Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fidler Campaign Paid Brandford Almost 70,000 in 2003 When He got 87% of the vote and $82,500 from the CFB

"During two hard-fought primary campaigns, Assemblyman Clarence Norman Jr., the Brooklyn Democratic chairman, told a political consultant to just send over badly needed supplies like posters and leaflets, saying he would "get someone else to pay for it," the consultant testified yesterday in Mr. Norman's political corruption trial. The consultant, Ernie Lendler, said that in a series of telephone calls, Mr. Norman instructed him to prepare blank invoices for the campaign materials, totaling several thousand dollars, and to fax the invoices to his office. Soon after, Mr. Lendler said, he received checks in the mail from an Albany lobbying group, the New York State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops. Although he had never heard of the group, Mr. Lendler said, he matched the amounts of the checks with the invoices and credited Mr. Norman's account." New York Times 9/5/2005

"The indictments stem from complaints made by two unsuccessful Democratic candidates for Civil Court, who told investigators last spring that Mr. Norman and Mr. Feldman had threatened to withdraw the party's support during the 2002 race unless they hired the party's choices to print brochures and work to get out the vote.

One candidate, Karen Yellen, a former Civil Court judge, told investigators she paid a total of $16,600 to the two vendors, against her better judgment. The other candidate, Marcia Sikowitz, hired the printer, Branford Communications, for $7,600, but did not hire the other consultant, William H. Boone III, who is treasurer of the party's fund-raising wing." New York Times, 11/18/203

Of late, hardly a day has gone by without daily newspapers telling of political shenanigans in the world of judicial selections. As overdue as some of these stories are, not all of them have been fair. An undeserving victim emerged in the person of Ernie Lendler, a Brooklyn Heights resident who runs Branford Communications, which handles publicity and campaign literature for candidates. Lendler's portrayal as a cog in a corrupt political machine sprang from a complaint by former Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Karen Yellen, who told Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes's investigators that she hired Lendler as a condition of her endorsement by Assemblyman Clarence Norman, the Democratic county leader.

From this, the Daily News concluded that Lendler was an arm of the county organization. Stories in the other dailies implied as much, but the News's editorial board was particularly harsh. Unfortunately, no one bothered to look first at Lendler's clientele over the years, which includes plenty of candidates who were not endorsed by the machine and some who were openly at war with it. The News assumed the opposite would be true, and set out to do a follow-up story. But it quickly came across a snag: a judicial race last year which didn't fit the supposed pattern because Wavny Toussaint was endorsed by Norman but did not hire Lendler, while one of her opponents, Desmond Green, did. A News editorial even asked rhetorically why Brooklyn Civil Court candidate Robin Garson hired Lendler and spent $50,000 on her campaign when she lacked an opponent in the Democratic primary, and thus was assured of winning.

The answer is simple: she spent the money before her opponent Jim McCall was knocked off the ballot several weeks before the election because of a petition cover-sheet error. Had she known all along that a free ride was in store, Garson would have saved her cash for a future campaign for Supreme Court (a dream since derailed by the indictment of her husband, Supreme Court Judge Gerald Garson). The News has also taken to saying Norman "made sure" Garson would have no primary opponent, which implies that he pegged her for a free slot. If that were true, Judge Maggie Cammer would have run rather than retire and leave the slot for Garson and McCall to fight over.

Perhaps the News was blaming Norman for McCall's removal from the ballot, as if (A) there's something wrong with challenging someone's ballot petition, when in fact any candidate who noticed a fatal error on an opponent's petition would file an objection, and (B) Norman owns the judiciary and can have anyone knocked off the ballot, when in reality he's failed on numerous such attempts (in part because he doesn't own the appellate court).

Councilman Lew Fidler, who with Lendler's help staved off an all-out effort by Norman to oust him as district leader a few years ago, said, "The stuff about Ernie Lendler has been blood-boiling outrageous. Joe McCarthy wouldn't have had that much nerve. The Daily News should apologize." Lendler's not holding his breath, we bet. Fidler, incidentally, believes what Yellen told investigators was leaked not by Hynes but by supporters of Housing Court Judge Dawn Jimenez, eager to portray Jimenez's Democratic primary opponent for Civil Court, Shawndya Simpson, as Norman's pawn. Simpson, you see, is endorsed by Norman (though she doesn't use Lendler, according to her campaign manager Gary Tilzer).

Fidler worries that the News will therefore blast Simpson as a judgeship-buyer and endorse Jimenez a week before the primary, and that Jimenez will mail the newspaper clippings to tens of thousands of likely voters. That might well be unfair to Simpson, who has convinced even Norman's enemies that she's independent of the county leader, evidenced in part by her choice of campaign manager, Gary Tilzer, who guided Civil Court Judge Margarita Lopez Torres to reelection last year despite a furious effort by Norman to unseat her. Fidler is correct that Jimenez's campaign is trying to use the Norman connection to undermine Simpson, but the rest of his theory is dubious: that Jimenez's people heard second-hand what Yellen told the D.A. and converted that into a flood of media coverage.

