ACORN's new Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis was named one of Crain's 100 Most Influential Women in NYC and the article was just as colorful as Ms. Lewis.
“Ms. Lewis, 56, started down the road almost 20 years ago, fighting successfully for everything from squatters' rights to a higher minimum wage. In 1998, she helped found the union-allied Working Families Party.
The WFP is as much a lobbying group as it is the choice on a ballot line; politicians of all stripes routinely seek Ms. Lewis' endorsement.
'Once a year, I'm a popular girl,' she says. 'These are people that otherwise wouldn't bother to spit on me.'”
While I am sure that Mayor Bloomberg and Bruce Ratner would disagree about the last statement, the tide is about to change in her favor as Ms. Lewis brings ACORN's national headquarters to New York.
ACORN's ties to the Ratners run deep and most do not even realize that their influence reaches outside of New York. A review of donor records shows that James A. Ratner has been a donor to ACORN's offshoot Project Vote since 2004. In 2005, the same year that ACORN and FCR signed their Memorandum of Understanding, Karyn Gillette was working in Ohio as a fundraising consultant for Jennifer Brunner, the Ohioans for a Fair Minimum Wage , and the Sherrod Brown campaign’s. Ms. Gillette work with the minimum wage campaign was a direct reason for her hire with Project Vote, since ACORN was a part of this coalition and was waging a war to get a more ACORN friendly Secretary of State. Here is a few lines from Ms. Gillette's finance plan for Sherrod Brown:
Target Populations: Sherrod’s financial base is health care, law firms, labor, and other PAC’s. DeWine’s is the same but with the added advantage of banks, insurance, and the business community. His top Cleveland donors are Forest City, National City, ...Sherrod will be able to raise money from his base...and because of his relationships with people like Ratners.... “
The Atlantic Yards deal cemented the New York ACORN and FCR alliance forever and the sad events surrounding Wade Rathke's exit left a opening for Bertha Lewis. ACORN was already a master at rigging elections and causing general chaos before elections, but now they saw an opportunity to funnell even more money through CCI and ACORN. Everything started to look real cozy for ACORN and its allies after the 2006 elections and now with all major obstacles out of the way, Bertha Lewis is ready to bring the ACORN Way to New York.
As with all major power consolidations (or as it is known to students of history: a coup d’état ) there are snags and other loose ends that need to be taken care of. In this instance, that dangling piece of thread is the Atlantic Yards debacle. As reported earlier, Forest City Ratner gave ACORN a loan of 1.5 million dollars back in September. According to several members of the ACORN Board, Bertha Lewis lied on several occasions regarding the timing of the loan and whether Board approval was ever received.
Careful review of the loan agreement shows that a letter was sent to ACORN dated August 19, 2008 from Forest City Ratner that stated Forest City Ratner would make a loan to ACORN in the amount of 1 million dollars and give ACORN Institute 300,000 now and 100,000 in August of 2009 and 2010. What is even more interesting is the date on the signed agreement between Bertha Lewis and FCR, September 4, 2008 (for copies of the contract please email me). According to emails that I have in my possession, Bertha Lewis confirmed the loan to the New York Times on September 25, 2008, and she stated that the loan was signed on September 8, 2008 and dispersed around September 12, 2008. The email goes on to show that Bertha's recollection of how she got approval to take this money from good old Bruce might have been a little faulty, or as one board member puts it:
This does not fly with me. When I had [asked] for a copy of the loan agreement from Forest City [Ratner], you told the young lady no! I have since talked with an attorney and was told that I have every right as a member of this board to ask for these documents. This is [impertinent] behavior from you. Also, the phone polls that were taken, were only for the TRO. Your office only sent out forms to address dropping the TRO. When I had talked with you, I had asked you about the loan vote and you told me that you would get back with me. The only person who did was Jilnar. She sent me the form out to me and I signed it on the September 5, 2008. This was only for the TRO, not the loan. I then [rescinded] my vote on September 8, 2008, after talking with council. This can be verified through my emails.
I don't know what wool is trying to be place over the boards eyes, but this one won't due. Where is your paper trail for this loan. Giving the board a list of names of people who voted for this loan is not acceptable, especially when I have talked to board members who supposedly voted for this loan according to your list and actually did not. If you have original documents with signatures to prove me wrong, please do so, other wise my previous letter stands.”
Or course Bertha responded in true ACORN fashion:
“I did tell Forest City not to release their documents to you or to anyone else that contacted them. This was after they called me to say that you contacted their New York, Ohio, and Texas offices. They did not know who you were and found it strange that you were asking for their corporate records....You have every right as a Board member to ask for ACORN's records, but you did not ask before going to the Forest City Ratner Corp.”
I am not sure how things work in the Atlantic Yards of love where Bertha and Bruce's relationship has been allowed to flourish, but most companies that are just giving out $1 million dollar loans usually know who the board members are of the requesting company and most require board approval before proceeding. According to Bertha she was able to produce a list of people that she says voted and not much else.
“As of September 8th, 2008 there were 36 Board members who approved the loan agreement and 10 who disapproved of the loan agreement. In addition, there was an additional approval by Alton Bennett, who represents ACORN Housing on the Board as a non-voting member...”
Alton Bennett and ACORN Housing? Does this sound familiar? It should, because as one board member describes it:
“When we were in New Orleans for both a CCI meeting and an Executive Board meeting, Berta Lewis said that she had arranged for an one million dollar loan from Forest City Ratner coupled with a five hundred thousand dollar grant. She asked Maude Hurd to sign off on the loan immediately. There then arose a discussion regarding the ability to pay the loan off, especially since if the loan payment was late, the interest rate would go up to 18%. While in the discussion Alton Bennett stated off the record that he could help out. ACORN HOUSING could and would step up and make the payment for ACORN so that they wouldn't be late.”
So let's recap here. We have ACORN Housing, a corporation mired in this foreclosure crisis and as well as being a beneficiary of any housing deal between ACORN and Forest City Ratner. This does not strike me as the first side deal those two have made, and I geniually regret that the people of Brooklyn were duped by ACORN in their pursuit of a sweetheart deal with FCR.
On the other side of the coin is the ACORN institute a 501 (c)(3), which is getting a grant as a rider to a loan to ACORN. ACORN Institute lists its mission as using “research and training to combat the poverty, discrimination and community deterioration that keeps low-income people from taking advantage of their rights and opportunities.” Three of the Institutes main programs are ACORN International (Wade's international money laundering arm), The ACORN Hurricane Recovery and Rebuilding Fund (currently missing $95,000) and Social Policy (magazine started and run by Wade Rathke and the same one that Bertha tried to strike a deal and let Wade walk away with).
How much longer before this house of cards falls? I am hearing whispers of certain impending legal action and buzz on the Hill. Take notice New York, Bertha Lewis and her merry band of poverty pimps have sold out the people of Brooklyn and are now looking for a chance to corrupt a whole city. I won't say that ACORN made New Orleans a corrupt city, but they sure didn't help.