Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Re: Is it Legal?

A few months ago we pointed out, and the NY Times reported, that the lobbying activity of the Claire Shulman-led Flushing/Willets/Point/Corona LDC were a violation of the group's not-for-profit-status. As if there wasn't enough evidence available to make a prima facia case, here is a letter from not only Shulman, but one that is co-signed by Queens BP Marshall and Congressman Joe Crowley (who doubles in the apolitical post as Democratic county leader).

In it, the co-signatories implore the city council to approve the Willets Point development: "We are writing to urge you to support the City's plan to remediate and redevelop Willets Point, Queens...As council members you hold the key to the future of Willets Point, and we ask you to vote for the project and insure it comes true."

That friends is as clear an indication of the overtly political activities of this astroturf operation as anything we have seen-which brings us back to the fact that official complaints have been filed with the NYS Attorney General and the Internal Revenue Service. But as of yet, the response must have been lost in the mail.

Just in case you might have had some questions about the relevant statute that Shulman has been violating-so far with impunity-we refer you to the relevant section of the IRS code: Section 501 (C)(3). In it, we read the following: "Thus, 501(C)(3) prohibits qualifying organizations {not-for-profits} from participation in any political campaign and limits the amount of permissable legislative activity. If the organization engages in substantial legislative activities...the organization is an 'action' organization and exemption will be denied."

Well, as Shulman herself admitted to the Times, "substantial legislative activity" was the raison d'ĂȘtre of her little lobbying entity-and almost her entire half million or so public dollars were in fact misused precisely for the purpose of "excessive" legislative influencing. So what happened to the impartiality of the law here?

No one should be placed above the law-and there are those in Queens County who are going after a certain legislator with hammer and tongs because of the principle that, not only is no one above the law, but that elected officials need to be judged by a higher standard. Well, in that case, the Mayor Bloomberg, BP Marshall, and Congressman Crowley-all of whom aided and abetted the Shulman violation of the law-should be admonished; and the LDC itself disbanded and fined for all of the back taxes it has accrued while operating illegally as a tax exempt organization.

As more and more questions arise about the cost and feasiblility of redeveloping Willets Point, it is time that the city be held accountable for setting up and funding an illegal lobbying group to set this whole thing in motion. Small business has enough trouble defending its interests against large real estate ventures, but when the city conspires illegally to torpedo their survival, someone needs to step up and say: "Enough"