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From little ACORN grows

In today’s New York Post Stanley Kurtz explains what community organizers do, and what Barack Obama did. Kurtz delves into Obama’s work with Chicago ACORN:

IT would be tough to find an “on the ground” community organizer more closely tied to the subprime-mortgage fiasco than Madeline Talbott. And no one has been more supportive of Madeline Talbott than Barack Obama.

When Obama was just a budding community organizer in Chicago, Talbott was so impressed that she asked him to train her personal staff.

He returned to Chicago in the early ’90s, just as Talbott was starting her pressure campaign on local banks. Chicago ACORN sought out Obama’s legal services for a “motor voter” case and partnered with him on his 1992 “Project VOTE” registration drive.

In those years, he also conducted leadership-training seminars for ACORN’s up-and-coming organizers. That is, Obama was training the army of ACORN organizers who participated in Madeline Talbott’s drive against Chicago’s banks.

More than that, Obama was funding them. As he rose to a leadership role at Chicago’s Woods Fund, he became the most powerful voice on the foundation’s board for supporting ACORN and other community organizers. In 1995, the Woods Fund substantially expanded its funding of community organizers – and Obama chaired the committee that urged and managed the shift.

That committee’s report on strategies for funding groups like ACORN features all the key names in Obama’s organizer network. The report quotes Talbott more than any other figure; Sandra Maxwell, Talbott’s ACORN ally in the bank battle, was also among the organizers consulted.

MORE, the Obama-supervised Woods Fund report acknowledges the problem of getting donors and foundations to contribute to radical groups like ACORN – whose confrontational tactics often scare off even liberal donors and foundations.

Indeed, the report brags about pulling the wool over the public’s eye. The Woods Fund’s claim to be “nonideological,” it says, has “enabled the Trustees to make grants to organizations that use confrontational tactics against the business and government ‘establishments’ without undue risk of being criticized for partisanship.”

Hmm. Radicalism disguised by a claim to be postideological. Sound familiar?

The Woods Fund report makes it clear Obama was fully aware of the intimidation tactics used by ACORN’s Madeline Talbott in her pioneering efforts to force banks to suspend their usual credit standards. Yet he supported Talbott in every conceivable way. He trained her personal staff and other aspiring ACORN leaders, he consulted with her extensively, and he arranged a major boost in foundation funding for her efforts.

And, as the leader of another charity, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, Obama channeled more funding Talbott’s way – ostensibly for education projects but surely supportive of ACORN’s overall efforts.

In return, Talbott proudly announced her support of Obama’s first campaign for state Senate, saying, “We accept and respect him as a kindred spirit, a fellow organizer.”

The Community Reinvestment Act isn’t the sole source of the current financial crisis. It took the government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to supersize the hazards created by the CRA. In 2004 Fannie Mae’s federal regulator issued a critical preliminary report on Fannie Mae’s accounting policies, financial controls and financial reporting process. I believe it was this report (covered in this Washingoton Post story) that is in part the subject of the instructive House committee hearing highlights video featuring Democratic Reps. Gregory Meeks (he’s “p***** off” by criticism of Fannie Mae and Franklin Raines), Maxine Waters (“we do not have a crisis at Fannie Mae”), Lacy Clay (“I get the feeling that the markets are not worried about the safety and soundnes of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac”) and Barney Frank (“It serves us badly to raise safety and soundness as a kind of general shibboleth when it doesn’t seem to be an issue”).

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