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.