Mayor Bloomberg gave $50,000 to a group closely associated with the controversial political figure Lenora Fulani. The money was part of a $10 million grant given anonymously to more than 100 small cultural groups in New York City at a time when the city planned to slash their funding. The anonymous donor, aides to Mr. Bloomberg later said, was none other than the mayor.
The anonymous grant was announced this February by the Carnegie Corporation, which distributed the money. The recipients included everyone from the Paper Bag Players to the edgier Nuyorican Poets Cafe. They also included the Castillo Cultural Center, which is owned by a non-profit group founded by Ms. Fulani, the All Stars Project.
While officials from the mayor's office, the Carnegie Corporation, and the theater denied that Mr. Bloomberg had steered the money to the Castillo Cultural Center, the mayor's links to Ms. Fulani come as Governor Pataki is under attack for seeking the support of the Independence party and of Ms. Fulani. Mr. Pataki's conservative rival, Thomas Golisano, will soon launch a television advertising campaign criticizing Mr. Pataki for the link, said Erick Mullen, Mr. Golisano's media consultant.
In a 1995 report titled "A Cult By Any Other Name," the Anti-Defamation League wrote that Ms. Fulani and her political partner, Fred Newman, "peppered their writings and speeches with Jew-baiting remarks."
"She's a Marxist, an anti-Semite, and a supporter of Muammar Gadhafi," Mr. Mullen said of Ms. Fulani. "Anybody who associates themselves with Lenora Fulani does so at the risk of alienating the Jewish community."
Ms. Fulani said yesterday she is not an anti-Semite and called the Anti-Defamation League report a "political attack." She said she was "floored" by Mr. Mullen's remark and that she has "worked very closely with many Jewish people." Mr. Newman noted that he is Jewish.
On Monday, Simcha Felder, an Orthodox Jewish member of the City Council from Brooklyn, called on Mr. Bloomberg to remove Harry Kresky, Ms. Fulani's lawyer, from the Charter Revision Commission. Yesterday, he called the donation to the Castillo Cultural Center "outrageous."
The Independence Party's leadership includes Mr. Kresky and others tied to a long line of fringe parties, including the New Alliance Party, on whose line Ms. Fulani ran for president. After that party's dissolution in 1994, she became involved with Ross Perot's Reform movement and helped build the Independence Party to the third largest in New York State before, in 2000, joining the presidential campaign of Patrick Buchanan.
The Independence Party benefits from voters who consider themselves "independents." Mr. Bloomberg received 59,000 votes - more than his margin of victory - on the Independence Party line.
An aide to Mr. Bloomberg, who acknowledged that the mayor was the $10 million donor, said of the Castillo grant: "the donor did not request it, never raised it, and did not ask for it."
The director of Public Affairs at the Carnegie Corporation, Eleanor Lerman, said the corporation decided who got the money. "The Carnegie Corporation gave the money to struggling arts organizations who were hurt by September 11. That was the criteria," she said.
Gabrielle Kurlander, president of the All Stars Project, to which the Castillo Cultural Center belongs, said she did not think that the mayor's influence had anything to do with the grant. She said the money will supplement a budget of about $300,000 for experimental and political theater.
"When you look at who got the grant, it is as it should be: with disregard to patronage and political concerns," she said.