Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Rev. Bagman

When all of the controversy over the term limits trashing was going full bore, we experienced a Sherlock Holmes moment. It came about when it was apparent that the city's number one pot stirring and racial ambulance chaser was suddenly silent as a church mouse in the face of the Mike Bloomberg power play. It was a "dog that didn't bark moment." Here's one description of the famous story that underscores what we're saying: " 'The dog that didn't bark' is an expression from a Sherlock Holmes mystery. It was an important clue that led to identifying the criminal. It seems that the killer entered and left the estate grounds one night but without the guard dog barking an alarm at the intruder's presence as expected. From this non—event Holmes reasoned that the dog must have known the killer and that clue led to solving the case."

How apropos of the silent Sharpton-the dog that didn't bark when the billionaire stole democracy right out from under us. At the time, we observed that Slim Shady Sharpton was quiet simply because he was being paid hush money; and now, thanks to Juan Gonzales, we get a small glimpse of what could be an even bigger payola scandal.

In this morning's NY Daily News, Gonzales details how Sharpton received $500,000 from a group controlled by former schools chancellor Harold Levy: "The Rev. Al Sharpton and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein stunned the education world last June when they joined forces to reform the nation's public schools.They called their ambitious venture the Education Equality Project, and they vowed in a Washington press conference to lead a campaign to close the decades-old achievement gap between white and black students. What Klein and Sharpton never revealed is that the National Action Network, Sharpton's organization, immediately received a $500,000 donation for its involvement in the new effort."

There you have it-partners in crime: "The huge infusion of cash - equal to more than a year's payroll for Sharpton's entire organization - was quietly provided by Plainfield Asset Management, a Connecticut-based hedge fund, where former Chancellor Harold Levy is a managing director. The money came at a critical moment for the National Action Network. Sharpton was then settling a long-running IRS investigation of his organization. As part of that settlement, he agreed in July to pay $1 million in back taxes and penalties both he personally and his organization owed the government."

"Hush, Hush Sweet Al!" With an African-American candidate waiting in the wings-a co-favorite for being elected mayor once the rem limited Bloomberg left the stage-Sharpton became the dog that didn't bark, Here's Al's response: "Sharpton said his alliance with Klein should not be read as blanket support for Bloomberg's education policies. "I am committed to cutting the achievement gap, but not necessarily to more mayoral control [of city schools]," he said. "I support more charter schools for local church and community groups, but I'm not for privatizing schools and corporate payoffs in education."

So instead of his expected noise making and rabble rousing when democracy is suborned, we are treated to Sharpton the policy wonk-arguing with an air of phony erudition about the merits of charter schools versus vouchers. Subornation, thy name is Sharpton. And the methods used here should be instructive for every reporter looking into the Bloomberg method of utilizing his great fortune to undermine democratic dissent: "The $500,000 from the Connecticut firm did not go directly to National Action Network. Levy funneled the cash to another nonprofit, Education Reform Now, which allowed his company to claim the donation as a charitable tax deduction. The money was then transferred in several payments to Sharpton's group, which does not have tax-deductible status because it is a lobbying organization."

From Tinkers to Evers to Chance-around the horn-and, as with Learn NY-accompanied by an unbelievable disclaimer: "Levy says his firm came up with the idea to make the contribution, and neither Klein nor Bloomberg asked him to aid Sharpton." In all likelihood, this payoff to the slippery Sharpton was not an isolated incident; and is characteristic of how Mike Bloomberg's royal extension has been accomplished without much of a popular outcry from the usual suspects-farmers who were obviously being paid not to farm.