Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2559 Sun, 18 Aug 2019 03:03:24 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Amazon’s Recent New York Campaign Contributions Mostly to Members of Congress https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8082-amazon-s-recent-new-york-campaign-contributions-mostly-to-members-of-congress https://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.

***
by Jake Shore for Gotham Gazette
  

Read more by this writer.

 

 

]]>
Amazon’s Recent New York Campaign Contributions Mostly to Members of Congress Sun, 18 Nov 2018 05:00:00 +0000
New York Congressional Primaries to Watch Ahead of June 26 Vote https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7728-new-york-congressional-primaries-to-watch-ahead-of-june-26-vote https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7728-new-york-congressional-primaries-to-watch-ahead-of-june-26-vote trump dan donovan

Rep. Dan Donovan with President Trump (photo: @DanDonovanSI)


New Yorkers will head to the polls on Tuesday, June 26 to vote in Democratic and Republican congressional primary elections, determining which candidates will appear on the parties’ ballots in November’s general election. Not every one of New York’s 27 congressional districts is home to one or two primaries, but some districts are in the midst of competitive primary campaigns.

In New York City, where just one seat in the House of Representatives delegation is held by a Republican, there are several hotly-contested primaries, though only one race is expected to be competitive in the general election. The lone GOP-held seat is also the one where a tough general election is expected -- there is currently an intense primary on each side of the aisle in the 11th Congressional District, which includes Staten Island and a sliver of Southern Brooklyn and is represented by incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan.

A small handful of Democratic incumbents representing parts of the city are facing spirited primary challenges, largely from the left, though incumbents, as is almost always the case, are favored. Without public polling, it is often difficult to tell if challengers are breaking through at all, or how voters feel about their incumbent representative.

Candidates are campaigning feverishly leading up to the primary, which is expected to see fairly low turnout, though it may see a boost relative to past years due to the competitive nature of some races and the larger atmosphere surrounding “the resistance” to President Donald Trump.

While NY-11 will factor into the discussion for the general election, other congressional seats outside New York City will form the vast majority of those seen as the state’s swing districts, where either a Democrat or a Republican could win and influence which party controls the House in January.

While every one of the country’s 435 House seats are on the ballot this year, as they are every other year, there are some U.S. Senate seats up for election this year as well -- Senators serve six-year terms and states stagger the elections of their two Senate seats. This year, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is seeking another term and is being challenged by Republican Chele Farley in the general election.

In order to vote in the upcoming federal primaries, New Yorkers have to already be registered to vote and with the party holding a primary in their district. A closer look at the congressional primaries to watch leading up to June 26:

District 9
In Central Brooklyn’s District 9, 12-year Democratic incumbent Rep. Yvette Clarke faces her first primary challenge in six years. Adem Bunkeddeko, 29, was, until recently, an associate director at Brooklyn Community Services and, for five years, a member of Brooklyn Community Board 8, which includes Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and Weeksville.

He says he is running because “the political culture is so static” in the nation’s largest and most diverse city. Bunkeddeko’s platform includes the expansion of charter schools, legalization of marijuana, and an aggressive housing plan that, he says, would open paths to homeownership for families making between $30,000 and $80,000 a year.

Bunkeddeko has raised more than $200,000 in his bid for the Democratic nomination as of March 31. Clarke, meanwhile, has raised at least $600,000 in her bid for re-election. Almost 60% of Clarke’s campaign contributions have come from political action committees; Bunkeddeko has reported zero donations from PACs.

Clarke’s campaign highlights her introduction of legislation granting new legal rights to homeowners facing foreclosure, work on the Affordable Care Act, and support for universal firearm background checks. She also is a signatory to the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. Clarke has not stated her positions on other marquee Democratic issues like  legalization of marijuana and the abolition of ICE, though she has introduced legislation that would equip ICE agents with body cameras.

“Our community is under siege and has been for quite some time,” Bunkeddeko wrote on his website, with reference to the Trump administration. “More and more of our neighbors are finding inequality and injustice in Central Brooklyn (NY-9), and good folks are being pushed out in droves.”

