BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Erik Bottcher is on the attack against a super-PAC whose support he says he neither asked for nor wants.
The City Council District 3 front-runner recently came under fire from his five campaign opponents after Voters of New York, a super-PAC mostly funded by big real estate, did a districtwide mailer promoting his candidacy.
The mailer, which cost $13,000, is what is known as an independent expenditure since it was not a direct contribution to Bottcher’s campaign. The candidate says he did not know the super-PAC was backing him or planning to send out the mailer on his behalf.
On Tuesday, Bottcher sent a “cease and desist” letter to Voters of New York, telling them to stop making any independent expenditures in the primary race for District 3 (Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen).
“To Whom It May Concern,” he wrote. “I demand that you immediately cease and desist all independent expenditures in the Democratic primary for New York City Council District 3, including but not limited to all political communications to registered Democrats in District 3.
“It is abundantly obvious to even a casual observer that your mailings were specifically designed to mimic my official campaign materials. The obvious intent is to confuse and mislead voters to believe that I support or condone your deceptive behavior. With your use of dark money, you not only disrespect the residents of Council District 3, but continue to undermine the fabric of our City’s democracy.
“Your actions are unwanted, uninvited and must stop immediately,” Bottcher demanded, adding, “If you do not cease and desist, I will take appropriate legal action against you.”
Voters of New York sent out mailers for a total of six City Council candidates, including Bottcher. An affiliated super-PAC, Common Sense NYC, funded mostly by developer Stephen Ross and billionaire Ron Lauder, also sent out mailers, mostly for but some against, 22 candidates in City Council races. The two groups have the same treasurer.
Common Sense NYC sent out a mailer against Christopher Marte, who is running in Lower Manhattan’s Council District 1 and has been an outspoken voice against overdevelopment.
Michael McKee, the treasurer of Tenants PAC, is backing up his ally Bottcher and has offered a defense that some might find curious. He claimed to The Village Sun that Voters of New York is, in fact, more scared of Bottcher than any of the other candidates in the District 3 field — fearing that Bottcher, if elected, would be the toughest against developers. Knowing just how anti-development voters in District 3 are, McKee said, the super-PAC, by putting out a mailer supporting Bottcher, is, in fact, hurting him.
The only thing identifying the mailer as being associated with real estate is some small type in a corner listing the “top three donors” behind it: “Paid for by Voters of NYC, INC….Top three donors: WLZ properties, LLC, Silverstein Properties, LLC, Rosewood Reality Group, INC.”
Others, including Bottcher’s opponents, though, feel it’s not that complicated. They are simply taking the mailer at face value — feeling that it proves big real estate thinks its interests would best be represented by having Bottcher in the City Council rather than any of the other District 3 hopefuls.
One of Bottcher’s opponents reacted to his cease-and-desist letter to the super-PAC with derision.
“The fact that Voters of New York did an independent expenditure on behalf of Erik is indicative of the fact that he is the candidate for big real estate — it’s not rocket science,” said Marni Halasa. “The cease-and-desist letter reminds me of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ — ‘He doth protest too much, methinks.’ He got caught and he’s trying to cover it up. If he’s saying that he didn’t know this was going to happen… .”
As for McKee’s defense of Bottcher, Halasa scoffed, “That is the most bizarre reverse-psychology gaslighting statement I have ever heard in my life. Mike McKee must think we’re all fools.”
Halasa added that Bottcher’s five opponents are now planning to team up to do their own districtwide mailer that will be a response to the super-PAC’s mailer backing Bottcher.