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Jobs For New York's Funding In City Council Races Raises Alarm Among Critics

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One of the biggest spenders this campaign season isn't a candidate for public office. It's an outside group backed by the city's real estate industry, which has poured millions of dollars into City Council races across the city, a development that has critics raising alarms. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

You may have seen the name Jobs For New York on campaign mailers. The group says it promotes good jobs and affordable housing. What the mailers don't tell you is that the group is backed by some of the city's biggest developers.

"We're talking about an entity that's formed and funded by the major real estate developers of New York City," said Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York. "They have almost limitless amounts of cash."

They're not afraid to spend it, either. Jobs For New York has so far spent more than $3 million, all to back its preferred candidates for City Council, where many land use issues are decided.

In most cases, Jobs For New York is spending far in excess of what the candidates themselves are allowed to spend under the city's campaign finance program. And much of the mail is negative. One claims that candidate Lisa Giovinazzo wants to lower the drinking age to 17, which led her to file a libel lawsuit.

"I filed it because they're lying," she said. "Because they're blatantly lying, and it was so offensive to me, especially me as a mother."

Some, though, argue that Jobs For New York is being unfairly demonized.

"The overall picture here is to create more good jobs," said Patrick Purcell of UFCW Local 1500.

Purcell's grocery workers' union supports the effort. He said that Jobs For New York shares many of the same goals as unions and other progressive groups, who, in many cases, are backing the same candidates.

"It's affordable housing. It's producing jobs. It's expanding the middle class," Purcell said.

Still, some candidates backed by Jobs For New York have denounced it.

"They really have no place in our democracy," said City Councilwoman Margaret Chin. "I mean, especially in local election."

Critics also say Jobs for New York is exploiting a campaign finance loophole. By law here in New York, corporations cannot give money directly to candidates for city office, and in general, there are tight restrictions on their political spending.

The same is not true, however, for LLCs. As a result, many real estate LLCs, or limited liability companies, have given money to Jobs For New York in six-figure increments, a loophole some City Council members are now seeking to close.

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