Mayor took donation from Gulch developer as critics focus on Trump connection
By David Pendered
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms accepted a $500 contribution during her run-off campaign last year from an employee of the company that plans to develop the Gulch. This contribution has been overshadowed by other aspects of the campaign to slow the mayor’s push for a Monday vote by the Atlanta City Council.
The donation appears on page 67 of Bottoms’ campaign disclosure report that was filed Nov. 30, 2017, for the reporting period occurring up to six days before the run-off election.
James S. Crowell donated $500 on Nov. 17, according to Bottoms’ campaign disclosure. Crowell’s occupation is listed as “Real estate development.” Crowell’s employer is listed as “CIM Group.”
Crowell has a residence in Miami. Property records show the unit sold for $995,900 in 2016. The owner is listed as MDL Rise Corp. The company filed for incorporation on Oct. 5, 2016, according to records kept and updated by Florida’s secretary of state.
The condo is on the western edge of Miami’s Brickell business district, described by a real estate company as being recognized as:
- “South Florida’s Financial District and as the second largest international banking center in the U.S. Often referred to as ‘The Manhattan of the South,’ for its international banking and business institutions….”
This was the only contribution to Bottoms’ from a CIM-affiliated person that appeared in a cursory review of the mayor’s 2016 campaign disclosures.
Meanwhile, critics of the mayor’s original push for the Atlanta City Council to vote Monday on a financial incentive package for the Gulch development have focused on the company’s ties to the president and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The critics never contended that Trump or his associates would have a financial interest in the Gulch development. Their point was to observe that CIM has a record of transactions with influential parties and now seeks to bring a huge Atlanta development under its wing. The idea was to pique the council’s interest and cause a delay of the vote.
The goal of some of the critics is to slow the pace of deliberations in hopes of adding requirements that the Gulch project provide temporary construction jobs and permanent employment to nearby residents. Plus other benefits for the community that would be hashed out in negotiations.
These community benefit agreements have been used previously in Atlanta, most markedly in some construction projects leading up to the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Since then, advocates have found the road to be largely uphill.
Highlights of the reports regarding CIM Group’s dealings with the president or Kushner were carried by two affiliates of National Public Radio and by the bisnow.com business site. The reports include:
WYNC, May 25, 2017 – regarding Kushner’s purchase of a tower in Brooklyn for $340 million:
- “Kushner didn’t buy the Watchtower alone. He had help from a company called CIM Group, a private equity firm based in Los Angeles. Over the years, documents show, CIM has done at least seven real estate deals that have benefited Trump and the people around him, including Kushner. Those deals included stabilizing the scandal-plagued Trump SoHo hotel, a key Manhattan holding for Trump and his children Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr.”
SCPR, May 26, 2017 – picks up the May 25, 2017 report by WYNC and has a conversation with the author to discuss:
- “CIM and Trump Worlds’s business history, and how ethics experts say that relationship may come into play now that Trump and Kushner are in the White House.”
bisnow.com, May 30, 2017 – recounting the WYNC report and questions by an ethics watchdog about the relationship:
- “While the depth of CIM’s connection to the first family is unknown, since much of its business is private, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington spokesperson Jordan Libowitz said the situation creates doubt concerning the extent of Trump’s business ties.”
bisnow.com, Nov. 23, 2017 – regarding Trump SoHo Hotel drops Trump’s name:
- “Say goodbye to the Trump SoHo.
- “The majority condominium owner at the Trump SoHo hotel and condo building, Los Angeles-based CIM Group, has bought out the remaining years of Trump International Hotels’ management and license contract for the Trump-branded Lower Manhattan hotel.
- “The price for the approximately 23 years on the 30-year agreement was not disclosed. The Trumps will operate the hotel at 246 Spring St. until the end of this year. It was a deal the family “couldn’t refuse,” a source familiar with the deal told Bisnow.”