The New York Independence Party has grown to 325,000 members statewide, 90,000 members in the city. It's become a powerful voice in politics, but there are some who say the leaders of the Manhattan party should be silenced. NY1’s Rita Nissan has more in part one of her special series, "Psychopolitics."
Read Part Two and Part Three of Rita's series.
To say Lenora Fulani is vocal would be an understatement. As a leader of the Manhattan Independence Party, Fulani has been outspoken in her support for Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is running on her party's line. But while Fulani comes off as an in-charge and in-command leader, people who used to be aligned with her say a man you probably never heard of calls the shots - Fulani's mentor and psychotherapist, Fred Newman.
“Fulani is 100 percent subservient to Fred, 100 percent subservient to Fred, and when Fulani says something it's with Fred's blessing and by his design,” says Frank MacKay, Chairman of the state Independence Party.
Newman controls a web of organizations: The Manhattan Independence Party, a youth charity, and therapy clinics that practice his self-invented field of psychology, Social Therapy.
Newman has controversial views on politics, Jews and psychology. Newman lives with several former patients and says he has no problem if patients have sex with their therapists.
“I think that people’s sexual relationship should be something very personal between the people who are engaging in it, and I think if people love each other, care for each other and are attracted to each other, and decide - together - that they want to have sex, they should,” Newman recently told NY1.
Yet politicians like Bloomberg have been quick to seek Newman’s support. MacKay says it was Newman's decision to let Bloomberg run as an Independent in 2001.
As a Republican, Bloomberg benefited from a second ballot line because it made some Democrats more comfortable voting for him.
MacKay says Bloomberg's name first surfaced when a prominent Republican called him.
“He said, ÎThere's a billionaire. He's looking to run for office. He's a Democrat and he’s switching into the Republican Party,’” says MacKay.
MacKay says he reached out to the party's Manhattan chapter and spoke to its chairwoman, Cathy Stewart.
“She said, ÎYou’ve got to talk to Fred about this.’ And I did and I discussed it,” says MacKay. “He knew a little something about Bloomberg. Fred’s very in touch with what’s going on out there. I guess he understood.
MacKay says Newman and Bloomberg met, and an alliance was formed.
“I thought it was a good idea to support Bloomberg. Why? Because I thought he was more independent with relatively traditional liberal values, but without having all the kinds of connections to the kind of Democratic Party machine and the clubhouse structure, which I thought would be a plus,” says Newman. “I thought he was an intelligent guy who knew how to manage. I thought he’d make a good mayor.”
The Independence Party can claim credit for Bloomberg's victory. It delivered 59,000 votes, more than his winning margin.
It appears the relationship has paid off for Newman, with high level City Hall meetings, Bloomberg's push for non-partisan elections, and tax-free bonds for his charity, the All Stars Project. Bloomberg has donated tens of thousands of dollars to All Stars.
The mayor's office claims these were not special favors, but critics say Bloomberg's actions have given Newman and his associate's credibility they don't deserve.
“I would warn anyone that would consider being involved in an organization somehow connected to Fred Newman to really investigate the history of the group,” says Rick Ross, a cult expert.
Over the course of this week, NY1 will do just that. We'll take a closer look at Fred Newman, and you'll hear from him in a rare interview.
We also spoke to more than three dozen people with knowledge of Newman and his groups. You'll hear why they say this behind the scenes organizer is the force behind a massive empire that runs largely on private donations.
- Rita Nissan