Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2575 Tue, 20 Nov 2018 15:57:02 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Amazon’s Recent New York Campaign Contributions Mostly to Members of Congress http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8082-amazon-s-recent-new-york-campaign-contributions-mostly-to-members-of-congress http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8082-amazon-s-recent-new-york-campaign-contributions-mostly-to-members-of-congress cuomo jeffries

Gov. Cuomo & Rep. Jeffries (photo via Governor's Office)


Before Amazon announced the placement of one of its next satellite “headquarters” in Queens, drawing mixed reactions from local lawmakers and significant overall pushback, the company’s campaign finance footprint in New York shows it was spreading its money around to many New York politicians, mostly those at the federal level.

Eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York City, all Democrats, who signed a now infamous letter last year to compel Amazon to consider the city, received more than $26,000 in total campaign contributions from Amazon from the beginning of 2017 to October 2018, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, with four of the members receiving $7,500 of that total before signing the letter.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whose district includes part of Queens, received $8,000 total from Amazon in four separate contributions to his campaign since 2017, including $1,500 before he had signed the letter and $6,500 afterward, a time period that coincided with Jeffries’ recent reelection to the House, though he did not face serious opposition. Jeffries’ office did not respond to a request for comment for this story, but he said in a statement to Cheddar that the deal “will supercharge New York City’s reputation as the single best place to do business in America.”

Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke received $5,000 from Amazon, half before signing the letter and half since -- Clarke did face a tough primary challenge this year, narrowly defeating Adem Bunkeddeko before cruising to victory in the general. In a statement for the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) that was sent to members of the media upon the Amazon announcement, Clarke said, “Amazon’s decision to locate a headquarters in New York City is a testament to the strength of our technology sector.”

Other letter signees who received Amazon contributions include Rep. Eliot Engel, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (whose district includes Long Island City), Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, and Rep. Adriano Espaillat, all of the five boroughs. Maloney called for a fair “public review” of the deal in a statement to Politico, arguing that “[a] beneficial deal will withstand public scrutiny.”

Upon the announcement of the deal to bring Amazon to New York City, Espaillat issued a statement of praise, saying in a tweet, “Welcome to New York City, @Amazon. We have the best & brightest technologically skilled workforce that is ready & willing to work & invest in our community & help our economy continue to grow,” while Velazquez issued a statement criticizing the process and outcome, saying, “Many New Yorkers, myself included, are concerned by the enormous incentives this package extends to Amazon.”

Rep. Joe Crowley of the Bronx and Queens received $2,500 from Amazon before he signed the letter, according to FEC filings. He lost his seat in an upset to now Congressional Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been a strident critic of the Amazon deal. The democratic-socialist tweeted that she finds the deal “extremely concerning,” arguing that the money for tax breaks for Amazon could be better spent on the “crumbling” subway and disenfranchised communities.

It’s unclear if any of the members of Congress played a role in the negotiation process, which was apparently led by Cuomo, along with de Blasio and members of their two teams -- those involved apparently signed non-disclosure agreements at Amazon’s insistence. Members of Congress’ support or opposition, however, can play a crucial role in the overall atmosphere around such a deal and the public perception thereof. For the most part, Amazon is more concerned with federal regulations and nationwide tax policy, evident from its campaign funding patterns. Data from OpenSecrets.org shows that Amazon gave about $1.17 million to federal candidate campaigns in 2018 alone, 52% of which went to Republicans and 48% to Democrats.

Amazon has also given some campaign contributions at the local level, including $1,000 to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s campaign committee in January of this year, according to state election records. Heastie did not respond to a request for comment, but the Bronx Democrat told the New York Times in a statement that “this deal has the potential to more than pay for itself.” He added that, “Of course we take our role in approving aspects of this deal very seriously and we will be closely reviewing it.”

The only other local lawmaker whose campaign funds Amazon added to was Republican state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who received $1,000 in January, according to state election records.

New York City and State have agreed to roughly $3 billion in financial incentives to Amazon to settle in Long Island City, including tax breaks and rebates mostly from existing economic development programs that would be applicable to other companies, as well as a roughly $500 million capital grant from the state that is discretionary. The deal is based on a pledge by Amazon to create 25,000 new jobs in the city over 10 years, at an average salary of $150,000 per year. Some of the incentives are directly tied to those jobs coming to fruition. The company may also qualify for new federal tax savings.