The systematic appearance of the Yellen story, first in the New York Sun and the next day in the other dailies, and the specific, anonymous quotes corroborating it, point to Hynes's office as the likely source. A Jimenez campaigner could not have placed half a dozen articles by calling newspapers with a hearsay account of a private, secret interrogation. Newspapers generally demand sources with first-hand knowledge of the story, and in this case that means either Yellen (who's uneasy with the press) or Hynes.

Our money's on Hynes, in part because the Yellen story fit the pattern of numerous other leaks about Hynes's investigation. It would seem to be the work of the same source. Not that we're criticizing Hynes for the leaks. Investigators commonly leak stories about ongoing probes because it elevates their own profiles and because the news coverage generates leads. Unfortunately, in this case Hynes might not have anticipated Ernie Lendler becoming a collateral casualty of a careless media onslaught.

As for Jimenez, if her people are spinning tales, it's certainly not her idea. She is a political novice (unlike her handlers) and has built her career more on talent and work than back-room maneuvering. This "shortcoming" has cost her some political support, like when she was pitching herself to State Senator Marty Connor and naively offered that Assemblyman Dov Hikind supported her-a comment akin to pointing out a pimple on your date's forehead. But given the recent revelations of politicians' influence on the judiciary, Jimenez's lack of political savvy could well be a positive in voters' eyes. Perhaps that should be the premise of her campaign.
June 30,2003

Pork Pig Fidler’s Media Friends Put Lipstick On Him

You would never know it from the media that Councilmember Lewis Fiddler funds one of the city’s largest non-profit patronage operations in the city. Coming in with the third highest amount of member items in the council, with just over $700,000, Lewis Fidler, assistant majority leader and Chairman of the Youth Services Committee, said he is proud to be considered the third "biggest pig" in the council. The Councilman uses the city’s budget to provide jobs for his friends, campaign workers and to continue the illusion that a once-powerful club is still going strong.

Today’s reporters do not cover politics like Jimmy Breslin, Jack Newfield, Pete Hamill, Murray Kempton and other members of their hard-working greatest generation, who understood neighborhood politics and never quoted politicians like celebrities. Reporters of Newfield’s era understood that elected officials always had motives, and that truth could only be reported by analyzing their words and investigated their actions. Fidler is one of the most quoted councilmembers in the city’s newspapers and blogs on virtually every topic and issue, except for one: what he does with the member items money in his district.

Some people claim that the way the media covers Fidler shows a racial bias in its reporting of political corruption. By reading the dailies we know how Councilmembers Erik Martin Dilan and Leroy Comrie sent member items funds to nonprofits that hired their wives. Maria del Carmen Arroyo sent money to nonprofits that employed her sister and nephew. Darlene Mealy tired to find a nonprofit to hire her sister. Hiram Monserrate, Larry Seabrook and Kendall Stewart used nonprofit money to help in their campaigns.

What is never covered is a more complicated corruption in the white community where member item funds and campaign contributions go through interlocking nonprofits, lobbyists and special interests developers. Umbrella nonprofits like Fidler’s Millennium Developers are just the tip of the iceberg of corruption; Emily Giske of Bolton-St. Johns, Parkside’s Evan Stavisky, Jeff Plaut’s Global Strategy, George Artz, Yoswein, Geto & De Milly, and Knickerbocker SKD help campaigns more than Councilman Hiram Monserrate’s nonprofit Libre get a free ride from the media’s corruption coverage.

Putting racial motives aside, it is clear that the owners of the mainstream media control how and when it reports on political corruption. Not one word has been printed about the councilmember items slush fund scandal since all the major papers’ editorial boards came out for extending term limits. Earlier this year, for a few months, there was a story almost every day about the council’s member item’s “little tin box”.

Fidler’s Member Item-Funded Nonprofit Reelection Industry is a Widespread Practice

The late former Assemblyman Tony Genovese, who made the Thomas Jefferson democratic club into a powerhouse with the late county leader Meade Esposito, invented the scheme which uses member items and other government funds to build political power for their club in their district. They set up an umbrella nonprofit called New Perspectives that received and distributed government funds to most of the local nonprofits in their community. Genovese wanted all power to emanate from his club. His clubhouse hack pal Alan Weisberg ran Perspectives. Genovese’s Assemblyman Stanley Friedman was the last elected official in the city to open up a district office outside the Jefferson Club. In the days of Tammany Hall all elected officials operated their district office out of the clubhouse. Genovese and Esposito’s genius created the umbrella nonprofit funded by the government tied to the clubhouse to keep the Thomas Jefferson Club powerful in an era in which most clubs were dying off.

