We know the places where Senator Obama lived as a child, and we know his white grandfather wanted Frank Marshall Davis to be his mentor. We know Davis mentored him from approximately age 14 to 18. We know Davis was a black communist writer and poet.
We don’t know the details of what Senator Obama did in Chicago.* We could know more but the University of Illinois, apparently at the instance of Bill Ayers who stored the Annenberg Challenge Project files there, has denied investigator Stanley Kurtz access to those 132 boxes containing 947 files.
Obama says he was a “community organizer” in Chicago. The organization for which he community-organized was. The years were probably 1985 to 1988, when he left to attend Harvard Law School. About his relations with Bill Ayers, “domestic terrorist”—the FBI’s characterization—Senator Obama reveals only that he’s that “guy who lives in my neighborhood.” These, then, are the themes of his pre-U.S. Senate experience: community organizing and Bill Ayers.
On community organizing, much is known about ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) for which he worked. ACORN physically seized an empty building owned by the City of New York and put squatters in it. (The City later gave ACORN the building.)
The mortgage-giant Fannie Mae between 1980 and 2007 gave ACORN $797,000, its third largest grant, according to The Wall Street Journal of July 29. When in 1993 Mr. Obama was on the Board of Directors of the Woods Fund, he saw to it that ACORN got grants.
A scandal reported by the July 13 New York Post involved Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN’s founder. He stole $1 million from ACORN in 1999 and 2000.
Barack Obama as community organizer came into the ACORN picture in its voter-registration activities. He made voter-registration his work as community organizer for ACORN and its Midwest Academy for training community organizers and fundraising.
In registering voters, ACORN (but not necessarily Obama) collected fake signatures. It provided Washington State with “the largest case of voter-registration fraud in the state’s history,” reported Secretary of State Sam Reed. ACORN employees were supposed to help eligible voters complete voter-registration cards, but they submitted cards with names like “Leon Spinks, boxing champion.” The King County Canvassing Board invalidated more than 1,700 ACORN registrations. The Seattle Times editorialized, “ACORN has done some similar things in other states [14 others] and needs to be cleaned up or shut down,” according to the July, 2007, “Organizing Trends” of the Capital Research Center. We have not seen evidence that Obama was involved in these illegal activities.
Obama colleague Sanford A. Newman, associated with Project Vote, an agency similar to ACORN, has described Obama’s community work registering voters as very successful. In a letter to The Wall Street Journal, he writes that in 1992, when he, Newman, was national director of Project Vote, Obama’s efforts were on behalf of his agency, not ACORN. Only after 1992 did his agency join with ACORN in “more projects.”
Evidently, Senator Obama has utilized or is now utilizing his experience with voter-registration. According to his campaign, 3,600 trained community organizers called “Obama Organizing Fellows” have been working for six weeks in 17 states in his campaign.
Obama was busy with voter registration both before and after law school. At some time, probably before he left for law school, he had met and worked with Maoist Bill Ayers, who had graduated from bomb-throwing to Columbia University where he received a Ph.D. in education (not in English, as Obama reported).
Upon his return from law school to Chicago , Obama became involved with the Ayers family, Bill’s brother John and father Thomas, in foundations friendly to their aim of getting control of the Chicago public schools. One such foundation was the Woods Fund, whose board Bill Ayers joined in 1988. He and Obama gave Woods grants to ACORN and Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s black-liberation-theology church and $1 million to the construction company of Rezko—who later saved Obama $300,000 on the purchase of his $1.6 million house.
The most notable of these foundations, however, was the Annenberg Challenge Project, designed entirely by Bill Ayers and of which he became a board member under Obama’s chairmanship. Both men were involved with the Project from 1995 to 2000.
When Obama became the first Chairman of the Annenberg Challenge in 1995, he was only two years out of law school. It was a $50-million fund (providing 2:1 in matching grants) to reform Chicago public education. Normally, a fresh young law-school graduate would have been unlikely to head it, unless Ayers had selected him. That puts the start of their association well before 1995. Since both were involved in the public school reform movement following the 1987 Chicago teachers’ strike, it is possible, even likely, that the Obama-Ayers association goes back that far.
Ayers has not openly joined “Progressives for Obama,” which includes Weather Underground member Mark Rudd, leader of the radical students’ take-over of Columbia University in 1968, and SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) member Tom Hayden, of the Days of Rage in October, 1969, in Chicago.
But this much we do know: Obama was closely associated with the unrepentant Ayers, who said, “Everything was going great on the day I bombed the Pentagon”; who said, by chance on 9/11/01, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we did not do enough.” [New York Times]
* Where we do not specify the source, it is probably the blog of Stephen F. Diamond, an attorney who teaches law and political science, capital markets, the economy, corporate and international labor, at the Law School of Santa Clara University in Santa Clara , California .