Critics have cried foul about a secretive process with virtually no public input before a deal was struck (there will be some before everything is finalized) and that there are billions of dollars of incentives going to one of the wealthiest companies in the world. A number of elected officials did praise the deal, including U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the Democratic Senate minority leader. Schumer received a total of $10,000 from Amazon in three separate contributions to his campaign committee in 2015 ahead of his reelection the following year, according to FEC filings. He has not received any funds from Amazon since his 2016 reelection.

Some of the criticism towards the Amazon deal is tied more broadly to Cuomo’s economic development programs and their incentives for companies to relocate or create jobs. Flanagan, whose 2018 campaign got the relatively minor boost from Amazon, criticized Cuomo for giving handouts rather than working to improve New York’s overall economic climate. Flanagan’s majority conference, which is handing over the reins next year to Democrats who flipped the chamber on Election Day, has signed off on budgets that have included Cuomo’s programs.

Amazon, a trillion dollar-company, spent $110,000 lobbying the state Assembly, Senate, and executive branch on bills related to taxation and regulation of internet companies from the beginning of 2017 to October of 2018, according to state lobbying records. JCOPE (the Joint Commission on Public Ethics) lists Amazon lobbying activities as only related to “internet/online sales & related issues,” but specific bills lobbied on include the establishment of a task force to study an internet marketplace tax and bills that propose to regulate voice-recognition technology.

The company also spent over $120,000 lobbying New York City government in the last two years for participation in their cloud computing services, according to city lobbying records.

The records do not show lobbying related to the new headquarters in Queens. That process appears to have been removed from official lobbying and instead part of the competition Amazon announced, wherein it received hundreds of pitches from governments and coalitions around the country. There are no records of Amazon donating to the campaigns of either Cuomo or de Blasio.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and one of the wealthiest people in the world, said in a statement on the day of the announcement that the new “headquarters” split between New York and Virginia “will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.”

Hiring for the new offices is scheduled to begin in 2019, according to Amazon. Governor Cuomo has said that the new office campus and related employment will generate more than $27 billion in tax revenue over the next 25 years.

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by Jake Shore for Gotham Gazette
  

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Amazon’s Recent New York Campaign Contributions Mostly to Members of Congress Sun, 18 Nov 2018 05:00:00 +0000
How Much Does Brooklyn Congressional Primary Result Show Path in Overlapping State Senate Race? http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7860-how-much-does-brooklyn-congressional-primary-result-show-path-in-overlapping-state-senate-race http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7860-how-much-does-brooklyn-congressional-primary-result-show-path-in-overlapping-state-senate-race myrie w congressmembers via indivisble bk

Zellnor Myrie receives the endorsement of Rep. Clarke, among others (photo: @BKIndivisible)


A wide swath of central Brooklyn is hosting its second contentious Democratic primary race this year. After a surprisingly close congressional primary in June, voters in a largely overlapping state Senate district will vote in September in another race where an incumbent is facing an upstart challenger.

Brooklyn Congressional District 9An array of neighborhoods in the borough, including Brownsville, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Flatbush, and Prospect Heights, make up New York’s Ninth Congressional District (map left), where Democratic voters narrowly voted to nominate Yvette Clarke for re-election over her challenger, Adem Bunkeddeko, in a race that drew national attention for its closeness, especially alongside the defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The Brooklyn neighborhoods of Clarke’s district, with the exception of a few, like Sheepshead Bay and Marine Park, also make up State Senate District 20 (map below), which adds Gowanus, South Slope, and Sunset Park, and is represented by incumbent Senator Jesse Hamilton, who is facing a primary challenge from Zellnor Myrie.

Brooklyn State Senate District 20The two primaries bear some similar contours: a youthful progressive candidate goes for the left flank of a Democratic incumbent amid an anti-establishment milieu, hoping to motivate voters upset by Donald Trump and looking for something different from their elected officials. Bunkedekko’s success as a previously little-known activist and lawyer in the district—he lost by just 1,075 votes—may help provide a roadmap for Myrie, especially in terms of where in the district to go for those anti-establishment votes.