District 11
In New York City’s only Republican-represented congressional district, Rep. Dan Donovan is facing a primary challenge from his predecessor, former Rep. Michael Grimm, who resigned the office three-and-a-half years ago just after winning reelection while under federal indictment. Grimm pleaded guilty to tax evasion and served time in federal prison. He now wants his old job back and is challenging Donovan in a Republican-heavy district where, unlike in most of the rest of the city, allegiance to President Donald Trump is seen as essential -- at least in the primary.

Grimm represented the mostly-Staten Island district from 2010 to 2015. In 2014, he was charged with 20 counts of fraud, federal tax evasion and perjury. He resigned in January of 2015, and served eight months in federal prison.

Grimm recently gathered over 3,000 signatures from those in the district, easily surpassing the 1,250 required to appear on the primary ballot, and, while Donovan has raised over three times as much money as Grimm, a recent NY1/Siena poll shows Grimm with a ten-point lead over the incumbent.

Differences between the candidates have been largely non-ideological — Grimm’s campaign website does not even offer a list of his positions, and Donovan’s stakes out his stances on widely-agreeable issues like Staten Islanders’ commutes (shorten them), taxes (cut them), and homeland security (protect it).

As representatives, Donovan introduced legislation this year to target federal funding for sanctuary cities, and Grimm, in 2013, urged the Department of Homeland Security to stop releasing low-risk undocumented immigrants from detention camps.

In 2012, the two worked together — Donovan as Staten Island District Attorney, Grimm as Congressional representative — on legislation to fight prescription drug abuse.

Both candidates have made a show of their support for Trump in the only New York City district he carried. While Grimm has attacked Donovan as a moderate who voted against the Trump tax reform package, Donovan has pointed to Grimm’s moderate record when he represented the district. Donovan introduced a bill that would mandate every post office display photos of the president and vice president.

Trump recently endorsed Donovan, tweeting that “There is no one better to represent the people of N.Y. and Staten Island (a place I know very well) than @RepDanDonovan, who is strong on Borders & Crime, loves our Military & our Vets, voted for Tax Cuts and is helping me to Make America Great Again.”

“Dan has my full endorsement!” he concluded. Donovan was quick to boast about the endorsement, while Grimm downplayed it.

The winner of the Republican primary will face the winner of a competitive Democratic primary in NY-11, which includes six Democrats. That pack is led by fundraising leader and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee endorsee Max Rose, a veteran who has raised more money as of the March 31 filing date than all of his Democratic competitors combined. Michael DeVito is also running an especially active campaign, while other Democrats include Omar Vaid, Zach Emig, Paul Sperling, and Radhakrishna Mohan.

NY-11 is on the Democratic Party’s “Red to Blue” shortlist of currently-Republican congressional districts that realistically may elect a Democrat in November.

District 12
Meanwhile, in District 12, covering much of Manhattan’s East Side and parts of Brooklyn and Queens, 34-year-old Suraj Patel, an entrepreneur and business ethics professor at New York University, is attempting to unseat 25-year incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney.

Patel has raised slightly over $1 million for his bid, nearly matching Maloney’s $1.4 million war chest -- a rare development for a primary challenger to an incumbent. Maloney retained the money advantage, at least as of the March 31 filing, and has significant establishment support for her reelection.

Patel was born in Mississippi to Indian immigrant parents, and has worked in various capacities in Barack Obama’s orbit, including as a volunteer on his 2008 presidential campaign.

“Our republic is broken,” Patel wrote on his website. “Big money has corrupted the system, there are too many obstacles to voting, and undemocratic policies like partisan gerrymandering have made our House of Representatives unrepresentative of the American people.”

The upstart and insurgent candidate challenging a well-established party representative is something Maloney has seen before. She last faced a serious primary challenge in 2010, when lawyer Reshma Saujani raised upwards of $1.3 million in a bid to unseat the incumbent. Nevertheless, Maloney prevailed with 81% of the vote.

