Report: Parent of Coliseum bidder spent $23M on lobbying, political donations
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Forest City Enterprises, the parent company for one of the final bidders for the Nassau Coliseum renovation, spent $23 million on political contributions and lobbying over the past decade in districts where it was developing real estate projects, according to a Washington, D.C.-based government accountability group.
The report, part of a two-year study by the nonprofit group Cause of Action, found that Forest City Enterprises and its subsidiaries gave hefty contributions to members of Congress and state lawmakers.
In turn, the report says Forest City received $2.6 billion in direct and indirect government subsidies from 2002 to 2012, including sales tax exemptions for the construction of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and low-income housing tax credits for residential construction in Oakland, Calif.
Dan Epstein, the group's executive director and the former Republican counsel for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, argued that, "unless there is effective oversight of how government subsidies are granted to companies like Forest City Enterprises, businesses will continue to use American taxpayer dollars to bolster their own private profits."
Jeff Linton, spokesman for Forest City Enterprises, called the report's findings "baseless and absurd. We are being criticized for being transparent, above board and adhering to the rules. We take pride in the work we do in partnership with local governments to revitalize communities, create jobs and generate economic activity for municipalities, regions and states, including significant tax revenues."
Cause of Action, which calls itself an advocate for government accountability, reported last year that affiliates of ACORN, a nonprofit organizing group, were still active and collecting government funds long after the group had officially dissolved.
Forest City Ratner is a finalist with the Madison Square Garden Co. for a contract to renovate the Coliseum and the 77 acres surrounding the arena.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is expected to make his decision within the next two weeks.
Forest City Ratner has not contributed to Mangano's re-election committee. The Dolan family owns controlling interest in MSG and owns Cablevision, Newsday's parent company.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the amount Cause of Action's report said Forest City received in direct and indirect government subsidies from 2002 to 2012.