But there are key differences between the Clarke-Bunkedekko and Hamilton-Myrie races, including Hamilton’s prior membership in the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference and the flood of endorsements behind Myrie, but a key question for the challenger, incumbent, and all those watching, is: How much can we apply from the results of the race in Congressional District Nine to the race in State Senate District 20?

NY9 resultsThough ultimately unsuccessful in his bid to unseat Representative Clarke, daughter of legendary former City Council Member Una Clarke, Bunkeddeko certainly came close, losing by four points to a politician who won her previous primary challenge, in 2012, by 77%. Results of the June 26 vote show Bunkeddeko’s strongholds were in wealthier, whiter, gentrified areas of the district like Park Slope and Prospect Heights, while Clarke excelled in poorer, predominantly black neighborhoods in the eastern part of NY-9 like East Flatbush and Brownsville (map left, via CUNY Mapping Service).

It remains to be seen whether this dynamic will be replicated in the race between Hamilton and Myrie. Hamilton is a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a coalition of eight Democrats in the New York State Senate that formed a years-long coalition agreement with Republicans to bolster GOP control of the chamber. The IDC formally disbanded this April amid criticism and the declaration of primary challenges by Myrie and a cohort of other candidates.

Myrie spokesman André M. Richardson told Gotham Gazette that the campaign was surprised by Central Brooklynites’ widespread knowledge of the IDC.

“More people knew about it than we thought would,” he said. “A lot of the conversation is in the Park Slope and Prospect Heights area, but folks in Flatbush recognize it, as well.”

Hamilton’s participation in the IDC is a useful cudgel for the Myrie campaign, providing a unifying talking point about propping up Republican control of the state Senate and blocking progressive legislation in a racially and economically diverse district.

In predominantly-black neighborhoods like Brownsville, Richardson said, the IDC ties Hamilton to the prevention of Andrea Stewart-Cousins from becoming the State Senate’s first black female majority leader; in heavily-Hispanic Sunset Park, the Myrie campaign tells voters that the IDC is why the Dream Act was blocked. Through this, and with an intense focus on the ever-relevant housing crisis, the challenger hopes to avoid the polarization of the district seen in the results from June and appeal to voters in every neighborhood. That effort is likely to be helped by the fact that Myrie has been endorsed by a wide swathe of elected officials and clubs, including Rep. Clarke and other elected officials from the area, such as Assemblymember Diana Richardson.

The IDC is one of several factors that complicate attempts to use the results of the Clarke-Bunkeddeko race to predict the Hamilton-Myrie contest, despite the two races taking place in, more or less, the same territory. Also, noted Steven Romalewski, director of the CUNY Mapping Service, to Gotham Gazette, “different groups of voters turn out for different races.” Only about 8.2% of eligible Democratic voters voted in the primary between Clarke and Bunkeddeko, making it difficult to generalize characteristics of the voter pool.

Voter turnout is expected to increase in September, when the Democratic nominees for the statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general will also be decided. Two of those races feature black candidates from Central Brooklyn: Jumaane Williams, running for lieutenant governor, and Letitia James, for attorney general. Governor Andrew Cuomo and his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, have also focused campaign efforts in the area, aware that black voters are essential to winning Democratic primaries.

In last year’s September primaries for city elections, Senate District 20 was home to 21,000 voters, while only around 10,000 residents of the Senate district cast votes in June’s contest when the congressional primary was the only race on the ballot.

Though it’s nearly impossible to accurately predict whether increased turnout will help or harm Hamilton, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014, political consultant Jerry Skurnik told Gotham Gazette that “the gentrifiers” constitute a larger proportion of Senate District 20 than they do Congressional District Nine.

By Skurnik’s admittedly “not 100% accurate” demographic calculations, 82% of the Senate district lies within the Congressional district, and the overlapping area is about 72% black. But the overall Senate district is just slightly over 60% black, since it includes smaller portions of near-exclusively African-American neighborhoods like Brownsville and East Flatbush and extends farther out of Central Brooklyn, into neighborhoods like Gowanus and Sunset Park that have relatively few black residents. This could spell an advantage for Myrie, if Bunkeddeko’s strength in Park Slope is any indication, and if he is able to move the same voters to the polls while motivating others. But, there are many complicating factors, and neither Romalewski nor Skurnik felt comfortable prognosticating with any certainty.

