Anthony Weiner has wasted much of his constituent’s time lately doing the bidding of President Obama by going after Glenn Beck and his advertisers. But perhaps Weiner would be doing a bigger service to his advertisers by trying to get his own house in order, and answering some questions about suspicious earmarks.
Congressman Anthony Weiner claims to be an opponent of Earmarks. In the 2009 spending bill Congressman Weiner sponsored $18.3 million in earmarks for 22 groups and projects.
Now his argument may be that as long as earmarks are allowed, he has to get his share for his district, something I disagree with, but it is a legitimate argument. But what isn’t legitimate is the fact that over $500,000 of those earmarks went to campaign contributors.
An earmark of $238,000 for the Sephardic Addiction and Family Education (SAFE) foundation, which may or may not be an organization deserving of tax payer dollars. Of course the fact that the organization’s board of directors have contributed more than $160,000 to Weiner’s various campaigns, may make it a bit more worthy in Weiner’s eyes. Weiner also sponsored a $300,000 earmark for Brooklyn’s Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services, whose director, David Mandel, personally contributed $6,240 to Weiner’s political campaigns.
According to the NY Daily News:
At least four board officers of the Sephardic Addiction and Family Education (SAFE) Foundation have, together with their families and close associates, directed more than $160,000 to Weiner’s campaigns, including more than $100,000 for this year’s mayoral race.
“It smacks of pay to play,” said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, an advocacy group that has railed against so-called “earmarks” in the federal budget that let lawmakers steer federal dollars to pet projects back home.
“You can’t prove and there may not even be a quid pro quo, but it does raise the specter of that in the minds of taxpayers,” Ellis said.
“People might make contributions to curry favor … to get federal dollars for themselves or their organization.”
When the story broke, last October, Weiner declined to answer questions about why he chose this group for the funding, or about the campaign contributions.
His spokesman John Collins said in a statement: “It is an outrageous smear to say these leaders of the Jewish community are engaged in anything improper.”
This is at least the second year that Weiner has steered cash to nonprofits in Brooklyn’s Sephardic Jewish community, whose board members have been longtime supporters.
Last year, the Sephardic Angel Fund, which gives no-interest loans to underprivileged business owners, picked up $282,000. The Sephardic Community Center snagged nearly $100,000 for a program to help “at-risk immigrant youth.”
The three Sephardic groups are not affiliated. Some of their board members come from the same families and all three have officers who have made contributions to Weiner.
“Anthony is a friend of the Sephardic community of Brooklyn,” said Morris Missry, a SAFE Foundation board officer who raised $67,700 from 27 donors for Weiner last summer.
He and his wife have given $9,950 to Weiner’s mayoral and congressional campaigns.
Missry said he was surprised about the Weiner earmark when called by the Daily News. “That’s wonderful,” he said of the $238,000 for SAFE. “We need the money.”
Other SAFE Foundation officers who gave money to Weiner did not return calls or could not be reached for comment.
The Sephardic Angel Fund has been the focus of scrutiny because tax documents revealed that a wealthy board member, Eddie Shamah, received an improper interest-free loan. The group also gave no-interest loans to board members’ relatives.
Shamah, who has given $3,000 to Weiner since 1999, said the tax document was an error and the Angel Fund has since filed an amendment.
A lawyer for the fund confirmed Shamah’s claim that he never received a loan, but said the amendment had not yet been filed.
Gee, don’t you think that before he questions others about legitimate business relationships, Congressman Weiner should answer questions about his campaign deals/earmarks that smell a bit rancid?