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Dianne's special deal

State Senator Dianne Wilkerson already has amassed a list of embarrassing political pratfalls. The Phoenix uncovers two more situations that should cause concern on the cusp of the election.
By TED SIEFER  |  October 29, 2008

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS: As she pushes ahead with a State Senate sticker campaign, Dianne Wilkerson is once again dogged by accusations of dubious ethics.

Undeterred by her Democratic primary loss to opponent Sonia Chang-Díaz, State Senator Dianne Wilkerson is forging ahead in a sticker campaign to win re-election of her Second Suffolk seat in the state legislature. But as the eight-term state senator’s catalogue of heretofore published misdeeds — campaign-finance violations, failure to pay taxes, and a police accusation of perjury — likely weighed her down in that primary, the Phoenix has uncovered two new disturbing political irregularities that might hurt her in the general election. One involves a questionable personal loan from a powerful developer who has dealings with the State Senate, and the other involves, yet again, failure to file tax returns, this time for a nonprofit she has run.

Two years ago, facing foreclosure and a lawsuit over unpaid condo-association fees, Wilkerson was rescued by a developer who, with his brother, presides over a veritable affordable-housing empire — they’ve shelled out tens of thousands of dollars on Beacon Hill to push an agenda that has pitted them against low-income tenants and their supporters, ironically the very demographic that is supposed to be the heart of Wilkerson’s base.

The other eyebrow-raising situation concerns Wilkerson’s stewardship of a black-leadership conference that, while attracting big-name corporate sponsors, appears to have failed to see to the filing of mandatory tax returns for that organization.

Wilkerson did not respond to several requests for an interview, nor to a list of questions e-mailed to her press secretary.

Friends in high places
While there is little doubt that Wilkerson enjoys widespread grassroots support among black voters, less recognized — at least until now — is the crucial support that has often come from white friends in high places.

In November of 2006, Wilkerson received a $66,900 mortgage from the Commonwealth Capital Corporation. The mortgage does not specify an interest rate, has a bizarre 18-month term, and is the only personal loan by Commonwealth Capital found on file at the Suffolk Registry of Deeds in a database that goes back as far as 1979. Eight months later, Wilkerson sold her condo, which she bought for $81,370 in 1993, for $460,000.

First, a little history about the mortgage writer and his brother. Commonwealth Capital is owned by Robert Kargman, who is also the owner of Douglass Park, the building near Northeastern University where Wilkerson’s condo was located. To say Kargman and his brother, William, are affordable-housing owners and developers is a bit like saying the Red Sox are a baseball team. They manage a sprawling portfolio of buildings housing thousands of units — much of it inherited from their father, Max — including Tremont on the Common, the downtown condo tower overlooking the park that also houses their offices. (Requests for comment from either Robert or William Kargman were unsuccessful; ultimately, assistants said they were out of town and would be unavailable for comment.)

The brothers tend to keep a low media profile, though that has been difficult to maintain in recent years, as the Kargmans have sought to give up or get out of federal low-income housing contracts in order to refashion their buildings into upscale apartments and condos. While there is nothing that legally prevents them from doing so, given the shortage of affordable housing in the state, this has angered tenants and affordable-housing advocates.

The Kargmans “made windfall profits with little cash investment in the 1960s, and still more when they refinanced in the early ‘90s,” says Michael Kane, executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants, “and now they stand to make even more by going to market, all paid for by taxpayers and tenants.” Kane estimates the brothers own nearly a dozen large developments around the state that were financed with 40-year mortgages from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development that have reached or are nearing the end of their terms.

Given the nature of their business, members of the Kargman family have long sought to have their say in Washington and on Beacon Hill. Max, the patriarch, served as president of the National Advisory Council of HUD Management Agents. William, his son, was chairman of a national HUD managers lobby group in the early 1990s, and then head of the rental-housing division of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, an influential Beacon Hill lobby. The Kargman brothers have also contributed to political candidates, with Robert donating nearly $39,000 and William nearly $11,000 since the start of 2007 to candidates in national races. Records in the Office of Campaign and Political Finance show that, along with members of their families, they have also over the past several years contributed to candidates at the state level, including Wilkerson — sums that collectively figure in the tens of thousands.

