Who Is Behind The Alliance To Protect Nantucket's Economy?

Jason Graziadei •

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The Alliance To Protect Nantucket’s Economy emerged on the island in 2020 to counter ACK Now’s bid to regulate and restrict short-term rentals.

It has since become a major force in the ongoing debate, funneling thousands of dollars into advertisements and paid studies to defeat ACK Now’s latest effort: Article 60 at the upcoming Annual Town Meeting.

But who exactly is behind the Alliance to Protect Nantucket’s Economy? The group lists no leadership, individual members, or other organizations on its website. It is not a registered corporation or non-profit group, and in advocating against a Town Meeting warrant article, it is not required to report any of its expenditures to the town or state.

Over the past month, Nantucket Current has reached out to the Alliance to Protect Nantucket’s Economy asking it to disclose who is leading and supporting the group, but received no response. Until yesterday.

The group was founded by The Copley Group, the Boston-based real estate firm owned by longtime island seasonal resident Norman Levenson. The company operates a dozen short-term vacation rental properties on Nantucket.

Yet nowhere on the Alliance To Protect Nantucket’s Economy’s public-facing web site, ads, or social media pages does it disclose that relationship with The Copley Group.

“The Alliance to Protect Nantucket’s Economy was initiated by The Copley Group in 2020 as a coalition committed to preserving the freedoms of property owners and oppose stringent regulations on short-term rentals,” The Alliance to Protect Nantucket’s Economy shared in a statement to the Current. “The coalition is comprised of businesses representing a variety of industries on the island – restaurants, hospitality businesses, real estate firms, shops and galleries and more. Island residents from all walks of life – from housekeepers to business leaders – are supportive of the effort to protect our economy.”

Indeed, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket’s Economy boasts on its web site about its wide-ranging coalition made up of “island businesses, residents, organizations, and professional groups.” And yet it doesn’t identify any of those businesses, residents, organizations or professional groups.

We asked the Alliance to name at least one of the members of its coalition, but it declined to do so.

“Because of the hostile environment created around this issue by ACK Now, which is funding lawsuits targeting island residents who are legally renting their homes, the overwhelming majority of people do not want to be identified publicly,” the Alliance stated. “Fear permeates the debate around these issues and nobody wants to be the next target of ACK Now.”

Even when asked to identify who the statement above could be attributed to, the individual controlling the Alliance’s Facebook account said simply: “Please attribute the above statement to ‘The Alliance to Protect Nantucket's Economy’.”

Levenson did not return a call seeking comment.

The opaque nature of the Alliance stands in stark contrast to the other group that has formed to oppose restrictions on short-term rentals on the island: Nantucket Together. That group is a registered 501 (c) 4 political action organization. Its leaders - Robin Nydes and Kathy Baird - have been visible and vocal with their arguments, and the group’s members and supporters are listed prominently on its web site.

ACK Now executive director Julia Lindner pushed back against the Alliance’s assertions that her group was targeting anyone who opposed short-term rental restrictions.

“It’s absurd and regrettable for the ‘Alliance’ to suggest that ACK•Now or any other organization supporting Article 60 has engaged in personal attacks, hostility or ‘scare tactics’,” Lindner said. “In addition, organizations endorsing Article 60, including ACK•Now, Homeowners for Article 60, and others have all been very transparent in listing supporter names and board members publicly.

“In contrast, opponents of Article 60 have engaged in hostile personal attacks on individual ACK•Now board members and supporters of Article 60, which is disappointing,” Lindner continued. “The opponents of Article 60 have not provided any data or sources to support their claims and it’s unfortunate that the Alliance will not identify their members or funders. However, it is clear they are supported by commercial STR interests.”

Nantucket Current also spoke to Nantucket town clerk Nancy Holmes regarding any campaign finances requirements that might be in place for a group like The Alliance To Protect Nantucket’s Economy. Holmes said that since it was not formed around a candidate or a ballot question, and because it is not required to register as a non-profit or a corporation, there were no formal reporting requirements for its spending or officers, at least not with the town.

Beyond its lobbying against any proposals to restrict or regulate short-term rentals on Nantucket, the Alliance has also commissioned and funded a study in 2021 by the Umass Donahue Institute, which explored the potential impacts of regulating and restricting short-term rentals. An update of that study in relation to what is proposed under Article 60 is due out today.

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