September 23, 2023

A super PAC, largely funded by billionaire Stephen Ross, has set a winning record in the New York City Council primaries, a sharp reminder of how powerful the real estate industry remains in the Big Apple’s electoral politics.

Common Sense NYC group has raised over $ 2 million since December. Almost half of that came from Ross, the chairman of real estate giant Related Companies, owner of the Miami Dolphins and a fundraiser for former President Donald Trump.

The PAC spent over $ 550,000 targeting mostly progressive Democrats, including some backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, records from the New York Campaign Finance Board show. The PAC continued to invest in attack reports in the 24 hours leading up to June 22nd, the main day. Many winners became apparent after weeks of counting ballot papers with ranking lists.

The PAC was entirely against the Democrats. Six of the eight candidates rejected by the PAC ended up losing. The group supported 18 candidates, including one Republican, with 13 winning.

Democrats who win their New York City election primaries often win the November general election. The city council has 51 members, the majority are Democrats.

The PAC was eager to have progressive campaigns put down with a surge of attack reports.

“We are proud that over three-quarters of the candidates who supported Common Sense NYC and Voters of NYC won their elections. These candidates are seasoned, forward-thinking, pragmatic leaders with a real vision for improving the quality of life in New York.” City have and in their own communities, “PAC treasurer Jeff Leb said in an email on Tuesday.

“Most importantly, thanks to our intervention, most of the candidates who supported the defunding of the police lost their elections and sent a clear message that public safety is vital to the future recovery of New York City.”

Leb later noted that of the 24 candidates who supported his two external groups, Common Sense NYC and Voters of NYC, 20 won their races. He’s also previously told CNBC that Ross and other donors had no operational control over the super PAC, which targeted progressives.

A spokesman for Ross declined to comment.

The city council drafts and votes on proposed New York laws. Critics claim the body is too advanced. Eric Adams, the winner of the Democratic primary for mayor, is expected to rule as moderate, which could lead to clashes with the council. Wall Street executives spent more than $ 4 million to support Adams, who is expected to win the general election.

The Ross-funded PAC did not support Adams.

Ross came under fire in 2019 when he hosted a fundraiser for Trump in the Hamptons. Related chief executives, including Ross, are investors in luxury fitness brand Equinox. SoulCycle and Equinox distanced themselves from the Trump event when customers threatened to boycott. Ross has a net worth of $ 7 billion, according to Forbes.

Other real estate and business executives who supported the PAC during this cycle included Ronald Lauder, also a billionaire and the youngest son of makeup legend Estee Lauder, who contributed $ 500,000. Private equity firm Atlas Equities gave $ 70,000. Elliot Tamir, co-founder of private equity real estate investment firm Vesper Holdings, gave $ 50,000. A limited liability company with ties to real estate manager Richard Chera donated $ 7,000.

The PAC’s attack reports had nothing to do with real estate, although they were funded by some of the city’s largest real estate companies. According to democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf, the strategy has clearly worked.

“Finding properties that are despised by sections of the electorate that do not contain property-related arguments and beating the opponents: That’s the beauty of independent campaigns,” said Sheinkopf.

One of the PACs’ major victories was against Michael Hollingsworth, who ran unsuccessfully to represent the 35th district on the city council and was supported by the Democratic Socialists of America. The PAC spent over $ 100,000 against Hollingsworth during its first run.

One of the mailers checked by CNBC targets Hollingsworth for wanting 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!” Notes the mailer.

Hollingsworth initially did not respond to a message on social media requesting comment. He gave his opinion to CNBC after this story was published.

“I think I would say that billionaires don’t put that much money into races if they don’t believe that money makes a difference in politics,” Hollingsworth said in a Twitter message later Tuesday.

The PAC spent $ 90,000 against Jaslin Kaur, who ran for District 23 and was supported by progressive MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y. Kaur did not respond to a request for comment. But Kaur quoted the Ross-funded PAC in a tweet about their campaign.

Alexa Aviles, who ran for the 38th district seat, was one of the progressive contenders to win despite opposition from the PAC. Common Sense NYC spent $ 65,000 on attack reports against them. Ocasio-Cortez also supported them.

Aviles did not return a social media message for a comment.

The Ross-funded organization’s attacks against them may be over.

“We don’t plan to stand against them in the general election,” Leb said when asked if they would continue to stand up against Aviles and another progressive city council candidate who won a primary. “In New York City, most general elections are uncompetitive. We expect that every candidate we support and win their primary will also win their general election.”