense campaign was a test of how much power New York leaders will have in the future.
“Well, let’s say if they don’t win these races, will people be scared of them? The fact is, people are not afraid of them now. If they win, people will be more scared. Power is about fear and not friendship, ”said Sheinkopf.
The political strategist said the city council had become progressive over the years and business leaders had often been criticized by these politicians, leading to the creation of PACs like Common Sense NYC. “Business interests have been attacked by this council, and there has been an attempt to restrict the business community, including reducing the power of the real estate community,” Sheinkopf said.
Leb defended the candidates the group supported in a separate email to CNBC.
“NYC common sense has supported a wide range of candidates who are pragmatic and have a proven track record of helping New York recover from the pandemic,” Leb said Tuesday. “We highlight which candidates qualify for local office and which do not, in races that otherwise receive little attention. None of our funders played an active role in the work or management of Common Sense, and they did not select the races that did we engaged in. “
Leb, who is also a Managing Partner at Capitol Consulting, is ranked by City & State as one of the top lobbyists in New York.
The PAC has spent over $ 540,000 to support 18 local candidates for office and almost the same amount against eight others.
Representatives from Ross and Lauder did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication.
One of Common Sense NYC’s big targets was Michael Hollingsworth, who is a candidate for Brooklyn City Council’s 35th borough. The PAC has spent over $ 100,000 opposing him. Two letters against Hollingsworth were delivered to voters on Monday. One of the mailers checked by CNBC targets Hollingsworth who wants to curtail New York police work.
“As crime continues to rise, Michael Hollingsworth wants police funding to fall,” the mailer said. “We have to stop Michael Hollingsworth from disappointing the police!” says the ad. The Gotham Gazette reports that Hollingsworth was sponsored by the New York Democratic Socialists of America and sponsored by former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon.
Hollingsworth responded in a tweet about the campaign that was carried out against him after this story was published.
“We are not committed to the rich, real estate donors or special interests. We are with the people,” he said on Twitter.
Common Sense NYC has spent over $ 95,000 opposing Jaslin Kaur, who is running for District 23 city council. The borough is in Queens, and Kaur was recently elected by Progressive MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y. The city reported that Kaur was also supported by the Democratic Socialists of America.
Common Sense NYC spent a little over $ 26,000 on two mailers against Kaur that were distributed on Monday.
Others who see opposition to the Ross-backed effort include John Choe, who is running in a primary for the District 20 seat, and Alexa Aviles, a contender for the New York City seat in the 38th district, who is also from Ocasio -Cortez was supported.
Choe commented on the Ross-backed PAC’s moves in a tweet Tuesday in response to that story.
“As the founder of our neighborhood chamber, which helps small businesses, I question the notion that these super-PAC vultures represent more than the predatory greed and hubris of the billion-dollar oligarchs who are slowly destroying our country,” Choe said on Twitter.
Aviles said the PAC’s decision to target them represented a bigger campaign by the real estate industry.
“It’s no wonder Common Sense NYC, Inc. is spending a ridiculous amount of money attacking our human-powered campaign in District 38,” Aviles told CNBC after the story was published. “After all, one of their main backers is Stephen Ross, who supports Trump, a multi-billion dollar real estate developer focused on devouring our neighborhoods. I take pride in the real estate industry realizing we are going to fight them back. Our campaign is clearly against the interests of the billionaires because we fight for the working population. “