Big Real Estate’s No on Prop 21 campaign has raked in a staggering $78 million in contributions, according to Politico, to defeat California’s Proposition 21. Publicly traded real estate investment trusts such as Essex Property Trust, Equity Residential, and AvalonBay Communities are among the leading contributors to the No on Prop 21 campaign.
“Wall Street landlords are trying to buy this election,” says René Christian Moya, campaign director of the Yes on Prop 21 campaign. “They’re financing misleading TV ads, and they’re using a shell committee to funnel money into the No on Prop 21 campaign. All in an effort to keep charging unfair, sky-high rents so they can keep making billions off the backs of middle- and working-class California renters.”
The real estate industry has formed four No on Prop 21 committees, the leading one is Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association. The CAA is the state’s most powerful landlord lobbying group.
On October 16, Equity Residential, led by co-founder and billionaire Sam Zell, shelled out two massive contributions of $1,833,800 each to Californians for Responsible Housing. Also on October 16, billionaire George Marcus, founder of Essex Property Trust, contributed a hefty $1,400,000.
As of October 20, Essex Property Trust, led by CEO Mike Schall (pictured above), is the top contributor to the No on Prop 21 committee sponsored by the California Apartment Association, giving more than $10 million.
In addition, Blackstone Group (led by billionaire CEO Stephen Schwarzman), billionaire landlord Geoffrey Palmer, and other corporate landlords have contributed $29.9 million to the California Business Roundtable Issues PAC, which has funneled $6.1 million to No on Prop 21: Californians to Protect Affordable Housing. The Roundtable Issues PAC has also contributed millions to California’s No on Prop 15 campaign.
The Yes on 21 campaign recently filed a formal complaint with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, charging that Californians to Protect Affordable Housing and Californians for Responsible Housing sponsored by the California Apartment Association have violated the Political Reform Act by engaging in money laundering activities. The FPPC is now investigating the fundraising methods of Californians for Responsible Housing.
“It’s very disturbing to see,” said Dr. Trent Lange, executive director of the California Clean Money Campaign, a non-partisan watchdog that seeks open and accountable government, at a recent Yes on 21 press conference. “Most campaigns, and certainly the Yes on 21 campaign, are not using shell committees.”
Lange, who is not affiliated with the Yes on 21 campaign, added: “They appear to be playing a shell game here. It’s something that voters should take into account.”