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Mayor took donation from Gulch developer as critics focus on Trump connection

Keisha Lance Bottoms

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at a press conference on criminal justice reform (Photo by Maria Saporta)

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.

Keisha Lance Bottoms

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms accepted a $500 contribution from an employee of the company seeking to develop the Gulch in Downtown Atlanta, according to the mayor’s campaign finance disclosure. File/Credit: Maria Saporta

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.”

The proposed development at the ‘Gulch’ in Downtown Atlanta would replace surface and deck parking with a mini city including a hotel, apartments, and office and retail space. Credit: Kimley-Horn

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.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. Chris Johnston September 18, 2018 9:57 am

    Rest assured that more contributions from CMI and their partners would be made to Bottoms’ campaign fund after the deal is done.Report

  2. Robyn Turner September 18, 2018 10:24 am

    What is the relationship between CMI Group and CIM? I don’t see an explanation in the article.Report

  3. Concerned September 18, 2018 10:40 am

    Is the developer’s name “CMI” Group or “CIM” Group? It was referred to as both names in the article.Report

    1. Maria Saporta September 18, 2018 10:49 am

      The firm’s name has been corrected to CIM throughout the article.Report

  4. Marti Breen September 18, 2018 12:24 pm

    At yesterday’s City Council meeting, several concerned citizens spoke and their concerns with this development went way beyond CIM’s ties to other developers. As Julian Bene pointed out, there have been multiple mis-representations about the potential benefits of this deal that the City Council has wisely chosen to explore further. Thanks to all who voted for the ordinance to have an independent evaluation completed.Report

  5. JWK1957 September 18, 2018 2:18 pm

    A $500 donation should not be an issue and future donations are purely. However, NO Mayor should be pushing through a Development agenda for any reason. And stop with “the affordable” housing requirement bullshit already. This is prime real estate and any private sector entity has the right and obligation to maximize the return. The City should establish an “affordable housing” policy that is cut and dry and carve out less attractive parcels where it should be established. No Developer should be forced to build an outhouse on Boardwalk.Report

  6. S. Alan Young September 19, 2018 9:09 am

    My questions are rather simple; how much tax money is the city receiving Today from the gulch property ? If nothing where is loss. And are incentives available to other nearby developers ?Report

  7. Chris Johnston September 19, 2018 11:21 am

    @ S. Alan Young
    Ignore present tax revenues and think of this situation as an investment. Would you invest your capital in a venture that will not bring you an adequate return?Report

  8. See Smith September 19, 2018 4:19 pm

    So now Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, is also pushing for the package to be approved by council. Is Deal lining his pockets too? Will he now get the corrupt claims that are quickly thrown out on Mayor Bottoms? I doubt it. I think that there’s something brewing that “normal folk” as well as council members have no clue about, and they’re about to royally F this entire thing up. This is why Deal spoke out about it.Report

  9. Taylor Svete September 23, 2018 3:40 am

    Thank you! It was only $500 from one employee. But affordable housing is still a key issueReport

  10. Taylor Svete September 23, 2018 3:43 am

    This development is taxing homeowners out of their own property and that’s irresponsible. I can’t even afford to move out of my parents’ house in East Cobb because of property inflation. So screw the developersReport

  11. Chris Johnston September 23, 2018 11:19 am

    @ Taylor Svete
    Please explain in detail why this proposed development, on which little money has been spent, is taxing homeowners out of their own property.
    Is it taxing your parents out of their property?Report

  12. Alex Barrella (@AlexBarrella) September 25, 2018 7:49 am

    Correct not mentioning Mayor Bottoms cheating in the election.

    500 dollars was more than went into my campaign total; having received 0 donations. My campaign was artificially invalidated by the coward KLB in not allowing all candidates equal opportunity to speak on the official campaign trail..



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