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Re: Dianne's special deal
there's an african proverb, 'that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." right about now, most of the people of the 2nd suffolk are seeing the story of the hunt reflecting the agony and travail of the lion...and it's a tired, tawdry, tragic episode. the drama is a distraction to a more significant and meaningful historical event.
By jeffmcnary on 10/22/2008 at 7:11:43
Re: Dianne's special deal
Can't she finally bow out gracefully, if that's even possible anymore?
Also add this 10/22/08 Globe OpEd to the bulging "trouble for Wilkerson" column:
"The problem with the Wilkerson argument, by Melvin King and Kay Gibbs
IT IS SAID that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Such is the case in the Second Suffolk District. The Senate seat is currently held by Dianne Wilkerson, who was narrowly defeated in the Democratic primary by Sonia Chang Diaz. Wilkerson is running on stickers to try to regain her seat, and some in the African-American community are arguing that they are entitled to have one of their own in that seat. That argument is no more rational and acceptable than would be the opposite argument, that in a majority white district (or nation), only a white candidate should serve. The argument is on the wrong side of history...."// 
It just kills me, and many other social justice activists in teh 2nd Suffolk district, that Wilkerson can't or won't let the people's decision rest that was made with the Democratic Primary vote results. There's so much other work to do, what with more and more kids shooting each other and getting shot in our city, lack of good jobs and lack of access to the jobs that do exist for so many due to bad CORI policy, foreclosures & evictions (some of them preventable), public education in crisis (but getting better, I think), high numbers of our neighbors who are already hungry and cold and who will continue to be hungry and cold for much of the winter...the list just goes on and on and on. And who knows what's coming next due to the global economic crisis? Please, Senator Wilkerson, stop your misguided sticker campaign. Release the activists who are working on your campaign--and by doing so release those who will have to give extra time to Sonia Chang-Diaz' campaign--to help with other urgent needs between now and Nov. 4 (including helping Obama win the vote in NH by going up there daily and on Nov. 4 to drive seniors to the polls, etc). Your soon-to-be former constituents know you can find other ways to continue putting your talents to work for our community.

By AnnMalone on 10/23/2008 at 3:59:31
Re: Dianne's special deal
Considering A. The number of loopholes available to disingenuous pols (MA Nominee Trust, etc.) and B. How "progressive" pols usually get a pass from the Boston press, this is a scathing indictment of not only her but also the "investigative press" in Boston. Better get Walter Robinson & the NU kids on the case, the coronation of the Messiah is far more important to the Globe right now....
By aging cynic on 10/25/2008 at 4:59:46
Re: Dianne's special deal
This story does not add up to any scathing indictment.  First of all tens of thousands of dollars does not add up to significant campaign contributions in my opinion.  New hires in corporate America get more than that for sign on bonuses!  Secondly, since when is it big news for anyone to contribute to a campaign in return for favorable treatment?  Likewise, the article does not point to any "favorable legislation" passed as a result of this so called relationship so, what is the real issue here? Regarding the tax issue, there is no way the Phoenix could determine, short of conducting an audit, whether or not there was an issue with the tax filings of the 501 c3 mentioned.  Even the IRS couldnt know.  So, why print an article leading readers to believe that there is something sinister going on regarding her dealings with this organization?  The intent of the article was accomplished, "cast doubt."  However, there is only doubt cast for the uninformed because the conclusions drawn are a stretch. 
By onix900 on 10/26/2008 at 8:00:09

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    State Senator Dianne Wilkerson already has amassed a list of embarrassing political pratfalls. The Phoenix uncovers two more situations that should cause concern on the cusp of the election.

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