Blowback Justice For Spitzer
The question before us is: can and will the opportunities of the moment be seized upon to organize and help bring down The Tyrant and also establish a new order of things long overdue in the Black community?
There is more than meets the eye to this developing story of the unraveling of New York’s Governor Eliot Spitzer.
The question is who will have the interest to expose the overlooked or suppressed stories of what has taken place, specifically, in the Black community at the hands of Eliot this tyrant?
The stories not exposed in the so-called mainstream media that need to be investigated will reveal a trail of injustices, deceits and betrayals that elected “politicians”, such as self-described “fucking steamroller” Spitzer, and formally as Attorney General, have used to takeover, muzzle, or destroy his political rivals and “high-value” targets in industry; The Bruno Affair or “Troopergate” and the cleansing of Wall Street.
Omitted from the media frenzy is the destruction of progressive leaders and institutions in the Black community: Urban League of Northeast Albany, Apollo Theatre Foundation, Black United Fund of New York, and Attorney Alton Maddox. Hale House may have been an exception, as a high-profile institution, but even then, there was more to the story than what was so sensationalized.
These stories need to be contrasted to how Spitzer dealt with the institutions and leadership at the World Jewish Congress, the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club and Air America, the New York State Sheriff’s Association and others. It boils down to “annihilation” versus the “wrist slap” or maybe even a blind eye, with the other one winking.
The only mention of the disparate treatment regarding the Black United Fund of New York was in the February 23, 2006 Chronicle of Philanthropy article, “Penalties of Jewish Group Called Overly Lenient”, which stated that, beginning in late 2004, “Mr. Spitzer’s office spent 15 months investigating allegations of financial improprieties at the World Jewish Congress and concluded that the organization suffered from an absence of any oversight of financial matters by its governing board.”
The findings were documented in a January 2006 34-page, case-closing Assurance of Discontinuance or “agreement” issued by Spitzer’s office that was released almost simultaneously with an unchallenged press release by the WJC of a “no-real-harm-done” vindication of any “wrong doing”.
In contrast, the Chronicle article reported that Spitzer’s 2003 investigation of Black United Fund of New York found that funds “…were being invested in real estate and other ventures at the same time that it (BUFNY) had fallen behind in payments committed to the local organizations it pledged to support.”
There were over 50 negative findings of significant improprieties, violations of State laws, and derelictions that included the absence of any fiscal oversight since 1976; no active board members at the American Section of the WJC since 1980; unauthorized or illegal transfer of $1.2 million to Swiss and London banks; missing financial records; failure to provide requested records; use of cash for payroll transactions; disorganized and incomplete records keeping; fiscal mismanagement and absence of control and administration of charitable assets; undocumented practice (no official authorizing policy) of “ex gratria” payments to retired employees; lack of professional accounting staff; illegal mail order solicitations of charitable contributions; failure to register with Charities Bureau; and more.
The complaints that brought about Spitzer’s reluctant investigation were based on the well-founded allegations of an active “insider” who knew where all the bodies were buried. A reading of the February 23, 2007 HAARETZ.com article by Amriram Barkat, “Where was Edgar Bronfman?”, the then billionaire head of the WJC, reveals even more violations, abuses and improprieties were reported to Spitzer, but which he deliberately suppressed from his final report that constituted the Certificate of Discontinuance. One reported reason for the leniency was that Spitzer, as a candidate for governor, did not want to offend the powerful New York Jewish community.
The culprits executives at the Gloria Wise organization were “asked” to pay back $60,000 altogether -out of $1.2 million reported as stolen in a nypost.com 10/07/2007 editorial, and to also pay a $5,000 fine each, perhaps even out of stolen funds, for their crimes. Everybody walked away scot-free! A gift thanks to another of Spitzer’s in-the-family “get-out-of-jail-free” passes.
Daily News Staff Writer Douglas Feiden in an exclusive report in 2005 had raised questions that Spitzer had “quietly handed out millions of dollars to politically connected organizations that could boost his campaign for governor in 2006. Feiden reports on Spitzer as, "Tapping funds he's recovered from corporate wrongdoers, his office has steered grants to some 175 community groups …” much like Robin Hood!
