Extremist Pol's Shadow World

NYPost.com/July 22, 2002
By Jeane Macintosh

She's been accused of anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism and fraud - but to Gov. Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg, Lenora Fulani is a powerful political ally.

Fulani - a quasi-Marxist, two-time presidential candidate - helped take over Ross Perot's Independence Party. She now sits atop the influential third party, doling out coveted endorsements and access to its critical ballot line; the governor and mayor court her support.

Still, Fulani remains deeply tied to a shadowy web of controversial therapeutic and cultural nonprofit groups that seem to run in tandem with the supposedly independent Independence Party.

She is founder of the All Stars Project, an arts group for inner-city kids, and a supporter of its sister organization, Castillo Theater.

Fulani is on staff at the East Side Institute for Short Term Psychotherapy, where she practices "social therapy," a controversial discipline that believes political activism can "cure" emotional problems.

Public records and internal documents obtained by The Post revealed:

  • The three groups publicly court mainstream politicians and educators - and count Fortune 500 firms and HBO as major All Stars sponsors - while privately preaching an anti-establishment plan to "storm the barricades" of an "enemy" that controls politics, public schools, television and religion.
  • The purpose of All Stars and Castillo are "first and foremost revolutionary, not aesthetic," according to an internal document entitled "Why We Do Cultural Work."
  • "If theater is your primary concern," reads one passage, "this isn't the best place to be."
  • East Side Institute members have a "two-year plan" to "infiltrate" Long Island with "social therapy" by capitalizing on relationships with wealthy North Shore residents, a Newsday reporter, a cable TV show and the South Oaks rehab hospital, among others.
  • The groups claim no political affiliation on tax forms. But 27 of 35 key directors, officers and employees of the Institute, All Stars and Castillo are Independence Party contributors, election records show. Insiders of the three groups ponied up $55,000 since 2001.

American tax laws prohibit electioneering by nonprofit groups and strict rules about nonprofit staff who could be perceived as acting on behalf of a political organization.

Spokespeople for both All Stars and East Side Institute said they would not comment on documents they had not seen.

All Stars, Castillo and the East Side Institute all operate out of the same building at 500 Greenwich St., share staff and contribute to each others' coffers.

In 1999, for example, the All Stars gave a $34,500 grant to the East Side Institute, but claimed no affiliation to the group. In 1997, All Stars gave $186,250 in grants to Castillo and the East Side Institute. The groups may share "common philosophies," but there is no formal relationship between them, said All Stars president Gabriel Kurlander.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Fulani, now 52, earned degrees from Hofstra University, Columbia Teachers College, and City University of New York Graduate Center.

In the mid-1970s, she met her mentor, Fred Newman. A self-styled Marxist and founder of "social therapy," Newman for years had run a variety of leftist groups, including the International Workers Party. In 1979, Fulani and Newman formed the New Alliance Party, and joined sides with a variety of controversial characters, including Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton.

Officials at the Anti-Defamation League say Fulani has never renounced her support of Farrakhan or her "divisive rhetoric."

The ADL quotes Fulani as saying Jews "had to sell their souls to acquire Israel and are required to do the dirtiest work of capitalism - to function as mass murderers of people of color - in order to keep it."

Fulani steadfastly insists she is not an anti-Semite.

In 1987, Fulani led a New Alliance Party delegation to Tripoli to march with Moammar Khadafy, protesting the U.S. bombing of Libya the year before. She has called the terrorist "a leader who had the guts to stand up to the U.S." (Former NAP members would later claim they stockpiled automatic weapons. The FBI, in a partially blacked-out file, called the NAP "armed and dangerous.")

In 1994, Fulani and Newman disbanded the NAP and tilted toward the right, joining forces with Ross Perot.

By 1999, Fulani was supporting far-right Pat Buchanan for president, but the pair parted ways before the election. Over the years, Fulani has run for lieutenant governor, mayor and governor in New York. She ran for president in 1988 and 1992.

After the 1992 bid, Fulani, with Newman, was investigated for fraud by the Federal Election Committee after a former campaign worker claimed the pair had "funneled" campaign money to 13 Newman-controlled enterprises. The FEC, finding the charges true, ordered Fulani to repay $612,000 in government-given funds.

She eventually returned $117,000, after arguing that, according to "socialist principles of collectivism," all money collected by the core group "belongs to the collective, and is used at the discretion of members of the collective."

These days, rather than endorse candidates with views close to their own, Fulani and state Independence Party leaders continue to hitch their wagons to Republican candidates for mayor and governor.

With Fulani's help, the Independence Party delivered the 59,091 votes crucial to Bloomberg's close 2001 mayoral victory.

Pataki hopes to get the same electoral boost in his re-election bid this fall, and recently told the party that getting its endorsement "is an honor I will fight for."

Pataki and Bloomberg - either directly or indirectly - have thrown their support behind Fulani, Castillo Theater and the All Stars Project, as well.

  • In April, Bloomberg's media company was among the sponsors who bought blocks of tickets to All Stars' Lincoln Center fund-raiser, where tables went for up to $100,000.
  • Fulani, Newman and other Independence Party members were recently granted a coveted meeting with Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott to discuss education reform.
  • Last week, Fulani lawyer Harry Kresky was named by Bloomberg to the City Charter Revision Commission for non-partisan elections.
  • In December, Pataki staffers intervened on behalf of the All Stars to secure an $8.5 million tax-exempt bond from the city to build a performance center at the Old Armory Building on West 42nd Street. The bond had been stalled under Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Pataki's camp initially said it didn't think the governor had intervened in lobbying for the bond.

Kresky, however, wrote a memo to Independence Party members saying the governor's support "cleared the way for approval of the project."

Meanwhile, the New York Independence Party said it is not connected to the Fulani-supported non-profits.

"Lenora Fulani is a well-known and influential politician, but she is not the head, official or unofficial, of this party," said spokeswoman Jackie Salit.

"New Yorkers know the governor," said Pataki spokesman Mark McKeon. "They know that he is out there working and fighting for them every day."

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