October, 2018

The King Kong of Real Estate

The real estate industry likes governors and likely winners. But by far it likes Cuomo the most

By Adrian Blanco

“If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you. If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talk to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions.”

– Mick Mulvaney, serving in President Trump's cabinet as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, at a conference with banking industry executives.

Washington, April 2018

Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, is likely to be reelected for another term on November 6. He is ahead in the polls by a large margin over the Republican candidate, Marc Molinaro. He has managed a smooth campaign after beating the actress and activist Cynthia Nixon in the primary. And, now, her charges that he is too close to real estate companies is no more in the public gaze.

On average, four out of five of the candidates who spend the most money for their campaigns usually win, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis. This is another positive sign for Cuomo, whose campaign has been financially backed with millions of dollars from private companies – $57 million so far in this election cycle. And when running for an election, it is clear that money makes the difference, yet it also determines the direction of future policies. For the 2018 Gubernatorial election, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has raised by far the most money from real estate businesses – $4,6 million so far.

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Cuomo is not the only gubernatorial candidate beholden to the real estate industry. Phil Scott, governor of Vermont; Kay Ellen Ivey, governor of Alabama; and Christopher Sununu, Governor of New Hampshire, have raised at least 10% of their campaign funds from real estate companies. All these candidates are likely to be re-elected on November 6, and each of these states is friendly to the real estate industry.

In total, real estate has spent more than $563 million for the 2018 Gubernatorial races, according to an analysis of data from Follow the Money. Real estate businesses have been careful enough to back the candidates who are most likely to be re-elected.

Real estate businesses are often affected much more by state laws compared with other businesses. As a result, governors, responsible for implementing state laws, are one of their main targets. Cuomo was also on top of real estate contributions in his previous elections--in 2014 and 2010.

During the Democratic primaries, Cuomo raised more than one million dollars from the industry to beat his opposing candidate, Cynthia Nixon, who placed affordable housing near the center of her campaign. Nixon also rejected contributions from the real estate companies that funded Cuomo. She challenged him to follow suit, but he did not.

In total, real estate has spent more than $57 million for the 2018 Gubernatorial races. With 77% of the available campaign contribution documents collected and processed, Cuomo has received 8% of those funds, which equates to $4.6 million.

The Real Estate Board of New York is the trade association that lobbies on behalf of the real estate industry in the city. When they were asked about why there are such large differences in contributions depending on the type of the election and the candidate, they did not provide an answer by the time this article was published.

In 2018, more than seventy gubernatorial candidates received funds from a real estate company. Compared to other elections, it is clear that gubernatorial races are by far the most appealing for real estate companies. For the midterm elections overall, they have spent $21 million dollars. For the nationwide gubernatorial races, they have spent three times as much. In the 2016 presidential race, real estate companies spent $40 million dollars overall, with Hillary Clinton as the candidate who received the most money from the companies.