The scandal-plagued board of the New York Metropolitan Republican Club is paying off anti-Trump political consultants with vastly below-market real estate—behind the backs of membership of the elite, Upper East Side Met Club, according to sources familiar with club transactions.
Over the past year, New York state’s Republican Party paid $54,000 to consulting firm Steeplechase Strategies. At the same time, Met Club board member Robert Morgan III, a partner at Steeplechase, has guaranteed a low-rent, sweetheart deal from the club to his own firm Steeplechase—without disclosing that relationship to Met Club membership, a situation that club members claim violates state laws regarding conflicts of interest at nonprofits.
In February, Morgan III assailed patriotic pro-Trump forces inside the Republican Party.
“Baby Morgan,” says a sitting Met Club board member, “sat on the board. Baby Morgan helped negotiate rent for the state Republican Party. Baby Morgan shouted down anyone who talked about raising [Morgan’s own firm’s] rent. Baby Morgan never told us that he was on [Steeplechase’s] payroll.”
Based on conversations with board member Morgan III and others at the club, Morgan III and New York City Council Candidate Liam McCabe operate Steeplechase Strategies.
Robert L. Morgan, Jr., father of Robert Morgan III—and an attorney with Emmet, Marvin & Martin—has referred to McCabe as “my son’s former business partner,” possibly indicating a recent dissolution of the business relationship.
A listing with the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce offers a phone number to contact Steeplechase Strategies, a number that happens to be the personal cellphone number for Robert L. Morgan III.
In addition, Liam McCabe’s LinkedIn account names McCabe as CEO of Steeplechase Strategies.
State election filings from the New York state Republican Party indicate that vendor Steeplechase Strategies has an office at 55 East End Avenue, Apt. 6K.
According to Manhattan borough records, that property is a residential co-op unit owned by Robert L. Morgan, Jr.
In a recent interview, a Steeplechase Strategies building staffer claims that both father and son Morgan reside there along with the son’s girlfriend, Alexandra Sherer, an anti-Trump political activist.
“[Robert Morgan III] was adamant that losing the state party as a tenant would be a real loss to the club,” says ousted pro-Trump board member Allan Stevo, who sat on the board during its lease negotiations. “It’s important though that the club is charging them a realistic rent. It’s not the Met Club’s job to give below market rents to politicos falsely claiming to be needy.”
According to Schedule Q forms the state’s Republican Party has filed with the New York state Board of Elections, payments from the state party to Steeplechase Strategies include seemingly legitimate expenses like $550 for “mail” and $1,000 for “mailing;” however, they also include $27,082.72 in suspiciously open-ended “consulting fees” ($7,800) and “professional services” ($19,282.72) that are easy vehicles for kickbacks — payments some Republican donors find hard to justify giving.
Additionally suspicious is that, even though no active campaigns were taking place in New York, late into 2016, the state Republican party paid $10,621.72 to Steeplechase in the month following the general election—mainly, again, for “professional services.”
“Yes, Steeplechase is Morgan, and no, we didn’t know he was getting paid by them!” says another board member. “[Board Member Robert Morgan III] never disclosed a thing.”
During lease negotiations, members of the Met Club board had real-estate professionals price second-floor office space at the club that the state Republican Party was renting. The realtors suggested $20,000 as the floor’s fair market value.
Board members, speaking to GotNews, claim the monthly, second-floor rent Morgan proposed was actually far closer to $5,000. No Met Club board members in touch with GotNews knew the details of the commercial lease.
Robert Morgan III’s “shady lease deal cost the club $150,000 in lost rent this past year alone, so I’m not surprised to hear that he made $50,000,” says a Met Club member speaking on condition of anonymity. “That’s a win for everyone but the club members … This guy is disgusting.”
According to lawyers at the New York state attorney general’s office, below-market rate rent is an in-kind contribution. It’s a legal obligation to report for political organizations to report in-kind contributions.
No such reporting exists in New York state Republican Party filings with the state’s Board of Elections.
When asked about the details of the lease, numerous Met Club board members say they have never even seen the lease between the Met Club and the state Republican Party—despite the fact that they, as members of the club’s trustee board, have a legal duty to oversee the finances of the club.
“Our club president and chairman keep everything so secret,” says a board member. “Believe it or not, some of us on the board have never even seen the club bylaws. They like it better that way.”
Stay tuned for more.
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