With national scrutiny on ACORN and local scrutiny on the
Working Families Party, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis quietly departed as state
co-chair of the Working Families Party.
Lewis was a founding co-chair of the Party. According to
Working Families spokesman Dan Levitan, Lewis stopped serving as co-chair
“about a year ago,” though many people familiar with the Party were unaware of
that change and Lewis was identified as a current co-chair in an interview on
WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show as recently
The change in leadership comes as the Working Families Party
and many of its endorsed candidates are providing extensive email and other
documentation in response to December subpoenas from the United States
Attorney’s office in New York. Lawyers are also preparing to return to Staten
Island Supreme Court on Feb. 23 for the lawsuit being brought against the WFP’s
company, Data & Field Services, and the campaign of now-Council Member Debi
Rose by Randy Mastro on behalf of five Republican-connected residents of her
Staten Island district.
After being warned by a judge in mid-January about delays in
producing documents, Data & Field Services says that it met the Feb. 5
deadline to provide the remaining information with over 1,000 pages of information.
Mastro confirmed that his office had received discs of
information late Friday, but said that he could not comment further until he
and his fellow attorneys had time to print them out and review.
The lawsuit, however, may not be the only legal action on
the horizon. The trial was stopped short in January by Judge Anthony Giacobbe
after Rose’s treasurer, David Thomas testified that he had neither written nor
was familiar with the information provided in affidavits to the Campaign
Finance Board. That may result in attention from Staten Island District
Attorney Dan Donovan—“there’s a very strong possibility of a perjury case
here,” according to local legal sources.
CFB staffers, including director of special compliance and
policy Peri Horowitz, were in court for Thomas’ testimony, but the CFB declined
comment on how information revealed during the proceedings might affect its
Since the affidavits were filed with the CFB in Manhattan,
District Attorney Cy Vance could have jurisdiction as well. Vance’s office also
As lawyers prepare to head back to court on Feb. 23, the
Working Families Party says that Data & Field Services is paying its own
legal bills. The Party’s own campaign finance report from January, however, shows
$55,000 in what it says are outstanding liabilities to Levy Ratner, one of the
firms acting as counsel to Data & Field Services in the case.
Those filings also show a $6,400 outstanding liability to
Skadden Arps, the firm which the Working Families announced would be conducting
an internal review of the relationship between the Party, Data & Field
Services and the 501(c)4 non-profit known as the Working Families Organization.
The Working Families confirmed that the review is underway, though according to
the filing, no other money had been paid to Skadden Arps as of the mid-January
deadline, apparently leaving that $6,400 the only billing for two months of
Many had estimated that the cost of the review would be
significantly higher each month for the Working Families. Michael Bloomberg’s
2009 mayoral campaign, which retained Skadden Arps from April through December
last year, had bills averaging $31,000 per month.
Meanwhile, the first candidates to run on the WFP line since the U.S.
Attorney subpoenas went out are going before the voters in Tuesday’s special
Assembly elections. The WFP line went to the Democrats in three of those races:
David Weprin (running in Queens to replace his brother, Mark), Lauren Thoden
(running in Suffolk to replace Patricia Eddington) and Peter Harckham (running
to replace Adam Bradley).
In the fourth, to succeed now-deputy Nassau County executive Rob
Walker, Democrat Matt Meng said he tried for the WFP line but claimed that he
did not receive it for what he was told were monetary reasons.
“When I ran for Town Council last fall, I had the WFP backing, but
they’re staying out of the legislative race because of their financial
resources,” Meng told City Hall.
Levitan, the WFP spokesman, refuted this—“that explanation does not
make sense,” he wrote in an email, since “it does not require any WFP resources
to endorse a candidate.”
On the contrary, Levitan said that the decision not to endorse was
based entirely on a review of the records and positions of the candidates in the
Nassau Assembly race, which did not lead members to select a preference. Levitan
noted that Walker, a Republican, had received the WFP endorsement when he ran.
Working Families fundraising has continued apace amid the recent
scrutiny, though the January filing shows the Party with just $182,000 in its
state account. This includes a $10,000 contribution from Rep. Jerry Nadler
($10,000) and $5,000 each from Gov. David Paterson and Assembly Speaker Shelly
The Party has another $153,000 on hand in its federal account, buoyed
by December contributions from Democratic donors Marc Lasry ($5,000) and Brian
Snyder ($10,000) and political consultant Jef Pollock ($500). Small
contributions came in as well, including $25 from Mike McGuire, the former WFP
treasurer who resigned in August over reported concerns with paperwork he was
being asked to sign.
Money also came in from several of the state’s congressional representatives’ campaign accounts, including $500 from Gary Ackerman, $5,000 from Brian Higgins, $10,000 from Steve Israel, $250 from Carolyn McCarthy’s CAP PAC and $1,000 from Charlie Rangel’s National Leadership PAC.
with reporting by John Dorman.
Trackback from your site.