Report: Wilkerson took $70K in ‘gifts’

February 6, 2009
By

JOHN RUCH

LaRouche claims case is conspiracy

Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, under indictment on federal bribe-taking charges, said that she ac-cepted more than $70,000 in unreported “gifts” from supporters over the past 10 years, according to a Jan. 25 Boston Globe report.

That included thousands of dollars given by the Jamaica Plain Dunkin’ Donuts tycoon Clayton Turnbull and Arthur Winn, whose Back Bay development project was an issue in Wilkerson’s campaign last year, according to the Globe. Turnbull and Winn did not return Gazette phone calls for this article.

“I have never, ever accepted money for any act as a senator,” Wilkerson reportedly told the Globe, main-taining her innocence on the bribery charges. “If they’re going after corruption at the State House, I would be the 999th person on the list.”

Wilkerson and her attorney, Max Stern, did not return Gazette phone calls for this article.

In the Globe interview, Wilkerson also repeated claims, first reported in the Dorchester Reporter, that a group of African-American ministers who previously supported her had some connection to the undercover FBI investigation that led to her electoral loss and resignation last year.

Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, who is charged as a co-conspirator with Wilkerson in the bribery investigation, has claimed that they are both victims of a government conspiracy against African-American officials.

Lyndon LaRouche, the controversial international political activist, has joined the fray by saying that Turner and Wilkerson are the victims of a 50-year conspiracy against African-American officials called

“Operation Fruehmenschen.”

“Use this word,” LaRouche said in a written statement to the Gazette, referring to Operation Fruehmen-schen. “We have to call it what it is. It is racism. There is racism in Ted Kennedy’s Boston.”

LaRouche claimed that the conspiracy is partly backed by a supposed secret Boston group he calls “the Vault” that has “historic connections to Anglo-Dutch imperial interests” and is “committed to the destruc-tion of the US as a sovereign nation.”

As the Gazette first revealed last month, Turner spoke at a LaRouche Political Action Committee (LPAC) event downtown on Jan. 24 that laid out the alleged conspiracy. LaRouche is widely criticized as a conspiracy theorist and political cult leader.

The US Attorney’s Office has said that race played no factor in the charges against the officials. Turner did not return a Gazette phone call for this article.
$10,000 ‘gifts’

Wilkerson is charged with accepting cash bribes from undercover FBI agents and a cooperating witness. In the Globe interview, she reportedly acknowledged accepting “gifts” as large as $10,000—sometimes in cash—from friends and political supporters, in part to pay off her personal debts and bills.

That included a federal income tax debt of more than $100,000. A decade ago, while still in office, Wilk-erson was convicted of willful failure to file income taxes and spent time in a halfway house after violating house arrest.

Among those who gave Wilkerson money, she reportedly said, was Ron Wilburn, who previously told the Globe that he was the government’s undercover cooperating witness in the bribery case.

She reportedly said that Wilburn gave her $300 in cash stuffed in an envelope at a 2001 Christmas party while saying, “‘Merry Christmas. Go have a good time.’” The Gazette was unable to locate Wilburn for com-ment.

Under federal tax code, an individual can accept a personal gift of up to $12,000 (formerly $10,000) from anyone without reporting it to the IRS or owing any taxes on the sum.

In addition, Wilkerson said, she had State Ethics Commission advisories that said she could accept such gifts without disclosing them, as long as the money-givers did not have any business interest in the decisions of the state Legislature.

But, according to the Globe, Wilkerson accepted money from Turnbull and Winn, who did benefit from her official actions.

The Globe quoted Turnbull as saying he gave Wilkerson a $3,000 check at an unspecified time as a personal loan that she later repaid. Several years ago, Wilkerson supported his successful effort to open a downtown Dunkin’ Donuts location. Turnbull reportedly said his loan had nothing to do with Wilkerson’s political sup-port.

Turnbull is a resident of Moss Hill, a part of JP that was repeatedly bashed as part of an elite said to be supporting opponent Sonia Chang-Díaz by some Wilkerson backers during last fall’s campaign.

The Globe, citing two anonymous sources, also reported that Wilkerson was given $10,000 by Winn. Winn’s company, WinnDevelopment, was one of the first original developers of the controversial Columbus Center project. Wilkerson’s advocacy for state funding of that project was criticized by Chang-Díaz during last year’s campaign, who said public subsidies were being used there as a “grab bag” for unclear reasons.

The $10,000 tax limit on gifts was in effect for most of Wilkerson’s term. One of the federal charges pending against Wilkerson is that she solicited a secret campaign donation from an undercover FBI agent, specifying that it should be $10,000.