Since that time, elected officials and consultants throughout the city have copied Genovese’s umbrella nonprofit model. Brooklyn Democratic Leader Vito Lopez, an early protégé of Genovese, funds the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Center as an umbrella-type nonprofit with millions of dollars in government patronage to his district. Bolton-St. Johns’ Emily Giske uses the High Line and the health care industry to build an umbrella for her team, including $50,000 to Speaker Quinn for her mayoral campaign from High Line supporters. The Parkside Group used their relationship with former Speaker Miller, former Queens Democratic leader Tom Manton and convicted felon Brian McLaughlin to pull in over $7 million in consulting fees from nonprofits receiving council funding. Former Thomas Jefferson Club leader Bruce Bender, now working for as chief lobbyist for Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, helps fund Borough President Markowitz’s umbrella nonprofit Best of Brooklyn. Pedro Espada just defeated State Senator Efrain Gonzalez with the help of his nonprofit organization, Soundview Healthcare.

Fidler and the Jefferson Club’s Nonprofit Patronage Networks
After Genovese’s death New Perspectives got in financial trouble, so Fidler and the other new stewards of the Jefferson Club simply closed it down and transferred Perspectives’ functions to a new nonprofit, Millennium Development. Paul Curiale, the husband of Fidler’s council aide Debbie Malone, runs Millennium Development. Both are heavily involved in the operation of the Thomas Jefferson Club and regularly collect signatures for candidates endorsed by Fidler’s club.

Another way Fidler controlled government money was to appoint Georgia Hamilton, the wife of his driver Daniel MacBride, to Neighborhood Advisory Board 18. The board distributed city and federal youth money in Fidler’s district. Fidler knows a lot about how funds are distributed through the Neighborhood Advisorary Board system as chairman of the Council’s Youth Services Committee. With the Councilman’s knowledge, Hamilton illegally continued to serve on the Advisory Board after she moved out of the community. Fidler said in a recent blog post that he received the most discretionary funding last year at $985,000, and snagged a considerable amount of capital too, because he chairs the Youth Services Committee, which oversees a lot of the programs in the city that would be eligible for these types of grants. "Which is also why I am able to put together a pot of properly vetted discretionary items,” said Fidler.

What the Press Did Not Report

As Chair of the Youth Services Committee, Fidler oversaw the funding of the Donna Reid Memorial Education Fund. Two staffers of Councilman Kendall Stewart, including his chief of staff Asquith Reid, were indicted by U.S. Attorney Garcia for skimming at least $145,000 from the Donna Reid fund, a charity that had received council funds. Fidler’s committee funded the Memorial Education Fund after the Department for the Aging rejected the group's application for city money in 2004 after noticing that its office address was identical to Asquith Reid's home address. Reid, like Fidler’s staffer Georgia Hamilton on Board 18, was a member of his Neighborhood Advisorary Board – Board 17 – which funded youth groups like Donna Reid in his community. Councilman Erik Martin Dilan’s North Brooklyn Community Council and Councilman Hiram Monserrate’s Libre are other nonprofits that have been funded with council funds dispensed by Fidler’s Youth Service Committee that have been written about in the press for their practice of hiring the councilmembers’ family members and helping in their reelection bids. Not one word has been written in the press about how the questionable funding was approved for these and other nonprofits by Fidler’s Youth Committee, which, by the way, he gets paid $10,000 extra a year for chairing.

Judging by a series of recent loses by the Thomas Jefferson Club, Fidler’s funding of the nonprofit Millennium network is about the only thing keeping the councilman’s club from falling apart. Last year, the club lost its control over the Brooklyn Surrogate Court when its candidate Judge Shawndya Simpson lost to Judge Diana Johnson. Judge Johnson only lost by 200 votes in the club’s 59th district and won in the Assembly District where Fidler is District Leader (the 41st AD) two to one. The Club’s former Assemblyman and Surrogate Judge Frank Seddio was pressured into retirement, according to The Daily News, because of illegal contributions from his Assembly account to Fidler and other elected officials of the Jefferson Club when he was running for the surrogate judgeship. The club lost the other Surrogate position in 2005 when Judge Margarita Lopez Torres beat their candidate. In addition, the Jefferson Club only managed to get 11% for the candidate it backed in the 2005 Democratic Mayoral Primary, Gifford Miller. In the General Election that same year, Fernando Ferrer, the Jefferson Club’s endorsed candidate, only got 27% in its district. Moreover, in 2001, the club’s candidate in the Democratic Primary runoff, Mark Green, failed to carry the Jefferson Club’s district or Fidler’s District Leader district. Finally, in the primary that same year, the club’s City Councilman Herbert Berman lost the controller’s race to William Thompson.

