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The Post‘s Double Vision

Inside a GOP Destroyer

Mort Zuckerman’s Muslim Jihad

Mark Green, lifelong friend of Ralph Nader and 2001 mayoral candidate, helped arrange Nader’s preelection appearance at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. At a Della Femina dinner a couple of weeks before the election, Nader’s presidential candidacy came up, and Green offered, according to sources, to help get them together.

Nader wound up appearing at Sharpton’s Harlem headquarters a day before the election, an unusual and newsworthy foray into the black community for a candidate with little minority appeal. An aide to Green conceded that the two had discussed Nader at the dinner, adding that Green “left Nader’s phone number on Sharpton’s voice mail.”

The aide said that Green, a strong Gore supporter who’s made much of his early attempts to convince his mentor Nader not to run, was “encouraging Nader to campaign in cities rather than swing states.”

Nader said that “both Mark and Sharpton told me about their dinner.” He said Green indicated to him that Sharpton “was pretty much an accepted figure in New York,” and that “Hillary Clinton and Bill Bradley had participated in Sharpton’s forums.” Nader contended that Green “did not facilitate” the event beyond this conversation, which apparently reassured Nader. Up to then, Nader said he had been unable to schedule a Sharpton appearance.

Sharpton was reportedly interested in building bridges to Nader as part of what he sees as his ongoing leadership competition with Jesse Jackson, who Sharpton regards as too tied to Gore and the national Democratic leadership. Sharpton has talked about running for mayor again—a possibility that would be damaging to Green’s chances.

Since Nader may cost Gore the election, any Green actions on Nader’s behalf could hurt the Public Advocate when he runs next November.

The Post‘s Double Vision

John Zogby, the intrepid New York Post pollster who picked Al D’Amato to beat Chuck Schumer in 1998, found a way to be right no matter who won this year’s Senate race. His election-day tracking poll, completed on Monday and printed Tuesday, picked Rick Lazio to win in the paper’s Metro edition and Hillary Clinton in the Late City Final edition. The early edition had Lazio up 49.5 percent to Hillary’s 48.6 percent, saying he had “made strides in recent days,” which Zogby attributed to “three days of nonstop campaigning in upstate New York.” That edition is distributed upstate, as well as in some areas of the suburbs and city.

The later edition said Hillary Clinton was ahead 50.8 to Lazio’s 48.1, a 3.6 swing achieved in a matter of hours. The Post would not answer Voice questions about when the editions are published, but sources at the paper indicated that Zogby sent the Lazio numbers in around 3 p.m. and the Clinton numbers in at 10 p.m. Under the same “neck and neck at the finish line” headline as the first story, the second poll included 20 more voters. Though it featured a chart showing the day-to-day results of Zogby polls since July, the city edition story made no reference to the Lazio win anticipated in the early edition.

Zogby, whose capable national polls for Reuters/Fox were one of the few that had Al Gore slightly ahead in the popular vote, has missed badly in recent New York races. His Utica-based polling company predicted a 29-point Rudy Giuliani win in the 1997 mayoral election, almost twice the margin. His D’Amato call was 11 points off the mark, as was his Clinton call this year (his Lazio pick was a 13-point miss). Incredibly, Zogby had Lazio ahead by 5 points a week before the election, an astounding 17-point miscalculation. On the other hand, the Quinnipiac poll nearly hit the Schumer 10-point and Clinton 12-point margins, and several other pollsters, from Marist to Blum/Weprin to the Times/CBS, consistently anticipated Hillary’s win.

Zogby’s last-day performance was as erratic as his earlier polls, which put Lazio ahead for the first time on October 20, and kept him there in daily results from October 29 through November 2. Then Clinton suddenly leapt to a 6.5 point lead four days before the election, only to watch her lead theoretically disappear again by Tuesday.

The Zogby phenomenon of a late Republican surge has become such a welcome feature of Post coverage that the paper put the pollster’s best Lazio numbers on the front page twice, transparently trying to trigger a momentum the candidate couldn’t create himself.

Clinton’s big lead, on the other hand, was buried on page six. Unlike Zogby’s usually reliable national work, his New York results appear almost designed to dovetail with the Post‘s preelection frenzy for local GOP candidates.

Zogby has also been careless about appearances—collecting $54,000 in payments from the 1997 Giuliani campaign after polling the race for the Post, and picking up another $5000 this year from the State Republican Committee while polling the senate race. These payments are an unusual and awkward conflict for a supposedly independent public pollster, especially in view of his GOP polling predilections for the Post.

Inside a GOP Destroyer

The biggest GOP winner in New York, State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, is also the staunchest ally of the biggest GOP loser, Bill Powers, the ex-marine who’s run the state party for a decade. Bruno will do his best to protect Powers should Governor Pataki press to remove him.

Pataki’s latest problem with Powers was the preelection decision to go forward with 500,000 phone calls to voters attempting to link Hillary Clinton to the terrorists who attacked the USS Cole. The state-party-financed phone campaign badly damaged Rick Lazio and was publicly assailed by Pataki in a NY1 appearance. Pataki is said to be contemplating replacing Powers, who has been blamed, rightly or wrongly, for the recent trifecta of GOP losses—Al D’Amato, Dennis Vacco, and now Lazio.

Powers has run such an insular party that his tiny staff has included all three of his sons—two of whom, Jason and Mathew, are currently on the payroll. His chief fundraiser, Cathy Blaney, put her mother on staff as well, meaning that more than half the payroll is consumed by two families. The counsel to the committee—Jeff Buley—is a partner in a lobbying firm with Al Pirro, the husband of Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro who was recently convicted of tax evasion.

