Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
Republican state senators are the top recipients of campaign contributions from New York City's real estate industry, but over 70 percent of the politicians receiving these funds are not from the city, reported the non-profit advocacy group Common Cause New York.
The group claimed that the senators receiving the contributions are exploiting campaign finance loopholes and wielding heavy influence on the city's housing policies.
Real estate groups contribute about $5 million a year to state and local campaigns, according to Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York. "In exchange, they're receiving extraordinary tax breaks, lax rent regulations and other regulations that relate to city investments. It's a phenomenal investment and the return is astronomical," she said.
Lerner said that no laws have been broken, but she said Common Cause wanted to draw attention to campaign finance loopholes that should be fixed. "In just one tax break they receive, they sock the New York City tax payers for over a billion a year," she said.
Lerner called on Governor Cuomo's Moreland Act Commmission to open a broad investigation into the Real Estate Board of New York, which she alleges creates LLCs for the sole purpose of making campaign contributions. Common Cause New York did not single out politicians by name. But the group did say that Cuomo received $100,000 in contributions two days before signing a tax abatement law.
Calls to the Governor's office and Real Estate Board of New York were not immediately returned.