Saujani endorsed Maloney in early March, according to the New York Post, as have several advocacy groups and unions, including 32BJ SEIU, the largest union of property service workers in America.

She is running on her consumer protection bona fides, experience “on the front lines in the fight for women’s rights,” and legislative work for paid parental leave, among other positions.

District 14
In District 14, covering northwest Queens and the eastern Bronx, 28-year-old organizer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is offering 56-year-old Rep. Joe Crowley his first contested primary in his 14 years in office.

Crowley has significant establishment ties: as the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, he’s the fourth highest ranking official in the House Democratic leadership and is frequently mentioned as a possible successor to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Crowley runs the Queens County Democratic Party, with great influence over local elections, the courts, and government in Queens and beyond.

Crowley touts his support for equal pay legislation, co-sponsorship of legislation mandating universal firearm background checks, and authorship of an act providing tax relief for poor renters.

Ocasio-Cortez is challenging Crowley from his left as part of the slate of the Justice Democrats, a political action committee that supports progressive candidates who pledge to not accept corporate donations. She’s staked out her support for a federal jobs guarantee, the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and tuition-free public college.

Both candidates tout their immigrant roots — Crowley’s family is Irish, Ocasio-Cortez’s is Puerto Rican — and their support for Medicare-for-All.

The fundraising gap between the two candidates is significant — with $2.78 million on hand compared to Ocasio-Cortez’s $116,000, Crowley’s outraised his opponent almost twenty-four times over.

“It's a major David-vs-Goliath tale for the soul of the Democratic Party,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a blog post on Reddit. “We are going to have to choose whether we will continue down the path of corporate patronage or return to the Democratic spirit of our governance.”

Races Outside New York City: Districts 1, 19, 22, and 24
The Cook Political Report carefully designates “competitive” House races and lists a few New York races outside the five boroughs.

In Long Island’s 1st District, five Democrats are running for their party’s nomination. Perry Gershon, a former businessman who says he was inspired by Trump’s election to “set out to personally fight for change,” has raised more money than all his competitors combined. The winner of the contested primary will face off against two-term Republican incumbent Rep. Lee Zeldin, who co-sponsored a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and voted to defund Planned Parenthood.

Voters in the 19th District, which comprises of much of the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, will choose from seven Democrats competing for a chance to challenge incumbent Republican Rep. John Faso in the general election.

The district backed Barack Obama in 2012 but favored Donald Trump in 2016, and its past three representatives have been Republican. Most recently, Faso defeated Democrat Zephyr Teachout in 2016.

The Democratic candidates debated each other this past Thursday on WAMC, a public radio network headquartered in Albany, for nearly two hours, regarding topics ranging from the environment to health care.

In District 22, another vital district that the national Democratic Party is prioritizing, Assemblymember Anthony Brindisi is challenging Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney in what looks to be a tight race.

In District 24, which includes a chunk of central New York, Democrats Dana Balter and Juanita Perez Williams are competing for the chance to challenge Republican Rep. John Katko in the general.

Districts 22 and 24 are also on the Democratic Party’s “Red to Blue” list.

National
The Democratic Party is hoping to gain control of the House of Representatives through November’s general elections. Currently, the House is composed of 235 Republicans and 193 Democrats with seven vacancies. Democrats see several recent elections results, in New York and elsewhere, as encouraging in their efforts to flip the House this year, including through a few New York wins.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke at a rally last year with House Minority Leader Pelosi, of California, and other Democratic leaders to announce a movement to flip six New York House seats from red to blue. Cuomo vowed to unseat New York Representatives Lee Zeldin (CD1), John Faso (CD19), Elise Stefanik (CD21), Claudia Tenney (CD22), and Tom Reed (CD23), and Chris Collins (CD27). The districts represented by Reps. Stefanik, Reed, and Collins are generally regarded as safely Republican.

You can find your local polling station here.

***
by Jordan Kimmel and Daniel Yadin

***
by Jordan Kimmel, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

 ]]>
New York Congressional Primaries to Watch Ahead of June 26 Vote Mon, 11 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000