Hedge funds and real estate dominate Cuomo donor list
ALBANY – In the first year of the 2018 gubernatorial election cycle, the list of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s largest donors is dominated by hedge funders and real estate developers.
This isn’t a significant departure from the 2014 cycle, when most of the money going to the governor and the New York State Democratic Committee came from similar sources. But in the first quarter of the cycle, at least, the dominance of these two sectors is notable: 1199SEIU, which gave the party $255,000 and the governor $60,000 and Ronald Perelman ($36,000 and $138,203) are the only two of the 15 largest donors to these committees to not fall neatly into one of these categories.
This list is topped by hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, who has written two $500,000 checks to the party that has spent a huge share of its money supporting Cuomo in recent years. In 2013, the state Democrats’ housekeeping account spent millions buying advertisements that boosted the governor’s agenda, the next year, 86 percent of its independent expenditures were on Cuomo’s behalf.
Druckenmiller has been a major supporter of charter schools. So has Paul Tudor Jones, the second largest donor to committees controlled by the governor ($10,000 to Cuomo and $500,000 to the Democrats). Tudor Jones was a supporter of a pro-charter Super PAC that helped Republicans retain control of the Senate in 2014.
Hedge fund Renaissance Technologies founder James Simons, whose $1.65 million to the Democrats’ campaign committees was enough to earn a spot as their top donor in the last election cycle, continued to financially support Cuomo. Simons, who made a $150 million gift to SUNY Stony Brook in 2011 that was contingent on tuition hikes, gave the party $300,000 and the governor $45,000 in 2015, placing him third for the year.
Other large hedge fund donors included Joel and Julia Greenblatt, who gave Cuomo $60,000 apiece, and Daniel and Margaret Loeb ($88,000 total), who hosted a July fundraiser for the governor.
The donor who has sent the most to Cuomo’s committee so far this cycle (excluding the Democrats) remains Kiryas Joel developer Mayer Hirsch. Days after the governor’s July veto of a bill opposed by Kiryas Joel developers, several limited liability companies registered at Hirsch’s address sent him checks totaling $250,000.
For most of the past election cycle, this top spot was occupied by Leonard Litwin, whose Glenwood Management gave the governor $1 million through LLCs. Glenwood’s giving has mostly dried up, and it hasn’t given Cuomo anything since a top executive signed a non-prosecution agreement in the federal corruption trial of former senator Dean Skelos.
Several other prominent New York City developers have continued to make large donations to the governor, however. They’re led by Howard Milstein, Cuomo’s former Thruway Authority chair, who gave the governor $170,000 and the party $130,000. Dan and Sheryl Tishman have given a combined $155,000, and Scott Rechler’s family gave $110,000. Holdings of Brookfield Financial ($150,000), Stephen Green ($103,684), Tishman Speyer ($100,000), The Durst Organization ($100,000) and Silverstein Properties ($90,000) also gave substantial sums.
Most of these real estate companies gave through subsidiaries incorporated as LLCs. All told, Cuomo’s personal campaign account has raised nearly as much from LLCs over the past year ($2.3 million) as from all other businesses, labor unions, PACs, and not-for-profits combined ($2.6 million).
His largest new source of money in recent months is a California developer. On July 20, SunCal principal Stephan Elieff wrote the governor a check for $5,000. Cuomo received $60,000 checks from two companies – JNI LLC and Lighthouse Landing Venture LLC – that used the same address as Eileff on the same day. SunCal is currently involved in a waterfront development project “just north of the present-day location of the Tappan Zee Bridge.”
Cuomo’s new donors also include the founders of collaborative office renter WeWork, Miguel McKelvey ($50,000) and Adam Neumann ($25,000; Neumann’s wife gave an additional $25,000). Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton gave Cuomo $60,800 in November, and Jackie Bezos, the mother of Amazon’s founder, gave $15,000 in July.
Here’s a list of the 65 donors who have given Cuomo and the state Democrats combined totals of $40,000 or more this election cycle:
If you are viewing this story as an email, please go to the web version to see the spreadsheet embedded above.
Note: The above numbers include donations made between Jan. 1, 2015 and Jan. 15, 2016 as reported to the state Board of Elections. Totals for related corporate entities were aggregated and appear under the name of the most-recognizable parent company. Donations from unions’ local were typically aggregated, unless these locals have notably distinct legislative priorities in Albany, as were contributions from related individuals living in the same household.
A few LLCs have yet to be identified by the author, and it’s thus possible that some of the totals cited above are actually higher.