Influence Explored: The political ties behind Zuccotti Park


It’s well known by now that the Occupy Wall Street protesters are occupying Zuccotti park – a park just a couple blocks away from Wall Street in lower Manhattan. That occupation was almost ended when the owner of the park asked that the park be cleared so it can be cleaned last week.

That owner, Brookfield Properties, has not only become the unhappy landlord of a movement that has spread across the country, but also takes part in the some of the practices #occupy protesters appear to have an issue with: using money to push corporate interests through Congress and influence the political process. It should be noted that Brookfield’s involvement in politics through contributions and lobbying and the presence of Occupy Wall Street protestors in their park is purely coincidental and neither Brookfield nor people emailed with the OWS movement have said otherwise. It is, however, an interesting coincidence.

Zuccotti park operates as a public space and is open 24 hours a day. It is privately owned by Canada-based Brookfield Properties. Brookfield is a publicly traded real estate company with land and buildings in some of the most prestigious areas of the United States. They also happen to lease properties to Bank of America and Wells Fargo, both banks given TARP money during the financial bailout in 2008 and an issue that helped spark the OWS movement.

Brookfield employees have been active in political giving on the federal level for the last decade. Brookfield CEO Richard Clark and Chariman John Zuccotti—the man the park is named after—are both donors to various politicians in New York and other states and donors to an influential real estate trade political action committee. In the 1970’s, Zuccotti was the chairman of the New York Planning Commission and following that position was deputy mayor of New York.

Between 2000 and 2010, Richard Clark made at least $169,950 in contributions to PACS and committees such as Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Association of Real Estate Trusts and various politicians such as Kristen Gillibrand(D-NY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Records also show that Clark has given to Super Committee Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

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John Zuccotti’s contributions between the years 2002 and 2010 were $195,300 to many of the same committees, PACs and politicians as Clark, according to TransparencyData.

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Brookfield Asset Management—a company listed on Brookfield Properties’ website as having a controlling stake in the company—has reported spending just over $500,000 lobbying the federal government on energy, financial and tax issues since 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been protesting what participants consider corporate greed for 34 days now. The protest has been replicated across the country in Washington DC, Denver and San Diego, to name just a few places. The movement cites the Arab Spring at Tahrir Square in Egypt and protests also inspired by poor economic conditions that took place in Spain earlier this year as inspiration for the occupations.