Buchanan-Fulani: New Team? | The Nation


Buchanan-Fulani: New Team?

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Bruce Shapiro
Bruce Shapiro, a contributing editor to The Nation, is executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma...

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Pat Buchanan is not only getting into bed with Fulani and Newman's unusual psychopolitics, he's also signing a contract with some of the sleaziest operators on the independent political scene. The Newmanites have always practiced a complex financial shell game, leveraging psychotherapy into campaign contributions [see Shapiro, "Dr. Fulani's Traveling Snake-Oil Show," May 4, 1992]. As Fulani once told adherents, "The more you give, the more you grow." A review of campaign finance and legal records shows that since 1992 Newman and his followers have become even more adept at juggling numerous political, cultural and psychotherapeutic enterprises to skirt and sometimes overstep the boundaries of election law and the tax code.

Not so adept, however, that they can't get caught. In 1994 a former Fulani campaign worker named Kellie Gasink went to federal officials with tales of massive fraud by the 1992 New Alliance presidential campaign. According to Federal Election Commission records, Gasink charged that "campaign manager" Newman "used a network of 13 vendors and other entities he controlled to funnel committee funds to himself" and had "embezzled" other money by lining his pockets with staffers' paychecks. When the FEC investigated, Newman and his campaign treasurer invoked the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and Fulani's campaign staff stonewalled, refusing to release key records until the FEC enforced a subpoena.

The FEC came to the conclusion that Gasink's allegations were true, and it ordered Fulani to repay a total of $612,000--more than 25 percent of all the matching funds she had received. Fulani appealed and eventually the FEC--still laboring without the benefit of cooperation from Newman or the campaign treasurer--agreed to lower the repayment to $117,000, including more than $43,000 used to "purchase" bulk orders of the National Alliance newspaper at more than twice the bulk rate and $73,000 in paychecks to individuals "that cannot be traced." Fulani petitioned to block the FEC, but in June 1998 her petition was dismissed by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, with Judge Charles Silberman slamming Newman and company for working to "frustrate and delay" the FEC's inquiries. No wonder Newman decided it was time to retire the New Alliance Party brand name.

Unlicensed and Untaxed

The FEC investigation has not inhibited the Fulani-Newman operation's creative bookkeeping, if more recent records are any indication. At the center of the smoke cloud stand two private entities: the East Side Center for Social Therapy and the Committee for a Unified Independent Party, both based in New York. As unincorporated businesses, both are shielded from detailed public disclosures.

The East Side Center (even the name involves some smoke-blowing, since its address at 500 Greenwich Street is about as far west as you can walk in Manhattan without falling into the Hudson River) provides sliding-scale individual and group therapy. According to the New York State Board of Regents, neither Fulani nor Newman nor a majority of the "clinical staff" listed on the center's Web site--who describe themselves as "therapists" on federal campaign contribution disclosure forms--are licensed as psychologists or social workers. (New York law permits anyone to hang out a shingle advertising psychotherapy, but only those psychologists or social workers licensed by the Regents can describe themselves as certified.)

Sharing the center's address--and with boards of directors largely drawn from the center's staff--is a cluster of tax-exempt nonprofit entities: the East Side Institute for Short Term Psychotherapy, the Castillo Cultural Center (which exists largely to produce Newman's own didactic plays), the All-Star Talent Network and the Community Literacy Research Project. According to IRS records, the Institute for Short Term Psychotherapy and the Castillo center attracted nearly $2.5 million over the past four years in contributions, fees at public events and grants. Their staff and boards, too, kick in to the Fulani presidential and state-office campaigns.

Between Fulani's campaigns and the Newmanites' nonprofit enterprises stands only the sheerest of veils--even though federal tax laws prohibit nonprofits from electioneering and impose stringent restrictions on nonprofit board members and staff who might be perceived as acting on an organization's behalf. The 1999 campaign finance disclosure forms for the still-active Fulani for President committee list eight of the nine directors of the East Side Institute as substantial contributors, along with seven of eight directors of the Castillo center. Several of these directors, along with key members of the for-profit East Side Center's psychotherapy staff, report outside employers to the FEC but not their jobs in the Newman-Fulani orbit, perhaps to make the campaign's revenue stream seem more diverse than it really is. And they are joined in their contributions by two dozen employees of various Newmanite enterprises. This is a wall of separation so thin you can read the tax code through it.

The Committee for a Unified Independent Party is an even more shadowy entity. Co-founded by Fulani in 1994, it appears to be the continuation of the New Alliance Party's political operations. CUIP officially describes itself as "part think-tank, part training institute, part media and communication center for the independent movement." The committee seems to be a vehicle for the former NAPers, who are consulting for allied campaigns like that of Hirschfeld, as well as a conduit for campaign expense money into Newmanite pockets: According to New York State campaign finance records, for instance, last year the CUIP pocketed about $15,000 from the 1998 Fulani campaign, which rented office space from CUIP. The whole cash machine is powered even further by a bewildering series of large-scale, interest-free loans to and from Fulani campaigns by individuals associated with Newmanite enterprises: In 1998 these included more than $40,000 in loans to the Fulani presidential committee, still alive even though she hasn't run for eight years.

"My rackets," Al Capone once said, "are run on strictly American lines, and they're going to stay that way." It's a philosophy Fred Newman and Lenora Fulani would understand.

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