The politics of Doug Jemal

Like many developers, Jemal donates to politicians in a position to support his projects, including prominent officials here. He's also got some noteworthy Trump-related connections.

Douglas Jemal may be an unconventional developer in some ways, but he also engages in a practice common to many in the real estate business: giving money, sometimes lots of it, to politicians in position to support his projects.

Jemal is unusual in another way: He’s the recipient of a presidential pardon.

His political contributions in Buffalo began when he started purchasing local property. Records show Jemal or his company, Douglas Development, have made $39,160 in donations to local Republicans and Democrats alike.

Jemal’s WNY campaign contributions

Candidate Contributions
State Senator Tim Kennedy $11,000
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul $10,000
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz $8,000
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown $6,160
Chris Jacobs (U.S. House) $3,000
Chris Jacobs (State Senate) $1,000
Source: Investigative Post research.

Poloncarz and Brown, along with Brendan Mehaffy, a Brown appointee who serves as director of the city’s Office of Strategic Planning, are members of the executive committee for the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, a body that granted a unique tax break deal for Douglas Development’s renovation project at Seneca One tower. 

While Federal Election Commission records show Jemal gives to politicians in both parties, of late he’s made major contributions to Republicans at the national level. His company gave $100,000 to the Republican National Committee last year. 

In 2016, Douglas Development donated $32,300 to the RNC. That same year, the company donated $2,700 to the presidential election campaign of Donald Trump, who in January pardoned Jemal on a wire fraud conviction from 2006. 

The Trump connection doesn’t end with the former president. Jemal reportedly has close ties with the family of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Charles Kushner, Jared’s father, is close friends with Jemal. 

The Washington Post reported that when the elder Kushner went to prison in 2005, Jemal gave his German shepherd to Jared’s mother, Seryl, for protection. Jared Kushner also wrote a letter of support to the judge who was deciding Jemal’s sentence following his wire fraud conviction. 

Before Trump came on the political scene, records show Jemal donated exclusively to Democratic candidates for federal office between 2005 and 2016. Donations include $6,900 to U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton as she prepared to run for president. Other Democrats who have received money, in some cases dating back to 1999, include U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and Al Gore, when he ran for president. 

Campaign finance records show both Jemal and his two sons, Norman and Matthew, have been major campaign donors in Washington, D.C., where Jemal built his real estate empire. He is among the largest developers in the city.

Records on file with the District of Columbia’s Office of Campaign Finance show Jemal and his sons made 98 contributions totaling $102,300 to various D.C.-area politicians since 2003. In addition, Douglas Development has made 17 contributions totaling $11,800 to D.C. politicians since 2004. 

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The list of recipients includes numerous candidates for D.C. mayor and council. In 2012, records show Jemal made a $500 donation to the Council re-election committee of the late Marion Barry, the former mayor and councilman who gained notoriety for being re-elected to public office twice despite being caught on videotape smoking crack cocaine during an FBI sting operation. 

Other notable D.C. politicians receiving support from the Jemals include current Mayor Muriel Bowser and Kwame R. Brown, a former Council chair who left office after being charged with bank fraud.

A deep dive on Doug Jemal