The FBI’s official description of the alleged exchange includes language that is similar to Wilkerson’s reported understanding of gift-giving.

“When the [undercover agent] asked how he should get money to Wilkerson, she told him she could accept checks made out to her personally up to $10,000 if nothing was expected in return,” the FBI affidavit reads. “Alternatively, she explained, ‘[I]f it’s, obviously, the way you did it [allegedly gave bribe money] be-fore, then that’s not an issue at all because that just means cash.’”

Wilkerson allegedly later accepted the $10,000 in cash at a restaurant, placing it inside a plain paper folder she had with her.

Last October, the Boston Phoenix reported that Wilkerson had obtained an unusual personal mortgage loan from a local developer’s firm. In a WBUR radio interview at the time, Wilkerson dismissed that and other reports in the article as “crazy” and part of a “witch hunt” against her.

Sal DiMasi, the former Speaker of the state House of Representatives, dramatically resigned last week while in the midst of a financial scandal that includes allegations of accepting gifts and loans from a friend, Richard Vitale, who may have been acting as a lobbyist. The payments reportedly included a mortgage loan Vitale made to DiMasi, and Vitale paying off legal debts owed by DiMasi’s in-laws. Vitale has said he was not a lobbyist, and DiMasi has said he did nothing wrong.

Conspiracies

While Turner and Wilkerson are charged with conspiracy, they have responded with conspiracy complaints of their own.

Wilkerson has said that the Black Ministerial Alliance, a group of African-American ministers, was key in convincing her to run for the Senate seat 15 years ago. Last fall, the same group pressured her strongly to resign at a press conference as she lingered in office after her FBI arrest. Now, Wilkerson is claiming that the group “conspired with the FBI to destroy me” because of her support of same-sex marriage, according to the Dorchester Reporter.

Wilkerson elaborated on the idea in the Globe interview. She said that in 2006, some of the ministers told her that she was under federal investigation for bribery and extortion. She claimed that the Alliance’s then-director, Harold Sparrow, told her that he spread the word to other ministers but would not reveal how he learned of the investigation.

Wilkerson reportedly said she decided Sparrow simply made up the story and ignored it.

Sparrow, who is now vice president of development at the YMCA of Greater Boston, did not return a Gazette phone call for this article. Neither did Rev. Ray Hammond of JP’s Bethel AME Church, who is an Alliance member.

Meanwhile, Turner has repeatedly claimed that he and Wilkerson are targets of an FBI and US Attorney’s Office campaign to get rid of African-American politicians.

There is no question that the FBI tried to ruin various activists and organizations, including civil rights leaders, through its COINTELPRO operation of the 1950s to 1970s. The program’s tactics were sometimes unconstitutional, illegal and clearly unwarranted. Targets included Martin Luther King Jr. as well as a va-riety of left- and right-wing groups.

“Operation Fruehmenschen” appears to be LaRouche’s take on COINTELPRO, folded into his overarching claim that ancient British financial conspirators are controlling much of the world.

According to LaRouche literature, Operation Fruehmenschen (apparently intended as German for “early man”) is an attempt to get rid of African-American politicians in general under a racist principle that they are inherently incompetent. It was reportedly revealed by a single former FBI agent. LaRouche claims that it is used specifically to get rid of politicians who oppose imperialist financial activity. LPAC noted that Turner and Wilkerson have supported moratoriums on mortgage foreclosures and other financial measures.

The LaRouche literature also claims that former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was motivated in part by self-hate, citing unsubstantiated claims that Hoover had some direct African-American ancestry.

LaRouche’s conspiracy claims are generally dismissed by historians and economists. The Anti-Defamation League is among the groups that accuse him of anti-Semitism and allege that his “British” conspiracy theory is code for “Jews.” Critics, including some former members, have called his political organization a type of cult.

LaRouche has dismissed such claims, saying he has no cult-leader powers and that the allegations of anti-Semitism are an easy way to bash him for criticizing Israeli government actions.

LaRouche is no stranger to Boston. He was brought to trial here in the 1980s on credit card fraud charges, but the judge declared a mistrial. A short time later, he was convicted in Virginia of mail fraud and tax evasion charges. He claims that he, too, was a victim of COINTELPRO in those cases. The Boston prosection was overseen by then-US Attorney, and later governor, William Weld, who LaRouche’s recent state-ment to the Gazette described as connected to “pro-British imperial networks.”

LaRouche’s defense attorney in Boston was the controversial human rights activist Ramsey Clark, who re-cently visited Boston to support Turner’s cause at a rally. The JP-based International Action Center Boston, a local branch of Clark’s national organization, is a major Turner supporter.