Fidler’s smart enough to know his good relationship with reporters allows him to get away with almost anything

Fidler represents a boutique niche market lending company called LawCash. Fidler’s cousin was made V.P. of the company right after he graduated college. New York Supreme Court Justice Ira Warshawsky said that LawCash, which advances money to plaintiffs while their civil lawsuits are pending, charges high usurious rates. The judge blasted LawCash for making a high-interest loan to a poor African-American family. LawCash has charged 50% or more in interest for one of their loans. Fidler’s loan company operates like subprime mortgages in that they both take advantage of the uninformed poor. A representative of LawCash said his firm can charge such high rates because, unlike banks, its money is "advanced," not lent, to plaintiffs, and this is a high-risk investment. When elected officials use their position to make money and deliberately fail to protect the public by promoting weak laws and regulations, the people suffer. Wall Street called derivatives trading “barter” instead of an insurance policy to avoid government regulations. Now the federal government must bail out that $600 trillion dollar business. Many of the high level consultant firms in the city today call their services education to avoid lobbying regulations. They make secret deals between each other in a type of exclusive “Star Chamber” that runs campaigns, nonprofits, and healthcare institutions without any legal requirement to report their cooperation on city or state financial forms.

Fidler is the District Leader in the 41th Assembly District, which has a minority population of at least 65%. Not only is the Councilman not protecting his own voters from high-interest lending operations, he profits from one. Yet the press reports that Councilman Fidler is fighting predatory lending. If you Google Fidler on predatory lending you will find articles that quote him speaking out against subprime mortgage lending. Fidler supported Frank Seddio for Surrogate Judge. Right after Seddio left the Surrogate Court he advertised in local newspapers his services to get homeowners subprime mortgages in Canarsie as a mortgage lawyer. According to Crain’s, Canarsie has the highest subprime default rate in the city. Fidler was also frequently quoted in the press how he was trying to reform Brooklyn’s corrupt judicial systems with a Blue Ribbon Commission, while he and his club backed every Norman machine judge, many of who were removed from the bench. Some went to jail.

What never gets printed in the press is how Fidler uses his control of nonprofit funding to eliminate political opposition in his community. When minority Assembly candidate H. R. Clark showed up to protest overdevelopment at a City Planning Commission’s local hearing in a building owned by a nonprofit funded with government funds, he was thrown out. According to neighborhood activist Mark Fertig, Fidler was under pressure by Assembly candidate H. R. Clark and community leaders since their meeting last year with mayoral candidate Tony Avella to downsize zoning in his district. To this day the area has not been downzoned. According to Fertig, all Fidler wanted to do is show the appearance of doing something while protecting his developer friends from downzoning.

Fidler has even figured out how to rip off the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) to make money for his friends when he runs for reelection. Fidler wrote a letter to the CFB in 2003 to qualify for full campaign finance funding after the CFB ruled he would only get 25% of the matching funds because he did not have a serious primary or general election challenger. All that is needed to quality for full funding is a letter from the elected official to the CFB saying they have a competitive primary. Fidler got $82,500 in 2003 in matching funds, the full allowable amount, and went on to get 87% of the vote in his so-called “competitive race.” He wrote the same letter to the CFB in his 2005 reelection bid and received full public funding in both a primary and general election he won overwhelmingly.

Besides using the government for political gain Fidler has not show much loyalty to his supporters. Fidler supported Ferrer for mayor in 2005, going back on the endorsement commitment he gave to Gifford Miller after the Speaker passed that year’s city budget, which contained Fidler’s pork requests for his district. Two-timing is something Fidler has always been known for. He supported Anthony Weiner for City Council against his own cousin, Michael Garson. When Weiner’s council seat became vacant in 1998 after he was elected to congress, Fidler supported Michael Nelson against Irma Kramer, despite the fact that Kramer was one of Fidler’s earliest supporters.

Sometimes Fidler’s double crosses are a work of art. At the same time Fidler’s committee was funding Councilman Stewart’s indicted aide’s nonprofit, according to Wellington Sharpe, Stewart’s 2005 Council opponent, Fidler was helping Sharpe with his ballot access. Sharpe was later knocked off the ballot after Stewart’s lawyer brought him into court and produced a mortgage prepared by Fidler that was supposed to turn over a house to Sharpe’s kids, but actually showed Sharpe as the primary resident of the house, which was outside of Stewart’s district.

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

- Thomas Jefferson

The false way Fidler is covered by the media, while he rips off government funds to accumulate power is just a warning sign of how the press is endangering the lives of New Yorkers. Our City and Republic are in jeopardy because today’s media has abandoned its role of informing the public, leaving the people powerless to defend themselves. What the press did not tell the public during the term limits debate was that the two-term restrictions were voted for by a public that was upset with the corruption in the Koch Administration in the 1980’s and the role that the City’s impossible-to-defeat incumbents played in allowing that corruption. Now even that small safeguard against incumbent protection in our society is gone. George Orwell would have to write a new chapter in 1984 to explain how 34 City Councilmembers under investigation for illegally using the member items slush fund were able to receive press coverage that basically said that extending their time in office would increase choice, democracy and improve our economy.

