Some of Manhattan’s wealthy Democrats are being forced to pick sides between Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, two of the party’s most powerful House lawmakers, in a primary race that is pitting the incumbents against each other in the city’s newly redrawn 12th district.
The lawmakers, longtime colleagues in the House, now have to fight each other to save their seats after a court ordered New York’s 12th congressional district to be redrawn. It now encompasses much of Nadler’s old district on the Upper West Side and Maloney’s on the Upper East Side.
Both are hosting fundraisers ahead of the Aug. 23 primary, forcing some of the wealthiest donors in the Big Apple, many of whom are used to supporting both candidates in prior elections, to declare their alliance in what could be one of the most expensive House campaigns in the 2022 midterms.
Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran New York Democratic strategist, estimates $5 million or more could be spent by, or on the behalf of, each candidate.
“By all measures, the kind of dough that buys political consultants houses in the Hamptons,” he said in an interview with CNBC. Maloney’s campaign came into April with over $1 million on hand, while Nadler’s political organization entered the second quarter with just under $850,000, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission filings. There are at least four Democratic candidates running for the new district, including Suraj Patel, who once worked on President Barack Obama’s advance team.
Maloney told CNBC in a statement that she’s been actively fundraising for the primary over the past 18 months and said her supporters are convinced she should represent the newly redrawn district. A representative for Nadler did not return a request for comment.
“They know that my record of proven accomplishment for NY-12 merits my return to the halls of Congress for another two years, and with their support, I will be able to communicate my message of accomplishment so that voters both new and old will know, too,” the veteran lawmaker said.
Nadler chairs the powerful House Judiciary Committee while Maloney is chair of the arguably equally powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee.
New York saw one of the most expensive House elections during the 2020 campaign, with spending in the race for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s seat totaling over $30 million, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. More than $930 million came from donors based in the New York metro area during the 2020 election to candidates running for office across the country, the data shows.
Alan Rubin, a principal at law firm Blank Rome’s government affairs office, said in an interview that he is organizing a fundraiser for Nadler in late June at his company’s New York office. There are currently no plans for the firm to host Maloney. Charles Myers, the former vice chair at investment firm Evercore, said he’s hosting Maloney at his New York home in July.
A group of Blank Rome leaders are expected to attend the fundraiser for Nadler, Rubin said, with tickets going for as much as $5,800 per person. The firm’s political action committee could also contribute to Nadler’s primary campaign, he said. Federal election laws allow individuals to donate up to $5,800 per campaign each election cycle, often with $2,900 each being earmarked for primary and general elections.
Rubin did concede that he is among a group of donors who are in an awkward position of deciding how to participate in the primary and who to support, given that they are close to both candidates.
Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that Rubin gave at least $2,000 to Maloney’s campaign during the 2020 election cycle and none to Nadler. Myers has contributed to both Maloney and Nadler over the years.
“I equate it to having friends who are couples’ friends with you and your spouse for 20 years and then they get a divorce,” Rubin said. “Each one is asking you to participate with their friendship. It’s a very, very awkward position.”
Rubin said the law firm decided to support Nadler, in part, because of his role leading the 2019 and 2021 investigations and impeachment trials against former President Donald Trump as chair of the Judiciary Committee. Trump was twice acquitted by the Senate. Maloney’s committee also ran several investigations into the Trump administration.
Myers told CNBC he’s going to host Maloney for a campaign fundraising event at his home, because she’s been his representative in New York before the redistricting and he’s convinced she’ll have the upper hand over Nadler with the business community. “I think most business leaders who live in more of Carolyn’s district — meaning the Upper East Side — are going to back her,” Myers said.
Maloney and Nadler have previously seen some of the same donors give to their respective campaigns when they each represented different parts of New York, leaving some financiers opting to help both.
For example, John Catsimatidis, the CEO of conglomerate Red Apple Group, who Forbes estimates has a net worth of over $3 billion, has contributed to both Maloney and Nadler’s prior runs for Congress. Although FEC filings say he’s contributed $5,800 to Maloney this cycle, Catsimatidis told CNBC in a text message he plans to give a “personal check” to each of the two primary contestants and considers the contenders “friends.”
Stephen Ross and Jeff Blau, executives at real estate giant Related Companies, have both contributed to Nadler and Maloney’s campaigns during previous elections, FEC records show.
Members of the wealthy Lauder family, who are heirs to the wealthy Estee Lauder fortune, have contributed to each candidate in the past, records show. The family has a net worth of over $40 billion, according to Forbes.
A spokesman for Ross and Blau declined to comment. A spokesman for members of the Lauder family did not return a request for comment.