Money talks: How your council members are putting the big hotels over middle class Airbnb hosts

Here in New York, we’re no strangers to the big hotel industry’s dirty tricks, all to protect their record profits and prevent responsible New Yorkers from sharing their home to make ends meet. They’ve equated foreign Airbnb guests to terrorists; they’ve bragged about spying and running sting operations on hosts; and they’ve added the names of clergy members who support home sharing to a letter intended to be against Airbnb, without ever sending it to them or asking for permission.

These are the cornerstones of the big hotel industry’s playbook: distortion, distraction, and deception.

But there is another weapon in their arsenal that we think New Yorkers should know about: donations to our elected officials.

According to public records, the big hotel industry has donated millions of dollars to elected officials across the state over the years. Contributors include everyone from hotel corporations, hotel associations (such as the Hotel Association of New York), individual hotel operators, and the Hotel Trades Council and its affiliates.

Members of the New York City Council are among those who have benefitted the most from the big hotel industry’s contributions, especially in the 2013 and 2017 election cycles. As shown in the chart below, several members received over $5,000 from the hotel industry, with a few receiving tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in support.

Despite the fact that local Airbnb hosts earned more than 6,000 times as much supplemental income as their elected officials received in donations from the hotel lobby — money that those constituents have used to weather economic downturn, pay off student debt, avoid economic hardship while aging with dignity, or even avoid eviction or foreclosure — these officials have continued to place the interests of multinational hotel corporations above the economic needs of those they have pledged to serve.

Official Name Airbnb Host Earnings in District (2017) Hotel Industry Contributions (2013 and 2017 cycles) Ratio of Host Earnings  to Hotel Contribution
CM Keith Powers**** $32,800,000 $114,300 287:1
CM Laurie Cumbo** $20,000,000 $113,300 177:1
CM Francisco Moya*** $1,300,000 $79,100 16:1
CM Justin Brannan* $1,600,000 $41,250 39:1
CM Carlina Rivera***** $51,600,000 $33,800 1,527:1
Speaker Corey Johnson $95,900,000 $15,600 6,147:1
CM Jimmy Van Bramer $10,500,000 $8,750 1200:1
CM Ritchie Torres $443,000 $8,500 52:1
CM Brad Lander $13,400,000 $7,500 1,787:1
CM Jumaane Williams $2,100,000 $7,225 291:1
CM Helen Rosenthal $18,100,000 $6,882 2,630:1
CM Fernando Cabrera $494,000 $6,510 76:1
CM Ydanis Rodriguez $4,500,000 $6,500 692:1
CM Margaret Chin $49,100,000 $5,500 8,927:1
CM Mark Treyger $611,000 $5,500 111:1

This month, the Council will consider legislation to force regular New Yorkers to turn over their names and addresses to New York City’s Office of Special Enforcement, which is already working directly with the big hotel industry to go after responsible hosts. This bill would lump everyday people who occasionally share their home together with bad actors, without providing any explicit protections to those who are opening their doors just to get by in this increasingly expensive city.

This bill comes on the heels of the New York City election cycle, in which several Council Members who accepted thousands of dollars from the hotel industry signed on as co-sponsors before the bill text was even written.

These officials say they care about affordability and economic opportunity, but their actions suggest they care more about satisfying their big money donors, in turn hurting the many residents who are sharing their space to remain in the neighborhoods they call home.

Enough is enough. Instead of allowing the big hotel industry to continue throwing money at their feet, our Council members need to cut the puppet strings, stand up for families across the five boroughs and enact fair, forward-looking regulations that will foster the economic lifeline that responsible home sharing offers to so many New Yorkers.

*Includes $35,400 independent expenditure from Hotel Workers for Stronger Communities in the 2017 cycle.
**Includes $106,800 independent expenditure from Hotel Workers for Stronger Communities in the 2017 cycle.
***Includes $73,600 independent expenditure from Hotel Workers for Stronger Communities in the 2017 cycle.
****Includes $103,300 independent expenditure from Hotel Workers for Stronger Communities in the 2017 cycle.
*****Includes $22,800 independent expenditure from Hotel Workers for Stronger Communities in the 2017 cycle.

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