Tomorrow’s Star Tribune takes note of the Air Ameriscam story that has been owned by Michelle Malkin and Brian Maloney together with the New York Sun’s David Lombino over the past month. The local angle involves Al Franken, the network’s star and Minnesota’s prospective Democratic Senate candidate. The Star Tribune’s noncoverage of the story has been pathetic, and Eric Black’s article is, well, perfunctory at best:
Al Franken, the comedian, author, radio host and possible future Minnesota politician, signed a document in November that listed $875,000 in interest-free loans that a New York Boys & Girls Club made to his radio network, Air America.
Franken said Thursday that he was unaware of the loans at the time.
The loans and the Boys & Girls Club are under investigation by city and state agencies in New York. Neither Franken nor Air America are targets of the investigations.
Air America said Thursday that it had put funds into an escrow account sufficient to repay the loans if the New York Department of Investigation, which is reviewing the club’s finances, completes its work and authorizes payment.
Conservative bloggers, especially Michelle Malkin, have complained that the mainstream media is ignoring the story or “Air Ameriscam” as the Twin Cities-based Powerline blog has called it. Here is some of the background of the case.
Between October 2003 and March 2004, Evan Montvel Cohen, who was simultaneously a board member for the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club and head of the firm that was trying to get Air America started, borrowed $875,000 from the club. Franken has called Cohen a “crook” on the air and said he didn’t know whether Cohen put the club’s money into Air America.
Air America launched, with Franken as its star attraction, in May 2004. Cohen was soon forced out. Franken said Cohen did not have the financial resources he had promised to get the network going and had failed to pay Franken and others their full salaries.
New investors, operating as Piquant LLC, acquired the network and still own it.
In November, the Cohen group and the Piquant group finalized the takeover with a 61-page document. Franken was not an investor in either group but signed the document to relinquish his own claim for back pay that Cohen’s group owed him.
Towards the end of the document is a list of Air America liabilities, including the $875,000 claimed by the Boys & Girls Club.
Franken said he had read only portions that pertained to him and that his lawyer, who had reviewed the document, recommended he sign. “The list of other assets and liabilities did not pertain to me because I was not an investor,” he said.
[Ed.: Michelle Malkin comments: “Some Franken defenders say it’s unfair to expect him to have read the November 2004 settlement agreement and paid attention to the copious debts and liabilities racked up under Cohen and Sorensen. If Franken wants to continue arguing he was a fool who passed the buck to his lawyer, Minnesota Republicans won’t stop him. And neither will we.”]
In a statement posted on the network’s website, Danny Goldberg, CEO of Air America Radio, said: “Al Franken does not and never had any responsibility for the loan.”
Franken, who has talked about a possible 2008 challenge to Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said Thursday that he hopes to be living in Minnesota by January and basing his radio show from here.
The “Al Franken Show” is broadcast in the Twin Cities from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on KTNF-AM-950.
Nice of Black to plug the show at the end of the article. We wouldn’t want to be left in any doubt about Black’s rooting interest in Franken and his show. In an update to her post today, Michelle adds the following statement from the New York City Department of Investigations:
STATEMENT FROM DOI REGARDING AIR AMERICA’S REPAYMENT OF $875,000
During the course of DOI’s investigation into allegations that officials at Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club had falsified documents submitted to various City agencies and had approved significant inappropriate transactions, DOI discovered that Gloria Wise had transferred $875,000 to Air America. DOI asked Air America to repay the $875,000 to an escrow account controlled by DOI. Thereafter, Air America repaid only $50,000 to an escrow account that is not controlled by DOI. DOI is pleased that Piquant LLC, the current owner of Air America, has agreed to DOI’s request that, in lieu of making $50,000 quarterly payments, Piquant transfer the full $875,000 to the escrow account. While the total reimbursement reportedly has been made, DOI does not control the escrow account, although Air America’s attorneys have represented that the money will only be disbursed with DOI’s authorization. DOI’s investigation is ongoing.
CORRECTION: I state above that Black was plugging Franken’s show and showing his support of Franken by indicating the show’s local broadcast information at the end of the article. I have learned that Black handled two articles on Rush Limbaugh in a similar fashion, concluding with the show’s local broadcast information. I regret the error and have extended my apology to Eric Black.