Sunday, May 18, 2014

Before federal fraud indictment, Melvin Lowe was director at Bertha Lewis's new non-profit

Bertha Lewis, close advisor to Mayor de Blasio, still playing with political fire

The indicted political consultant, Melvin Lowe, served as a board of director of The Black Institute, the current non-profit out of which former ACORN head Bertha Lewis now operates, The New York Post reported today. Mr. Lowe was charged in a federal criminal complaint with federal fraud and tax violations. Mr. Lowe was identified as a board member of The Black Institute in 2012, but he is no longer on the board, according to the group’s Web site, The New York Post reported.

The report by The New York Post raised questions about other board members, as well as the finances, of Ms. Lewis's new non-profit. These questions come as federal prosecutors in New York, led by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, are waging a historic campaign against political corruption.

The charges against Mr. Lowe stemmed from a plan to defraud $100,000 from the New York State Senate Democrats' campaign committee. The payment was made to a New Jersey political consulting firm, which the media identified as Cornerstone Management Partners. Cornerstone was run by Elnatan Rudolph, who has a relationship with the lobbyist Michael Cohen. Mr. Cohen worked on Councilmember Mark-Viverito's controversial campaign for New York City Council Speaker. Before Mr. Cohen's lobbying firm took the lead on Councilmember Mark-Viverito's speakership campaign, Councilmember Mark-Viverito was advised by the lobbyist, Scott Levenson, who has years-long ties to Ms. Lewis. Mr. Levenson was ACORN's chief spokesperson as the group was grappling with several controversies that eventually led to the closure of ACORN. To save on rent, Ms. Lewis's new non-profit also shares office space with Mr. Levenson's lobbying firm. The space is roomier now that NY-CLASS, a 501(c)(4) animal rights political group, moved out. For a time, all three entities shared the same office space. Ms. Lewis and Mayor de Blasio have close ties to the Working Families Party, which they both take credit for co-founding. And finally, Mr. Levenson's consulting firm managed several political campaigns last year at the same time he both advised Ny-CLASS and administered a Super PAC for NY-CLASS that are the subjects of several investigations for possibly coordinating their political activities to help elected Mayor de Blasio. In the face of investigations, Mr. Levenson's firm, The Advance Group, has been rapidly downsizing to get rid of witnesses, some government reform speculate.

Given that Mr. Lowe was a director at a non-profit sharing space with The Advance Group, it's not known what relationship might have developed between Mr. Lowe and Mr. Levenson.

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