Without an informed public, elected officials act like organized crime mobsters, working against the voters’ needs for personal gain. They create government-funded umbrella-type nonprofit reelection organizations to stay in office. They also create a dysfunctional, unregulated government with no legal accountability to carry out their greedy friends’ scams to make money at the cost of the public good. Our city would be a lot better off if it listened to a few independent voices about the dangers of repealing the Glass-Spiegel Act, rather then constantly devoting their coverage to political celebrities and their meaningless news conferences.

Look at what Gordon Gecko’s greed has done to Wall Street. New York City is next!

Lew Fidler: As always, Inappropriate

Submitted by Laurie Garson (not verified) on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 6:59pm.
I am tired of Lew Fidler hauling out my family members every time he gets bad press,of one sort or another. I am also tired of him using his connections as a well known and transparent "anonymous source" to try to bring harm to anyone he perceives to be getting in his way, including his own family. It is Lew, unfortunately, who continuously makes potentially libelous statements, yet feels that he is impervious to damage. For example, alleging to the press that he is a member of my husband's family, was an outright untruth.

Addressing Lew directly: at least have some respect for those family members who are reasonably close to you. You have done quite enough damage to the entire family, already. Shame on you. One day you will find out that no fame or fortune is worth the path you have decided to take. Perhaps some intensive psychoanalysis to uncover the anger that obviously wells up inside of you in such an uncontrollable, inappropriate fashion, would be advisable. When you are challenged, this difficult trait is often unleashed in a wildly manic way.

To your comments: If, in fact, "Oneshirt" is a pseudonym for Gary Tilzer, a man whom, to this point, I know only in passing, albeit, over many years, here is where I disagree with your analysis of his abilities. He has, in actuality, shown himself to be be quite formidable in past campaigns. You would be wise to grasp that detail, for as you have shown, no one is infaillable.

Too, if you have anything to say to your brother-in-law, and mentor,Mike Garson, without whom, you would be nowhere, or to me, your sister-in-law, you really should have the decorum to do so privately. It is not my intention to make commentary on our family history via this method. I am sure that what I have to offer up for public consumption would be quite embarrassing, so I would prefer not to go that route. Again, please resist continuing to use my family for your perceived benefit. It would be much appreciated.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Who is the Team

Coming in third with just over $700,000, Lewis Fidler, assistant majority leader and chair of the youth services committee, said he is proud to be considered the third "biggest pig" in the council.
And it's not just his leadership position that locked in his funding either, Fidler said. Although the council speaker can have ultimate veto power, Fidler said other people scrutinize the member items.
"Some of it gets decided by the member," Fidler explained. "Some of it gets decided by the borough delegation. Some of it gets decided by the speaker and some of it gets decided by the budget negotiating team." The process, he said, is multi-faceted.
Who is the team?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kiss Ass Press

Chicken Little Was Right
Councilman Lew Fidler gets his mortgage catastrophe

by Katharine Jose | April 15, 2008 | Tags: PoliticsLew Fidler
This article was published in the April 21, 2008, edition of The New York Observer.

Councilman Lew Fidler spends a lot of time dealing with other people’s misfortune.

He makes his living as the general counsel for LawCash, a company that advances money to people who are expected to win personal-injury settlement suits.

More publicly, in his capacity as an elected official, Mr. Fidler is the self-appointed Chicken Little of the mortgage crisis.

He first started talking about the potentially calamitous subprime housing situation to anyone who would listen three and a half years ago, when he began lobbying for a City Council grant to begin educating homeowners about a crisis that hadn’t happened yet. (In 2006, he got the grant—$750,000 to a nonprofit group dedicated to the issue.)

Last November, concerned by what he considered to be the alarming indifference of his constituents, he circulated a flier that showed his head imposed on the body of Disney’s Chicken Little character.

“You have to get their attention somehow,” Mr. Fidler explained.

Asking him how he knew what would happen elicits a five-minute monologue. “I continued to see closings,” he said. “One hundred percent loan-to-value.”

“It doesn’t take you very long, if you’re really thinking about it, to say: ‘What’s going to happen if real estate values stop going up—forget about going down—just stop going up?”

Mr. Fidler was elected in 2001. Before that he was, at various times, a Democratic district leader, an attorney, the campaign manager for several of Charles Hynes’ bids for Brooklyn district attorney and the chairman of a community board.

Despite some health problems—he is an overweight diabetic with bad eyesight, and he sometimes walks with a cane—he is a vigorous campaigner, and was reelected by a landslide in 2005.

