class=img_thumbleft>Al Franken looks to be increasingly entangled in a scandal involving investment dollars used to launch the Air America radio network. In recent weeks numerous (mostly conservative) blogs and newspapers have reported that New York City's Department of Investigations is scrutinizing payouts by the nonprofit, Bronx-based Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club and whether government dollars have been misused. Among these questionable disbursements is $875,000 loaned to thefledgling liberal radio network
in early 2004.
From the outset of the controversy the chief villain has been Evan Montvel Cohen, who formerly served both as chairman of Air America and director of development at the Boys & Girls Club. Board members at the nonprofit group have claimed that Cohen bilked them out of the $875,000 loan by insisting that he needed it to pay for chemotherapy. (Cohen left the radio network in March of last year after it was sold to Piquant LLC.)
Franken has denied from the outset that he had any knowledge about the dubious payment from the nonprofit group until it surfaced in the media this summer. "We were all shocked," he told the New York Sun last month.
But today the Sun reported that Franken was one of the signatories on a confidential agreement inked last November promising that Air America would repay the $875,000 loan. The agreement, according to the Sun, details four separate transfers from the Boys & Girls Club--of $80,000, $87,000, $218,000, and $490,000--between October 2, 2003, and March 14, 2004. It also indemnifies the parties from future lawsuits.
Franken continues to insist that he was clueless about the payments from the nonprofit group. He told the Sun that he signed the document on the advice of his lawyer and that he did not see anything about the Boys & Girls Club transfers. "I am not an investor, and I didn't see this thing," he insisted to the newspaper.
Nothing that's been reported so far contradicts Franken's claims of ignorance. But even the whiff of scandal could be sufficient to impact whether the radio host ultimately decides to take on Sen. Norm Coleman in 2008.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.