Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Former Forest City Ratner lobbyist Melvin Lowe, Sampson crony, charged with corruption; charges do not involve developer

From the New York Times, New York Political Consultant Charged in Corruption Case:
An influential political consultant whose clients include the New York Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and leading real estate developers, including Forest City Ratner, was arrested on federal corruption charges on Tuesday morning.
...The charges include wire fraud, bank fraud and criminal tax violations.

The complaint says, among other things, that Mr. Lowe had failed to report more than $2 million in consulting income and used a false-invoice scheme to defraud the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), as well as those who contributed to it, of $100,000.
As it happens, none of the charges involve Forest City or any other developer. But it continues a remarkable string of corruption charges regarding people with ties to Forest City.

Crain's reports:
The complaint refers to an unnamed political consultant "Vendor #1" that appears to be Cornerstone Management Partners, which is owned by political operative Elnatan Rudolph. "Vendor #1" is said to have helped Mr. Lowe and an unnamed political consultant bilk $100,000 from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee without providing any actual services.
In 2010, while at City & State, this reporter wrote at some length about speculation that Michael Cohen, the former district office chief of staff for then-Majority Leader John Sampson of Brooklyn, had landed the $100,000 worth of work for Mr. Rudolph, who was a Brooklyn political operative in his early 20s. The two were childhood best friends. But notion was vehemently denied by a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee spokesman at the time. It's still not clear if Mr. Cohen had any role whatsoever in the alleged plot, and there's no suggestion of wrongdoing by any Senate staffers in the complaint's 12 pages.
The Sampson connection

Lowe, who's close to former Senate Majority Leader John Sampson, himself indicted, has a curious history, as City and State reported in 2010: Largely Unknown DSCC Consultant Cleared $300k In Last Year. That article noted:
Immediately before starting with Sampson and the DSCC, Lowe was a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner Companies, helping lobby on behalf of the Atlantic Yards. While at that job, Lowe got involved in the Ridge Hill development in Yonkers and is among the people mentioned in subpoenas that came out of the local U.S. Attorney’s office related to the passage of that project.
The Yonkers connection

Lowe was mentioned, though not called as a witness, during the 2012 Yonkers corruption trial. "Are you familiar with a company known as Westchester Invaders?" asked William Aronwald, defense attorney for Sandy Annabi, the former Council Member who flipped her vote to benefit Forest City's Ridge Hill project and was later convicted. 

"Isn't it true Forest City Ratner made a contribution of $10,000 to Westchester Invaders at Council Member [Patricia] McDow's or [FCR lobbyist] Melvin Lowe's request?"

"I can't recall," replied former Forest City governmental affairs EVP Bruce Bender.

As I wrote, Westchester Invaders is a drum and bugle corps that McDow has saluted, but I couldn't find corroborating evidence of a Forest City Ratner contribution. Then again, it would not be out of line with company practices in Brooklyn.

The Boyland connection

City and State also reported that Lowe earned $16,000 from the campaign of former Council Member Tracy Boyland when she challenged state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery in 2006. Boyland received tacit if not explicit support from Forest City in that race.

She used the same consulting firm--Knickerbocker SKD--that FCR used for its deceptive Atlantic Yards mailers. A push-poll from Pacific Crest Research, which had conducted a previous push-poll on Atlantic Yards, seemed to steer listeners to Boyland. Crain's reported that Forest City executive Bruce Bender was helping Boyland raise money.

The legal clouds thicken

The arrest of Lowe means yet another person charged or convicted of corruption has or has had a business relationship with Forest City Ratner. The names include John Sampson (charged), William Rapfogel (charged), Carl Kruger (convicted), Richard Lipsky (convicted), Sandy Annabi and Zehy Jereis (convicted).

No comments:

Post a Comment