Buley’s wife, Cheryl, was just awarded a controversial $101,600 post on the state’s three-member Racing and Wagering Board. Since the post could not legally be filled by a Republican (one member must come from another party), she changed her registration to unaffiliated after Pataki appointed her. She admitted during a senate confirmation hearing that she knew little about gaming or horse racing. Similarly, Blaney’s husband, Michael Petralia, is the public affairs director of the State Power Authority. Powers’s other son, Will, also held a high-paying position with the Secretary of State’s office for years.

The Powers clique has never included any blacks or Latinos, and rarely even Jews.

While Bruno may still lose the East Side senate seat of Roy Goodman (whose narrow Election Day loss to Liz Krueger is still subject to absentee and emergency ballot reversal), he managed to win everywhere else, sometimes by surprisingly strong margins. Since voters across the state were going down their ballots along party lines—supporting Al Gore and Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly—Bruno’s ability to attract massive ticket-splitting was all the more remarkable.

A key to Bruno’s success were the unions, many of whom backed all the GOP senate incumbents. Dennis Rivera, the poster boy of progressive unionism, donated $150,000 to Bruno’s campaign committee, while DC 37 added $48,000 plus another $15,500 for individual GOP senators.

While the unions were supposed to be participating in the coordinated Democratic campaign, they set up separate headquarters in hotly contested senate districts, sending out workers with palm cards for Gore, Clinton, and the senate Republican. Their phone banks pitched Dems at the top of the ticket and the GOP at the bottom, so much so that party leaders couldn’t send their workers to make calls out of union offices. “Just as labor elected Hillary and Gore in New York,” says senate Democratic leader Marty Connor, “they killed us.”

Mort Zuckerman’s Muslim Jihad

The worst story of this or any other recent state campaign—the Daily News‘ Hillary-morphs-into-a-Muslim series—may have helped elect her. Rick Lazio rode it so hard, peaking in the Post‘s “Blood Money” banner line, that his poisonous pandering may have turned off far more voters than it attracted. Clinton’s bare majority of the Jewish vote also put to bed the notion that it decides state races. It was Lazio’s failure to win anything more than a razor-thin edge of the far larger Catholic vote—and Hillary’s stunning strength among women and minorities that elected her.

The headline on the News‘ exclusive—”Israel Foes Gave Hil 50G; Muslim Group Backs Arab ‘Armed Force”‘—was contradicted in its own stories. Way down in the 15th paragraph of the first story, the News noted that the organization it suggested was the sponsor of the controversial Boston fundraiser, the American Muslim Alliance, “has many Pakistani and non-Arab Muslim members.” A Post story also noted nearly a week after the story broke that the fundraiser was “attended mostly by Pakistani Muslims.” On what basis then did the News call the individual donors “Israel foes” who implicitly backed Arab armed force?

Indeed, Shahid Ahmed Khan, a Pakistani and prime organizer of the event, said that only 10 to 20 of the 100 attendees were “from Middle Eastern or African countries,” a claim supported by his countryman, architect Siraj Khan, who estimated that “75 to 80 percent” of those who went were from Pakistan. Boston attorney Barry Hoffman, who represents many Pakistanis and went to the event, says the main interest of the “doctors, high-tech entrepreneurs, and other professionals” who attended was Kashmir, a contested border land. “India and Pakistan are potentially going to war over Kashmir,” Hoffman said, “and nobody cares.” Clinton’s college roommate—a Pakistani—was there with her mother.

In fact, the News‘ stories never contended that the AMA backed the use of armed force, only that a leader of the organization did. The Post later concluded, “The group has never endorsed terrorism in any of its official statements.” Newsday repeatedly referred to it as a “mainstream” group. The AMA endorsed George Bush and the GOP’s Senate candidate in California and, as the News belatedly reported, hosted a convention in 1998 featuring Tom Gulotta, the Republican Nassau County executive, as its kickoff speaker.

As the News conceded deep inside its second-day story, it was never “clear” that the AMA even sponsored the event, only that one of its members gave Clinton a plaque at it. Hoffman, Khan, and the Clinton campaign contended that AMA members simply attended. The absence of any reference to the AMA on the invitation was dismissively reported at the end of the News story. The madness triggered by the story even afflicted News columnists like Michael Kramer and Zev Chafets, who couldn’t get the facts right from their own news pages. Chafets wrote that Clinton had taken “a $50,000 contribution from the AMA,” and Kramer wrote that she’d “accepted $50,000 from a group of American Muslims sympathetic to Hamas, the anti-Israel terrorist organization.”

Actually the one Arab participant at the event who has made statements supportive of Hamas, Abdurahman Alamoudi, is a leader of another Muslim organization, not the AMA. He gave the $26 million Clinton campaign a mere $1000, just as he did Bush’s. But the Bush donation was not mentioned in the News until the second-day story and never got the attention it deserved. Using Alamoudi as the centerpiece of this demonization, the Daily News gave the story a front-page revival right before the election, going nuts about the fact that he had been paid by the State Department as a “goodwill ambassador.” Since Hillary had nothing to do with Alamoudi’s part-time retention, the point was lost in a swirl of innuendo.

To top off this 25-article Murdochian display of yellow journalism, the News buried a New York Observer revelation that Lazio sent a solicitation letter for his own blood money from the head of the AMA right before the story broke. The News nonetheless went crazy about Hillary’s auto-penned form letters acknowledging receipt of the plaque. The background to all this insanity was Zev Chafets’s declaration that Bill Clinton was “Israel’s dream president, the most steadfast supporter the Jewish state has ever had in the White House.”

Ironically, News owner Mort Zuckerman endorsed Clinton in the midst of these daily hits—a feint-left, move-right, cover for a continuation of his Giuliani, Pataki, D’Amato string of GOP endorsements.

Research: Robbie Chaplick, Rob Morlino, Rebecca Center

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