There should now be serious questions raised as to the truth of how and when Spitzer, as “Sheriff of Wall Street”, used the power of his position, as Attorney General, to get “high-priced” financial concessions in the millions from investment, insurance and other firms, perhaps, in part, as “go away” payments under the guise of ridding The Street of corporate financial abuses. Spitzer, as Attorney General, spread an untold amount of that new-found “wealth” to non-profit groups around New York State, as he positioned himself and then actually ran for governor.
A Freedom of Information Law request by this writer to the Charities Bureau and directly to the Office of the Attorney General/Department of Law has, to date, not yielded any information on the recipients or how much was given away.
The investigation of Black United Fund of New York by Spitzer began in November 2002, with an “Interim Assurance of Discontinuance” being issued in February 2003 demanding the unprecedented resignation of all board members. No terminating Certificate of Discontinuance of the now 57-month old “investigation” has ever been issued. There have been no official findings or charges by the Office of the Attorney General, under Spitzer or even Andrew Cuomo, against the organization’s former executives Kermit Eady, president and CEO, and myself, vice president and general manager or any other personnel.
Yet BUFNY, and its 25 years of truly pioneering development history, has been completely destroyed by Spitzer and his five Black Republican appointees to that first “temporary Interim Board of Directors” in May 2003. Spitzer’s office and his appointees had been advised when the investigation began, that they were not going to find what they thought they were looking for or, more likely, told to look for.
Contrary to Spitzer’s promise to “help BUFNY flourish”, the pioneering institution has been completely destroyed, its offices replaced by a “Bar”, technology centers closed, all real properties and assets -including radio station WCKL- and all historical documents and materials were destroyed or disposed of in potentially illegal manners. It must also be noted that all the personal belongings of Eady (accumulated over 25 years) and myself were also discarded, without notice, as garbage.
No one has had to answer for this. Not Spitzer, his Assistant Attorney General Juan Merchan of Nassau County, or Spitzer’s board that initiated the destruction process (William E. Davis, Jr., Lance Clarke, Delores Kershaw, Bettye Easley, and Briding Newell); or the last listed board of James Simmons, Niles Stewart, Glenda Grace, Renee Tirado, and, again, holdover Davis. None of these so-called “talented” servants was able to carry out or continue the empowerment mission of BUFNY. Of course, that really was not their assignment, as history has confirmed.
These glaring instances of discriminatory treatment of BUFNY and other Black institutions tell the story of deceit, abuses of power, and willful destruction –all used to betray Spitzer’s words and commitments to the Black community in pursuit of power for himself. This had already been evident for some time to those of us on the receiving end. So, what else is new?
What you see now is the true face of Eliot “The Tyrant” that had been encountered and written about by Eady and I and in a collection of articles, “Understanding Spitzer vs. BUFNY”, by James McIntosh, MD of CEMOTAP (the Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive To African People) beginning in 2003, long before the current revelations of the one also called Eliot “The Destroyer”.
The mainstream press and political blogs have latched onto Spitzer’s dark side of power and political abuses, transgressions yet exposed, and the evident character flaws that have led Spitzer, our very own J. Edgar Hoover, into a hornet’s nest of blowback repercussions. The call and move to conduct investigations are clearly justified for one who has played “top cop”, prosecutor, persecutor, judge, jury, and “wannabe” king who has stumbled is his pursuit of absolute power.
This is the person that many feared and seemed to offer a kind of obligatory, albeit “unearned”, fealty that was seen by some more as “obedient support” of partisan Democrats, the other head of the 2-headed Dragon of power politics.
This is or was the pervading atmosphere and evolving attitude to not offend even by merely standing in justified opposition or disagreement. Just ask the Black “selected” officials that still sit muted and in deafening silence like overly loyal and corrupted sheep. Clearly, the innocence of the lamb does not apply here.
The anger and disgust of the people with “business as usual” are more than palpable. The calls for needed changes and new progressive leadership are justified, real and grow louder with each abuse, deceit and betrayal.
The question before us is: can and will the opportunities of the moment be seized upon to organize and help bring down The Tyrant and also establish a new order of things long overdue in the Black community? If you are reading this article, some in the media are doing their part.
What say you?
Barton is an IBM retiree and former vice president and general manager at Black United Fund of New York. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributions to the article were from Kermit Eady, president and CEO of Eady Associates and former president and CEO of Back United Fund of New York. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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