More unexpectedly, as chair of the Council’s Youth Services Committee, he has led a quiet, politically unprofitable campaign to direct resources and money toward helping homeless youth in the city, many of whom are gay.

His office, down the hallway off the waiting room, looks like a place where an accountant in Brooklyn in the 1970s might have worked. Fidler, who is 51, would not have been out of place there. Wearing a short-sleeved collared shirt, a narrow tie and large geometric glasses, he leaned back in his chair and occasionally paused to take a phone call.

“You’re one of my favorite people,” he said to one caller, “if not one of my favorite agencies.”

Mr. Fidler grew up in East Flatbush, not far from where he lives now, in Sheepshead Bay. He represents a section of the borough that also includes Bergen Beach, Canarsie and Flatlands, and he is eager to talk about how the mortgage crisis affects his district.

“I know that Canarsie and Flatbush in Brooklyn is really hard,” he said. “So, for me, that’s a third of my district—and I call it ground zero.”

There’s a loud catcall whistle. “Sorry, that was the computer,” he said.

“If I was willing to live in Podunksville, I could buy myself 12 acres. So, I think people are going to start making decisions like that if we don’t pull out of the recession.

“It’s very circular,” he added. “Very cyclical and circular, both, and I mean those in different ways. The economy is cyclical, but the process here is somewhat circular.”

There’s nothing the city can do to help people who are facing foreclosure, other than on a one-by-one basis, Mr. Fidler says.

This approach is reflected in legislation sponsored by Mr. Fidler that created the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, a public-private partnership that will provide legal and other aid on an individual basis to New Yorkers with foreclosure issues.

When the subject of Mr. Fidler and the subprime collapse comes up on local political blogs—which it fairly often does—almost inevitably an anonymous commenter accuses him of being in a position to profit from frequent foreclosures. Mr. Fidler says this is “utter drivel” and based on a misunderstanding of what LawCash does. In other words, LawCash lends “expensive” money, in his words, but not for mortgages.

“It’s even in our contract,” he said. “‘Make sure you’ve exhausted every other source of money before you come here.’”

“Does the business make money?” Mr. Fidler asked himself. “Yes, the business makes money. But, I mean, God bless America.”

More often than not, Mr. Fidler responds to the attacks in the comments section of the same blog posts, usually under the name “Lew from Brooklyn.” He does this, he explained, partly because of the Google factor—when people search for him, he doesn’t want them to see the attacks without also seeing his response—and partly because blogs have become “a very legitimate manner of public discourse.” And also because, he says, “I have also discovered that the way to hear from reporters is, they check the blogs and see who’s talking about stuff.”

So there we were, with him telling me how we can get out of the recession.

Good old-fashioned capital projects are the answer, Fidler thinks, and he has some ideas. “Building the cross-harbor freight tunnel, building a tunnel to Staten Island,” he began, “sinking the Gowanus Expressway, opening the West Brooklyn waterfront.”

The computer made the catcall whistle again. This time we both ignored it.

“If we do that, and do it now, instead of cocking around for 12 years while we plan it, those are real jobs. And that’s the way F.D.R. did it.” He paused. “Well, cynics will say he did it by getting us into World War II.

“But we’ve already got the war. Now it’s time to do the economic stuff. And that—that—is sound economic policy and good planning, rolled into one. To me, it’s a no-brainer.”

Chicken Little doesn’t see anything new on the horizon that New Yorkers should worry about, other than the continuing foreclosure crisis.

“I’d like to say I see a recession coming—because I saw that, too. But now it’s too late to say I see it coming, because it’s here.” He thought for a few seconds and said, “I see the Mets winning the pennant.”

Monday, January 14, 2008

Why Does Feddler Support Sub Prime Frank Seddio

Home to Roost
As other politicians respond to sub-prime crisis, Lew Fidler explains why he saw it first

Elie Mystal
January 14th, 2008

Lewis Fidler (D-Brooklyn), the Council member who is also the general counsel for 1-800-LAW CASH, sees two reasons to keep the Council officially part-time.

The first is practicality.

“The idea that people are going to come into a term-limited office, give up their vocation for eight years, give it their all, still pay college tuition and all that stuff, and then go back to the farm? It is just not realistic,” he said.

But just as important, Fidler says, is avoiding isolation in what he calls the ivory tower of the government world to better serve constituents. Fidler credits his private legal practice in Brooklyn as the reason he predicted the collapse in the sub-prime lending market two years ago, long before market analysts and government officials from Wall Street to Washington caught on to the problem themselves.

Fidler estimates that 85 percent of the real estate closings he participated in before he got to the City Council involved some type of sub-prime or balloon rate loan.
“We were encouraging people to do it,” he said.

Later, Fidler represented some of those same clients at foreclosure proceedings.

“I saw the beginning, I saw the process, I saw the end, and I think I saw reality setting in,” he said.

