Volume 75, Number 17 | September 14 - 20, 2005

Lopez gets by with a little help from her friends

By Lincoln Anderson

Following the filing of a Freedom of Information Law request by The Villager, the Campaign Finance Board last week released a document detailing personal loans made to City Councilmember Margarita Lopez allowing her to qualify for public matching funds in her borough president campaign.

Last month, Lopez was initially rejected by C.F.B. in her request for public matching funds. In its denial, C.F.B. noted Lopez still owed the board a “significant amount” of undocumented cash from her 2001 reelection campaign — taxpayer-funded campaign expenditures that were not adequately accounted for in the board’s opinion.

However, two weeks later, C.F.B. did award Lopez $382,000 in matching funds, but on condition she paid the board $186,000 as a guarantee, covering the $144,000 she received from the board in ’01, plus any possible “liabilities” on Lopez’s part that may be found. C.F.B. has postponed its audit of Lopez’s campaign funds from four years ago until next month, following this week’s primary.

According to the “promissory note” provided to The Villager by C.F.B., 10 individuals loaned a total of $165,900 to Lopez so that C.F.B. would release her matching funds for her B.P. campaign: Frances Goldin gave $10,000; Lisa Kaplan $5,000; Mini Liu, $1,500; Migdalia Maldonado, $25,000; Maria A. Medina, $5,000; Evelyn Ojeda, $20,000; Mildred Ramirez, $25,000; Francisca Rivera, $15,000; Michael Rosen, $15,000; and Aaron Sosnick, $44,372.

According to Tanya Domi, a C.F.B. spokesperson, Lopez footed the remaining $20,000 of the $186,000 payment to C.F.B.

Under the agreement, Lopez must pay 7.5 percent annual interest to the lenders; as collateral, Lopez has, according to the document, apparently put up the mortgage for her Sullivan County country house; if that isn’t enough, according to the document, she has to put up the mortgage of her E. 11th St. co-op apartment.

As for the lenders, Goldin and Kaplan are longtime affordable-housing activists who were involved in the Cooper Square Urban Renewal Area’s planning. Kaplan is also a past president of Coalition for a District Alternative, Lopez’s political club, and past chairperson of Community Board 3. Michael Rosen and Aaron Sosnick are members of the East Village Community Coalition and residents of the Christodora House condo tower on E. Ninth St. Several of the other lenders reportedly live in Lopez’s all-female E. 11th St. building, which the tenants fixed up under the former Homesteader Program in the 1980s after it had been abandoned.

When The Villager last month asked Lopez who gave the personal loans to help her out, she declined comment, saying it was “a private matter” involving her “personal finances.” Lopez did not return calls for comment for this article.

“I am extremely happy to be able to lend to Margarita so she could receive the matching funds she deserves,” Rosen said. “A destructive, well-planned campaign was clearly launched against her, calculated to crush a candidate important to anyone supporting progressive values. Our community needed to support her, to enable her voice to be heard so voters in Manhattan can make their own decisions.”

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