The coordination and sophistication of Glenwood Management's extensive political campaign contributions have been laid bare by evidence submitted in the corruption trial of Sen. Dean Skelos and his son, Adam.
Handwritten notes that direct how to give money in a way to avoid contribution limits. Email consultations about channeling the money to certain candidates and through certain limited-liability corporations. Real estate industry complaints about pressure to donate and fears about not giving. Even the revelation that a landlord group had a "mole" sitting in on tenants' and reformers' strategy meetings.
"New Yorkers may have had some idea about this, but now they are seeing in real crass terms how much of state business is a cash-and-carry enterprise," said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union, a watchdog group. "To see it in such detail, with real transactions taking place, has astounded even the most cynical."
Critics had long complained about companies that shrewdly use subsidiaries to channel donations to key politicians while skirting the laws on corporate giving, and have cited Glenwood as the most prolific. Over the last decade, the New Hyde Park-based luxury-apartment developer, its longtime leader, Leonard Litwin, and its affiliated companies have been the biggest campaign contributors in the state. A Newsday review found Glenwood had given Republicans and Democrats at least $13.4 million in contributions since 1999. Glenwood used dozens of subsidiaries organized as limited liability companies to get around contribution limits -- LLCs are subject to the individual contribution limit, $150,000, in annual contributions, not the corporate limit of $5,000.
Glenwood is one of three companies that Skelos allegedly extorted to hire or send business to his son in exchange for favorable legislation. Company executives have testified as cooperating witnesses. Glenwood isn't accused of wrongdoing. It did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.
The Skelos trial has produced a few new tidbits about the company's donations: For example, it gave $500,000 in 2011 to the Committee to Save New York, a pro-business coalition and ally of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that has refused to disclose its donors.
More noticeably, the trial unearthed emails and documents detailing the coordination of giving among Glenwood and influential real estate umbrella groups, such as the Real Estate Board of New York and the Rent Stabilization Association, to fight rent control and other laws.
"Tell Dean we are giving 300000 thru joe," an apparent reference to Skelos and an RSA member.
"Whelan can put more money into Tommy L pac called Empire something or other. That Ok with Dean?," a reference to James Whelan, a REBNY vice president.
"Please send us the list of senators Dean wants us to help." Reply: "Ok. All through LLC," a reference to using Glenwood's LLCs to channel funds.
"We have a mole who goes to their meetings," Charles Dorego, a Glenwood vice president and cooperating witness emailed to REBNY directors outlining a rent-control rally and public-relations campaign a tenants' group was planning.
"Should I follow up with Richard Runes about the make-up and timing of the checks we are seeking from Glenwood?," a reference to Glenwood executive Richard Runes, one of the cooperating witnesses.
"Skelos needs money," Runes emailed just two weeks before the 2010 elections.
Watchdogs said what many believed intuitively: that the use of LLCs was strategic.
"We always felt the likelihood of this being coincidental was nil," said Susan Lerner of Common Cause. "This trial indicates there was a sophisticated, well-coordinated giving plan."
Lerner said businesses not only want to influence legislative outcomes but also are fearful about not giving.
"Another $25K. Jeez," Dorego wrote when the real estate lobby hit him up for another donation to help Senate Republicans late in the 2012 campaign.
All of the Glenwood campaign-contribution emails that have been revealed in the trial deal with the legislator on trial, Skelos, and Senate Republicans. The company and affiliates gave GOP Senate committees $1.6 million since 1999, more than any other group. But no individual has received more from Glenwood than Cuomo, a Democrat, who received $1.1 million from Litwin's holdings.
Litwin and Glenwood also gave $587,600 to Jobs for New York, a REBNY-backed political action committee that supported pro-development candidates, and another $262,800 to REBNY's own political action committee.
Glenwood has fought to free up more New York City apartments from rent-control laws and to maintain or expand development tax breaks, among other items.
Efforts to make LLCs adhere to the same limits as corporations were blocked this year by Senate Republicans in the State Legislature and GOP members of the state Board of Elections.