POL COZIES UP TO $CIENTOLOGY
By STEFAN C. FRIEDMAN
A COUNCIL member who successfully lob bied for city funding of a controversial Scientology medical treatment for 9/11 rescue workers has received nearly $100,000 from L. Ron Hubbard followers, The Post has learned.
City Councilwoman and Manhattan borough-president candidate Margarita Lopez steered $630,000 in taxpayer funds to the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project - a center co-founded by Scientologist Tom Cruise.
As taxpayer donations to the group swelled from $30,000 last June to a total of $630,000 a year later, Hubbard's minions stuffed Lopez's campaign coffers, donating 25 percent of her total take. The project - which employs a method proposed by Hubbard in his book "Clear Body, Clear Mind," whereby patients give up traditional medicines for large amounts of niacin, long sauna baths and exercise - opened in September 2002.
The Fulton Street project, dismissed as ineffective by the FDNY, firefighters unions and most in the medical community, treated numerous emergency workers suffering from the aftereffects of 9/11 free of charge and was entirely funded with private dollars - until last February.
Then, Lopez, serving as chair of the Council Committee on Mental Health, heard testimony from Scientologist doctors.
And she apparently believed them.
"This is a program that should be funded," Lopez said, adding, "Who are the stupid people who are criticizing it?"
In fact, Lopez herself seemed to predict the future cozy relationship, telling the doctors at the hearing, "This is not the last time that we're going to see each other. This is the beginning."
Four months later, on June 24, the first $30,000 in public funding was allocated to the project as a Lopez member item.
The very next day, the odd pairing of Lopez the local legislator and Cruise the Hollywood superstar joined together for a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening another "Detoxification" center in Williston Park, L.I. What followed those two events was a Scientologist outpouring of financial support never before seen in the Empire State.
Starting last September, Scientologist cash began arriving in Lopez's campaign bank account by the bucketful. And those donations exploded after December, when an additional $300,000 was allocated to the project after a Bloomberg administration budget modification.
Lopez raised a large chunk of money at a late January fund-raiser in Florida, where she collected $38,000 - all from donors affiliated with Scientology.
Seven employees from Marcus Group Enterprises, a company listed in the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises, gave nearly $20,000 at the event.
In April, Lopez gave $2,800 to a Scientology fund-raising group to sponsor a campaign event in California where additional campaign funds were raised. All told, 84 people with ties to the Church of Scientology dumped $95,850 into Lopez's campaign. And just last month, their efforts were seemingly rewarded as a second $300,000 allocation was made from the council to the Manhattan Detoxification center.
The project also has supporters in Congress.
Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Charles Rangel (news, bio, voting record) have both come out in favor of it and Reps. Vito Fossella and Carolyn McCarthy have requested $1.5 million in federal dollars for the New York programs.
In addition, several 9/11 rescue workers swear by the treatment. In a written statement, Lopez said she came to support the project because "many of my constituents as well as officers of the New York City Fire Department came to me urging my support of the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project."
"They believed then, and continue to believe, that it has improved their quality of life."
But one good-government group expressed alarm over the appearance of a quid pro quo. "It is clear that the Church of Scientology has lobbied at the federal level and given campaign cash through its supporters," said Rachel Leon of Common Cause.
"Clearly, they know how to advocate for what they want through the political process. We only hope that this program is being supported on its merits and not based on connections between the candidate and the contributors."