The Corner

For Obama, All Politics Is Local . . . Except When It’s Not

I noted a few days ago that the Obama administration claimed to be taking no position on the Ground Zero mosque, with Robert Gibbs explaining that the president would not want to meddle in local affairs.

Now it emerges that the Obama State Department is not only footing the bill for Imam Feisal Rauf’s fling to the Persian Gulf region; it has also posted Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s speech in vigorous support of Rauf’s Ground Zero project on its website (here).

Our friend, FDD’s Claudia Rosett, first broke the story about State’s funding of Rauf’s travel. Claudia thought it passing strange that the guy had suddenly disappeared from sight in the middle of this controversy, and State gave her the runaround for three days over whether it was picking up his travel tab. But our government’s promotion of the sharia-touting imam as an emissary is now being reported by the New York Post (which also has an editorial about it — see here and here).

Meantime, there now seem to be significant questions about whether the project’s proponents have been playing it straight regarding the real estate involved. It turns out that they do not own at least half the space. It is owned by Con Edison. The Post reports that Rauf’s confederate, Sharif El-Gamal of SoHo properties, purchased a 99-year lease that Con Ed holds (for $700K), but not Con Ed’s ownership interest. This raises at least three intriguing points.

First, did the Ground Zero mosque sponsors mislead the public and the various review boards about the status of the property at issue? Rep. Pete King certainly appears to think so, as Connie Hair reports at Human Events.

Second, how does the lack of full ownership affect the potential financing? Of course, to this point, we don’t know anything about which entities — including foreign entities — may be putting up dough for this project. Yet, whoever the investors may be, it would obviously make a big difference to them whether they’re buying (a) a property reasonably free and clear, or (b) a lease with lots more strings attached. And would other potential buyers get into the mix in order to stop the project?

Finally, there is politics — specifically, New York gubernatorial politics. El-Gamal is said to want to purchase the property outright from Con Ed. Whether that happens or not, New York’s Public Service Commission will evidently have a lot to say. According to the Post, the commission not only determines utility rates but has the power to reject any proposed sale if it would interfere with the delivery of services. More to the point, the commissioners are appointed by the governor.

Andrew Cuomo, the state attorney general and Democratic nominee for governor, is a GZ mosque supporter. Rick Lazio, the Republican nominee, opposes the project and told the Post that, if elected, he would “appoint commissioners . . . who, like me, oppose this group’s plan to build a mosque at Ground Zero — and I encourage New Yorkers to call the Public Service commissioners and tell them the same.”

Looks like there will be a lot of local affairs for the White House not to meddle in.

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