In line with Romalewski’s cautioning that different races motivate different voters, Skurnik emphasized to Gotham Gazette that a race for the New York State Senate necessarily involves issues different from those in a contest for the U.S. House of Representatives. For instance, rent regulations are a marquee issue for state legislators, who will renegotiate current rent laws next year, while the issue is less central to Congressional races like Clarke and Bunkeddeko’s, though candidates for all offices must discuss housing affordability in New York City. Myrie may have an easier time mobilizing residents around his housing-focused campaign than Bunkeddeko, who devoted extensive time to attacking Clarke’s Congressional record (or lack thereof, as he framed it). But, Myrie is also focused on Hamilton’s record in the Senate, especially around progressive bills that have not passed because Republicans, supported by the IDC, did not favor them.

The polarized, racially and economically divided results of the NY-9 primary will not necessarily reproduce as such in Senate District 20, Skurnik said, because both Hamilton and Myrie have seen them. “Senator Hamilton knows what happened,” Skurnik said. “He knows where the Congresswoman did badly...He’s not going to be surprised.” The same holds true for Myrie, he added. If the results of the June primary can teach the candidates of District 20 anything, it seems, it’s what to avoid.

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by Daniel Yadin for Gotham Gazette

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How Much Does Brooklyn Congressional Primary Result Show Path in Overlapping State Senate Race? Fri, 10 Aug 2018 04:00:00 +0000
A Closer Look at Voter Turnout in 2018 New York Congressional Primaries http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7774-a-closer-look-at-voter-turnout-in-2018-new-york-congressional-primaries http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7774-a-closer-look-at-voter-turnout-in-2018-new-york-congressional-primaries joe crowley voting

Rep. Joe Crowley votes (photo: @JoeCrowleyNY)


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset primary defeat of Representative Joe Crowley has sent shockwaves through both the New York and national political worlds.

The 28-year-old Latina democratic-socialist who has never held elected office and refused money from corporate PACs stood in stark contrast to Crowley, a 56-year-old, ten-term Congressional representative who was a prolific Democratic Party fundraiser, served as the chair of the Queens Democratic Party, and was seen by some as the next Democratic Speaker of the House.

Ocasio-Cortez’s win is being partly attributed to her campaign’s organizing, strong ground game, and significant social media presence, as well as its embrace of progressive policies such as ICE abolition and single-payer healthcare. She didn’t merely upset Crowley, she won handily, by a margin of 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent.

Maps compiled by the CUNY Center for Urban Research show that support in the election that has the country buzzing did not break down neatly on racial lines; in fact, Ocasio-Cortez maintained strong support throughout the district, across areas of various demographic makeups.

“This wasn’t a fluke,” said Steven Romalewski, of the Center for Urban Research. “She was able to get voters from almost every neighborhood to come out and support her.” Romalewski noted that, contrary to the conventional wisdom of voting on racial lines, the areas where Ocasio-Cortez’s showing was strongest were areas that weren’t predominantly Hispanic, signaling that her showing may not have been due to the district’s changing demographics (it has been steadily becoming less white for years), but due to desire for change from Crowley.

ny14 primary 2018 electionnightdraft

Though Ocasio-Cortez whipped up energy among voters in the Queens and Bronx district, and there is little to compare voter turnout to because Crowley had not been challenged since 2004, the primary election was decided, like most elections in New York, by a relatively small number of people.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting as of Wednesday, the State Board of Elections shows 27,826 registered Democrats cast votes in Tuesday’s primary in New York’s 14th District. With 235,745 registered Democrats as of April, according to the BOE, this comes out to a turnout of around 11.8 percent.

This turnout is about the same as in Crowley’s last competitive primary, in 2004. According to the Federal Election Commission, 12.4 percent of Democrats in Crowley’s district voted that year, which was a presidential election year, unlike this year, and saw congressional and state-level primaries on the same September day. New York has since moved its congressional primaries to June.

For comparison, when Crowley was reelected to Congress two years ago, in 2016, he faced no primary opponent and nominal competition in the general election, but in the general he received 147,567 votes as many more voters turned out on Election Day than typically do for party primaries, even when they are competitive. Ocasio-Cortez will herself now face Republican Anthony Pappas and Conservative Elizabeth Perri in the general election, but is expected to win easily.

