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David Lombino has another installment in the emerging financing scandal at Air America that Brian Maloney first uncovered last week. Today, Lombino publishes an interview with Al Franken that demolishes attempts by Air America supporters to defend the netlet from its connection to potential wire fraud and misappropriation of government grant money intended for poor kids and Alzheimer's patients (via Michelle Malkin):
Mr. Franken said he has learned details of the story only in the last week. He said Piquant LLC, current owner and operator of the radio network, found a record of the transfers while conducting a "forensic" investigation into the finances of the previous owner, Progress Media, which was run by Mr. Cohen. That internal probe was conducted before the city agency became involved, Mr. Franken said. Efforts by The New York Sun to reach Mr. Cohen for comment in recent days have been unsuccessful.
A Piquant spokesman said yesterday that Gloria Wise would be compensated regardless of the amount of money it transferred. Mr. Franken said he did not know if money from Gloria Wise had been absorbed by the network and used to finance its operations. He said Piquant's payments to Gloria Wise were scheduled to begin this month but were prevented from going through while the city investigation continued.
A spokesman for the Department of Investigation, Keith Schwam, said that if Air America discovered the transfers before the city probe began, "They neglected to tell anyone at DOI or in the city about it."
So Piquant Media knew about this problem months ago but kept it quiet? That appears to corroborate its earlier statement that it decided "months ago" to pay back the money. However, why didn't it start paying it once the forensic investigatin turned up the problem? More importantly, why didn't their accountants and Piquant Media turn over these findings to Gloria Wise's board and to the authorities?
Instead, the charity group continued without its funding for another several months, losing government contracts when it couldn't meet its obligations under the previous earmarked grants to provide services to the poor kids and Alzheimer's patients. While Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club struggled along, Piquant Media and Err America stayed silent, at least on this one injustice where a corporation took money from the downtrodden to line its own pockets. Funny how that happens when the pockets getting lined are one's own.
Franken's admissions clearly shows that Err America and its new management knew of Evan Cohen's irregular transfers of money, but also shows that they intended on keeping it to themselves for as long as possible. If their statement about resolving to repay the money "months ago" had any truth to it, they would have notified Gloria Wise's executives at the time of the discovery as well as the competent authorities of the state. They also would have come up with a better initial statement blaming everything on previous ownership; if they had already decided long ago to pay the money back, why didn't they say so in that first press release?
So far all we have heard from Err America is a lot of double-talk and self-serving half-truths. That still beats what we've heard from most of the Exempt Media, which has avoided this topic despite the blockbuster nature of the story. That will be the topic of my Daily Standard column tomorrow. Perhaps media outlets like the New York Times, which regularly runs fawning articles on the struggling netlet, will finally look into the tawdry details of Err America's grab at city grant money intended for the poor and sick.
UPDATE: A CQ welcome to Lucianne readers. Regarding "Err America", I used that earlier in my blog to describe their efforts at audience-building. I did like RBMN's drowning/waterpistol proverb, though ... gotta use that myself sometime.
UPDATE II: Check out these observations from a New York attorney.
UPDATE III: To answer Mr. Buddwing in the comments -- yes, we should note that Franken didn't lawyer up and issue a standard "no comment" in response to Lambino's request for a response. It would have been very easy to do so, although if he plans on running for office, eventually he will have to answer for this scandal. He doesn't exactly apologize for the malfeasance, but he didn't commit it, either.Sphere It View blog reactions
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