THE WATCHDOGS: Moseley Braun's financial angel
THIS WEEK BY . . . CHRIS FUSCO December 13, 2010 12:06AM
Carol Moseley-Braun talks about her mayoral campaign in her home last month. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Updated: April 2, 2012 11:22AM
When Carol Moseley Braun needed money for her new business, the onetime U.S. senator and ambassador — now one of the big names in the race for Chicago mayor — turned to a former campaign contributor for help.
Joseph Stroud, a millionaire TV station owner from Oak Brook, came through in August 2006 with a $250,000 loan for her company, Ambassador Organics, a line of coffees, teas and spices.
That was about nine months after Stroud — the owner of WJYS-Channel 62, a station that fills its airtime with paid religious programming, health shows and infomercials — was found liable of harassing a former employee in a racially charged court case that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld last month.
As the race to succeed Mayor Daley heats up, Braun now seems eager to distance herself from her benefactor.
“At the time that loan was closed, I had no knowledge of the allegations against him,” Braun says of Stroud, “and I find his actions reprehensible.”
The case stemmed from Stroud’s firing of a woman named Jerri Blount in October 2000. Blount — who, like Stroud, is black — had taken the side of a white woman, fired by Stroud’s company, who then filed a federal discrimination lawsuit.
After being fired herself, Blount sued Stroud. She testified that he got mad at her for backing her co-worker, called her an “ignorant n-----” and told her she shouldn’t “side with” the other woman because “white people” have “done nothing for her.”
Blount also testified that, another time, Stroud “started screaming at her and told her that she needed to know who she was ‘up against,’ asserting that he was ‘one of the richest n-----s in the world,” and that she did not know who she was ‘f---ing with,’ ” according to an appeals court ruling. “Stroud also stated that he could cause her ‘to cease to exist.’ ”
On Nov. 21, 2005, a Cook County jury ruled against Stroud, finding him liable in the civil case for retaliating against Blount and ordering him to pay her nearly $3.1 million. With the Supreme Court’s Nov. 1 refusal to hear Stroud’s final appeal, the amount he owes has now swelled to more than $6 million, including interest and other costs, records show.
Stroud, 69, denied Blount’s allegations in court. He didn’t respond to written questions submitted through his attorney. Other attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
Despite Braun’s statement distancing herself from Stroud, she’s still on the hook to him for the $250,000 loan, which is secured through one of four mortgages on her five-bedroom, 4.5-bath house in Hyde Park near the University of Chicago. She appears to have fallen behind the original repayment schedule on that and another loan, the second from First Midwest Bank for $97,025, records on file at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office show.
Braun promised to repay Stroud “in full” by Aug. 28, 2009, and to repay First Midwest on Jan. 5, 2009, according to mortgage records that indicate neither loan has been discharged.
Braun says the terms of both loans have been renegotiated and that she is current with her payments under the new terms, though she declined to provide details. She also says she’s up to date on her two other mortgages, which total $1.53 million.
In March, she put her house up for sale, later explaining she didn’t need such a big home after her grown son had decided not to go ahead with plans to move in with her. Asking price: $1.9 million — $200,000 more than she bought it for in December 2006.
Now, Braun acknowledges that the recession has hurt her company, which she launched in 2005. She says, “I began my small organic coffee and tea company at the beginning of the recession and have fought, like many other small-business owners, to hold on.”
She’s done just that, she says: “My company is still in business.”