Regardless of the low primary turnout, Romalewski characterized Ocasio-Cortez’s win in the same way as most other observers: a massive upset.

“The challenger was able to do something with her supporters that the incumbent wasn’t,” Romalewski said. “And that’s surprising given that the incumbent has the power of incumbency, has the power of the party machine behind him, and has the power of endorsements, and long time political support in both counties, Queens and the Bronx, and that was not enough to hold off the challenger. So that’s a big upset.”

Turnout on Tuesday was similarly low in other closely-watched congressional primaries. In the 9th District, in Brooklyn, where Representative Yvette Clarke narrowly beat New York Times-endorsed Adem Bunkeddeko 52 to 48 percent, Democratic turnout is only at about 8.2 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting, according to the BOE. 28,663 Democrats voted out of 347,466 total in the district.

In the 12th District, including parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, where Representative Carolyn Maloney dispatched challenger Suraj Patel 58 to 41 percent, Democratic turnout stands at about 13.6 percent with 99 percent reporting. 41,460 Democrats voted out of 304,115 total in the district.

Turnout was slightly higher in the Republican primary in the 11th District, covering Staten Island and part of southern Brooklyn, where incumbent Representative Dan Donovan was seemingly running a tight race with his predecessor Michael Grimm, only for Donovan to handily beat Grimm, 63 to 36 percent. That primary, featuring a rare such primary battle of the two most recent officeholders and an apparently race-altering endorsement of Donovan by President Donald Trump, saw a turnout of 17 percent of registered Republicans -- 20,118 Republicans voted out of 117,983 registered in the district.

Romalewski said that the high profile nature of the race played a part in the higher turnout. “Not only was it a high profile race, but there was an incumbent and a former incumbent running for the primary vote,” he said. “So there was a lot of institutional support on both sides, and a lot of interest on both sides, and a lot of familiarity with the voters, so it’s not surprising that there was relatively robust turnout in District 11.”

ny11 primary 2018 electionnightdraft

Similarly to Ocasio-Cortez’s convincing win District 14, Romalewski noted that Donovan’s strong support was widespread across the district rather than being concentrated in pockets. He won the overwhelming majority of election districts, and beat Grimm by significant margins in both the Staten Island and Brooklyn sections of the district.

In the crowded Democratic primary in District 11, Max Rose defeated five other Democratic hopefuls with 63 percent of the vote. That primary saw a turnout of 8.5 percent -- 17,098 Democrats voted out of 200,410 total registered in the district. The Donovan-Rose general election is expected to draw a lot of interest, and money, from around the state and country, as Democrats see it as a possible pick-up toward flipping the House.

In Maloney’s last noteworthy primary challenge, from Reshma Saujani in 2010, turnout stood at 16.4 percent. The last competitive primary in the district represented by Donovan was in 2010, when it was the 13th District and Grimm defeated Michael Allegretti in an election with 13.7 percent turnout. Both of these primaries occurred before a 2012 federal court decision that led New York to become the only state this year with separate federal and state primary days, wherein the state was forced to move its congressional primary earlier in the year and lawmakers declined to also move the state-level vote. The separate days can depress turnout, says Romalewski.

“In recent years, there’s been as many as four elections within a year, primaries and generals, that people have to turn out for,” he said. In 2016, New York voters turned out for presidential primaries in April, congressional primaries in June, state and local primaries in September, and finally the general election in November. “It definitely risks voter burnout, the opposite of turnout.”

Clarke’s last primary challenge, in 2012, saw a 6.2 percent turnout. Maloney faced a challenge in 2016 from attorney Peter Lindner, in a race that saw a 6.7 percent turnout.

Turnout was similarly low elsewhere in the city and state. In the 5th District, where Representative Gregory Meeks won 81 percent of the vote against two challengers, Mizan Choudhury and Carl Achille, saw a 3.8 percent turnout. In the 16th District, Eliot Engel dispatched three challengers -- Jonathan Lewis, Derickson Lawrence, and Joyce Briscoe -- with 74 percent of the vote in an election with 9.8 percent turnout.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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A Closer Look at Voter Turnout in 2018 New York Congressional Primaries Wed, 27 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000