In 2005, Fidler joined with Council Member Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) in an attempt to get publicity for what he was already calling a looming crisis, but they could not obtain government funding to help affected homeowners.

As the foreclosure crisis deepened—especially in his home turf of Canarsie, which Fidler called “ground zero” for the mortgage foreclosure crisis—he started passing out fliers to other Council members with a block of text explaining the problem and his head superimposed on a movie poster from the Disney film Chicken Little. That caught his colleagues’ attention.

Fidler was able to secure $1 million for the Mortgage Foreclosure Emergency Prevention Program, which matches at-risk homeowners with legal and financial counseling services. That program and others were precursors to the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, the $5.3-million program recently announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Unaffil.), Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and Fidler. The center is geared toward enhancing the city’s financial educational and counseling services.

Many proposed remedies, such as stiffer penalties for predatory lenders or an adjustable rate freeze, are beyond the purview of city government. But Fidler is not content to simply wait for a market correction.

“I’m a Democrat, I believe this is a government problem,” he said.

Fidler hopes that the national politicians now paying attention to the sub-prime market remember that local communities have been suffering from the foreclosure crisis for years.

And he also would not mind if his colleagues in government remembered his long-standing advocacy on the issue.

“It is funny to watch when Rev. [Jesse] Jackson comes to New York. I see my colleagues crowding around him as he gives the same speech I gave two years ago,” Fidler said. “It’s like they all found religion.”

Fidler will be term limited out of his Council seat in 2009. But though he is interested in continuing in politics, he says he has made no decisions about what he might run for next. “I’m not running for anything in particular, and I am not retiring,” he said.

But even if he had already been in higher office, Fidler pointed out, he would not necessarily have been able to do more to stop sub-prime lending and avert the current crisis. Just trying to convince his fellow Council members was trouble enough, he said.

“I don’t think I would have been able to get that accomplished,” Fidler said. “If I had to sell 150 colleagues in Albany, or 435 colleagues in Washington on passing legislation to end sub-prime lending, I think they would have taken me out to the loony bin.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Councilman Lewis Fidler's Crude Response Adds to his Disingenuousness: Unanswered Questions, Unsatisfying Jusitifications

After doing a bit of research on Mr. Fidler’s relationship with the lending company that he claims only to represent in the same way he represents other clients, it is a curious fact that the Councilman’s “law office” has been in the same building, and same suite as the lending company, for a period of time that for all intents and purposes, mirrors his time on the City Council. The shared offices are at 26 Court Street, suite 1104. In light of Mr. Fidler's claim, this distubing fact would lead one to believe that this connection is quite different from other attorney-client associations, contrary to what Mr. Fidler states in his response.

It is also curious that Lew Fidler says that his company has had no relationship with the City. This does not seem factual, since the woman who complained about the extraordinary interest rates (she said approximately 50% per year), stated that she had gotten injured on City property (no further details to protect her identity). And as she seemingly had no apparent reason to lie, I take her at her word. According to her, Mr. Fidler’s company loaned the money against a suit she had with the City.

Mr. Fidler, as the attorney for this lending company, would be responsible for collection of the money owed it, were a borrower to default on the loan/lien. This would amount to the borrowed principal, plus the extraordinary interest fees. Collections attorneys are notorious for sending letters that threaten some sort of action if the loan/lien is not paid in a timely fashion. Of course Mr. Fidler must advocate on the part of his company/client, or else he would be useless to them. And when, in his attorney capacity, he sues debtors who have collected money from the City, the company would then be receiving City money, contributed to the coffers by the taxpayers.

So exactly what is Mr. Fidler’s value to this company? It would seem to be much more than he has indicated. Dare I wonder what political benefit the Councilman might bring to the table? According to research, Mr. Fidler was an immigration attorney with a meager practice before being elected to the city council. With no banking background, his association with this company is indeed curious.

It also seems that the Councilman’s company probably does profit from City tax dollars. If the company loans money/takes a lien against future earnings from a lawsuit against the City, then City tax dollars must eventually flow into the company's accounts.

When Mr. Fidler claims that his company “levels the playing field” for the poor, he sounds disingenuous. First of all, the interest rates are too high to help anyone, and as I first posted, no one who owns a home, and who could therefore borrow against it at a 6% rate would opt to borrow from a company who makes loans, or takes liens against potential future proceeds, at a 50% per annum rate. The people who borrow from Mr. Fidler’s company/client, do not own homes, nor have access to credit cards, or a relative who can be of help.

Mr. Fidler’s claim that his company helps borrowers keep their homes is difficult to believe. And if there is a rare borrower who does own a home, and if that borrower should default on the lien taken by Mr. Fidler’s company against future proceeds of the injured party’s lawsuit, does Mr. Fidler turn the other cheek, and say, “Oh, well, we’ll let this one go. If we insist upon suing for enforcement of the lien, the poor fellow might lose his home. After all, I am a public official, and the dire circumstances of some poverty-stricken individual should not be used to feather my personal nest.”? I doubt it.

It is obvious, that when a borrower defaults, it is the attorney’s job to collect, or sue. That is what Mr. Fidler does for his company/client, hardly a job for someone who claims to advocate for the poor. Rather than advocating for those in dire need, Mr. Fidler's function seems emblematic of corporate America oppressing the indigent. This is unconscionable for a public official.

It is unseemly for a public official to be “feeding at the public trough” so to speak, especially one who owns an “infinitesimal” percentage of a bank. No doubt, this bank probably is affiliated with Mr. Fidler’s lending company/client? And what does 0.01 percent of an unknown dollar amount mean? Is it several hundred, several thousand, several hundred thousand dollars? What is the relationship between this bank ownership and Councilman Fidler's client? Is there ownership involved here, or is there not?

As an aside, I would urge Mr. Fidler to contain his nasty language. Although I am but a retired school teacher, I am an adult voter, and active community participant for the past many years. I am above all, a human being and constituent who deserves to be addressed civilly by anyone, let alone a public official who relies upon the goodwill of the voters to remain in office. A potty -mouth and haughty attitude do not deter me. In fact, that kind of unbecoming behavior only encourages further questions.

The suggestion by the poster who posed an investigation by the Conflicts of Interest Board, is probably a worthy one. That would be a good place to start—That, and a big bar of soap to wash out Mr. Fidler's dirty and condescending mouth.

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For history alone
Submitted by Lew from Brooklyn (not verified) on Fri, 01/04/2008 - 11:48am.
Obviously, the ever anonymous "bigapplecharm" didn't quite get a rise out of anyone with this personal and unsubstantiatable attack on my character. Nonethless, as google has made history a different kind of medium, I will address the further drivel that was posted above.

An amazing coincidence that my law office address is at the company office. After all, I am in house counsel. This work represents 90% of my non council legal work anyway.

Whaqt is my value as an a "former immigration attorney of meager practice"? Sister, that is such a tell as to your identity that I have to laugh out loud. I guess during our non-communicative years, you were unware of my role as counsel to a health care financing company. some of this comapny's principals are the same as those at my present comopany. In fact, while we worked in the financing business, I helped to develop the documents and systems that are used to operate this current business.

And for the record, I have a fairly significant cv. I have been practicing law now for 29 years havng been admitted to practice shortly after my 22nd birthday. I am a graduate of a top law school (NYU)-- inthe top third of my class---and sister, you do know how important that is, right? I have been in the general practice of law (not "just" immigration work, where I did hearings, trials and argued before the Second Circuit Appeals), but in a full civil practice for that entire period, save for two years when I was law clerk to a Supreme Court Justice. and during that time, I have not had a single grievance found against me whatsoever. Jealous?

Now, the nonsense about the City. The company I work for does business in 48 states of this country. Within that massive portfolio, I am sure that there are a few cases in which we have advanced money to persons who may be suing the City of New York. No doubt. So what? I refer you to the other entry for an explanatin of how this business works. Once money is advanced to a litigant, the company has absolutely NO role whatsoever---as specified in the contract---in the conduct of the case. The company does not advise, does not appear in Court. Nothing. If the case is lost, nobody pays the company back. Period. If you win, when the defendant pays, the company's lien is satisfied from the proceeds through the litigant's personal attorney. If the company is defrauded, and not paid, it is the personal attorney and/or the litigant who are liable. So the defendant is not an issue. Ever. In 7-8 years of doing over 100 million dollars in business, a defendant has not been sued ONCE.

So much for taxpayer's coffers and conflict of interest. Got it?

Another tell as to your identity is your elitist view that when I noted that 80% of the money advanced by the industry goes to keep the litigant in their home, and you ASSSUMED it meant HOUSE. Dear, people pay rent to live as well and when you can't pay the next month's rent, the pressure on you to succumb to the economic duress of the insurer's lowball offer is even more intense thn if you had a home. At least if you had a home you have a CHANCE of getting an equity loan. Sorry to burst your ivory tower bubble there.

Finally, this retired school teacher nonsense is laugh out loud funny. Sorry if I call "bullshit" for what it is. If it truly offends you as you hide behind your anonymity, make up a fictional "friend" (do you still have any? Wanna wear a wire on them?) and attempt to assasinate my character. I guess I call it the way I see it....and if it walks like BS, smells like BS.....

So I have this suggestion for you, since getting a life appears to be out of the question. The next time you want to post about this stupidity, use your real name, and offer up the name of this real person. Otherwise, people will continue to see your posts as nasty personal invective all predicated upon your personal agenda.

Sorry if that sounds "haughty" to you. It's just the truth.

Lew from Brooklyn