Tag Archives: ACORN

RADICAL IN CHIEF – ACORN part III

 

This post continues the series of chapter summations of Radical-In-Chief by Stanley Kurtz.  Today we cover the final portion of Chapter 6 which touches on President Clinton’s contribution to ACORN and his administrations assistance to ACORN’s drive to dramatically increase the amount of outstanding mortgages to high credit risk housing buyers.

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RADICAL IN CHIEF
Chapter 6   ACORN  part III

Bank Fairs were held where banks were asked to attend and interact with the communities they served.  At these events the banks were asked to pledge to meet the reforms outlined by ACORN, i.e. to lower their standards set for mortgage qualification.  Retribution fell upon those who declined.

In July of 1992, the delegation from Citibank left an ACORN Bank Summit Fair without agreeing to ACORN’s terms. Within days, a group was organized that disrupted Citicorp’s headquarters in NY with songs and chants. Later, in August, officers and staff from Citibank-Chicago were invited to a gathering of about 400 people from the community.  They were given prestigious seating on the stage in view of everyone in attendance.  And then ACORN’s banking specialist, Ernestine Whiting, took the podium and mercilessly berated the bankers sitting on the platform.  According to Kurtz, the Citibank people were “shaking in anger” over the treatment to which they had been subjected.  But it worked. Eventually Citibank relented and agreed to increase the amount of their sub-prime lending in accordance with ACORN’s terms.

Bill Clinton’s appointed a man named Henry Cisneros as of Secretary of Housing and Human Development. Cisneros was one of the first Hispanics to be elected mayor of a large city. He knew ACORN well and was familiar with their confrontational tactics. In his first meeting with the organization’s leaders he made it clear he had no problem with the “aggressive” tactics. In fact, unsolicited, he offered ACORN government funding. The meeting lasted an hour longer than scheduled, and that hour was devoted to exploring ways to channel money from the federal coffers to help support ACORN’s activities.

Then in July of 1994 President Clinton met personally with a delegation from ACORN.  The group found a receptive audience in the President as they explained that their agenda included expanding the reach of the Community Reinvestment Act to go beyond just the banks.  They wanted mortgage brokers (as lenders) and insurance companies (as investors) to meet sub-prime quotas as well.  ACORN had already convinced Allstate to put $10 million into the funding of sub-prime mortgages.

The author believes ACORN leaders realized their housing activities could contribute to a financial crisis of sorts, but it is doubtful any of them anticipated the extent of the mess that actually occurred.  It is unlikely the creation of a crisis was intended, but should one occur it would be seen more as an opportunity than as a failure.  Leaders Peter Dreier and Frances Fox Piven taught that any financial crisis is an opportunity to condemn capitalism as a failure and proclaim socialism is the solution.

 

RADICAL IN CHIEF – ACORN part II

 

This post continues the series of chapter summations of Radical-In-Chief by Stanley Kurtz.  Today we cover the mid portion of Chapter 6.  President Obama had a close working relationship with ACORN.  Their affiliation came naturally.  Their objectives and methods were the same, their constituency was the same and they both focused their activities in Chicago.

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RADICAL IN CHIEF
Chapter 6  ACORN part II
Obama’s alliance with ACORN arose from his choice of “asbestos” as the issue over which to organize and his selection of the Altgeld Gardens Housing Project as the place to do it. Altgeld also was the focus of the Chicago arm of ACORN. Their program was called ATU (Altgeld Tenants United).  The issues that ATU was working weren’t as productive as the asbestos issue that Obama had chosen, so ACORN’s ATU joined forces with Obama’s DCP and they worked together.  Barack Obama worked closely with ACORN from the very beginning.

Housing was the major focus of ACORN’s work from 1992 to 1995. During this period, Barack Obama was supporting ACORN with money from the two foundations on whose boards he sat. Obama also personally trained leaders for ACORN and represented ACORN in a lawsuit relating to the “Motor Voter” bill.

ACORN leaders knew that minority applicants were being turned down for mortgages due to a lack of down payment and poor credit histories.  Therefore the goal was to force banks to lower their lending standards.  The method was to level charges of racism, both explicit and implied, against banks that did not conform.  Activities included:

Filing actions against banks for failing to “meet the needs of the community” asmandated by the CRA.
Demonstrations in lobbies of banks that refused to lower their lending standards
Establishing an ACORN Housing Corp to acquire distressed properties from banks.
Selling houses to “homesteaders” with ACORN keeping title to the land.
Requiring homesteaders to attend at least 5 demonstrations against the banks.
The Chicago Tribune called the program “affirmative-action lending”.

But there was a line below which the banks could not go.  That line was the standards set at the time by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two GSEs (Government Sponsored Entities) supplied the money for the loans.  ACORN knew they would need to get their standards lowered. Charges of racism would not work here, but working through the political system might yield results.  ACORN was “informally deputized” by the Chairman of the House Banking Committee to draft affordable housing rules that became the foundation of the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992.  The new law imposed quotas on the GSEs that could only be met by lowering their credit standards.

Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Obama denied having any close relationship with ACORN.  His involvements were actually quite extensive.  In 1992 he accepted an invitation from Madeline Talbott, head of the ACORN Chicago office, to train organizers for her staff.  As head of Project Vote, Obama coordinated voter registration drives with ACORN.  Speaking at an ACORN meeting in 2008, Obama said:

When I ran Project Vote, the voter registration drive in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it.  Once I was elected there wasn’t a campaign that ACORN worked on down in Springfield that I wasn’t right there with you.  Since I have been in the United States Senate, I’ve always been a partner with ACORN as well. I have been fighting with ACORN, along side ACORN, on the issues you care about my entire career.

Then on October 15th during the third presidential debate Obama said this:

The only involvement I’ve had with ACORN was I represented them alongside the U.S. Justice Department in making Illinois implement a Motor Voter law that helped people get registered at DMVs.

When ACORN launched the voter registration drive called Project Vote, Obama was appointed director for the state of Illinois. The members of his steering committee were ACORN’s Chicago chief Madeline Talbott, the head of SEIU Local 880 Keith Kelleher, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Father Michael Pfleger, Midwest Academy leader Kim Bobo and 17 lesser known individuals from the Chicago area.

The primary players in Chicago’s Project Vote, in addition to Obama who directed it, were the SEIU and ACORN, effectively one organization in Chicago. Although they had separate phone lines they shared the same headquarters, the same staff and participated jointly in demonstrations.  The campaign against the banks ran full steam in conjunction with Obama’s Chicago Project Vote.

 

RADICAL-IN-CHIEF The Midwest Academy

This post continues the series of chapter summations of Radical-In-Chief by Stanley Kurtz.

The book takes the reader into the world of Barack Obama prior to his emergence as a national figure.  The Preface makes a bold opening statement.  The chapters that follow are evidential arguments that substantiate the statement.  The author’s documentation is exhaustive and the source attribution is impeccable.  The source notes alone number 1,119 and take up 63 pages.

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Chapter 5
The Midwest Academy

Origins.  In 1969 the Students for a Democratic Party (SDS) started to fall apart.  The socialist movement was losing its spearhead organization.  Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn were preparing for their Weather Underground bombings; the socialist movement was going militant.  Then a 27 year old woman named Heather Booth, aided by her husband Paul, founded an institute named The Midwest Academy in 1973.

The Academy became a synthesizer for socialist ideas.  Just as “All roads lead to Rome.”, all socialist roads eventually led to the Midwest Academy.  The institution restored cohesion to the now scattered groups of socialist operatives.  It became an intellectual gathering point where prominent activists debated different strategies for achieving their common goals.  Alinsky and his radical followers were considered too harsh and militant to be successful in a prosperous Democratic country like America.  Harrington’s pragmatic way of ‘evolution not revolution’ gained acceptance.

The central question then became whether to go with a plan of stealth or open advocacy.  Open advocacy for establishment of a socialist state was deemed unpalatable to most Americans so stealth became the approach of choice.

The Midwest Academy was more than just a gathering and planning spot.  It was also a training school.  Role playing sessions were conducted where students staged mock confrontations between demonstrators and business and municipal officials.  There were even alma mater songs like one honoring academy leader Steve Max sung to the tune of the communist/socialist anthem Internationale.

During the same time period, Paul Booth joined with Harry Boyte to form an organization called The New American Movement (NAM).  It was envisioned as a new home for former SDS members.  It foundered at first but gained new vitality later when under the influence of the Midwest Academy it grew as a force coordinating the common interests of socialism and community organizations.

A National Strategy.  The price of oil rose rapidly under OPEC’s influence in the 70’s.  Heather Booth and Michael Harrington seized this as an opportunity to form a group called the Citizen/Labor Energy Coalition (C/LEC) in 1978.  The idea was to create a coalition of labor and middle class citizens and confront the major energy companies.  A decision was made to exempt the nuclear power industry to avoid alienating labor unions who wanted the construction jobs.  The goal was to gain incremental control of the non-nuclear energy industry by placing coalition members on corporate boards to promote legislation favorable to their cause.

CLEC identified a politically vulnerable conservative district in downstate Illinois and then trained and supported a young attorney named Lane Evans to run for office on the Democratic ticket.  Evans campaigned on a platform that highlighted themes like family, faith, hard work and patriotism.  Evans’ popular platform enabled him to win a seat in a conservative district where, once elected, he compiled one of the most liberal voting records in Congress.

Obama has spoken admiringly of Evans on several occasions and has credited him with the downstate support he needed to win election to the U.S. Senate.  Bill Ayers’ brother, John served on Evans’ congressional staff.  CLEC’s placement of Lane Evans in office is a perfect example of stealth political power gained through community action.

By the mid 80’s the Midwest Academy had acquired real political power. The stealth strategy was succeeding where Harrington’s more open policy had not.

The Obama Connection.  C/LEC morphed into a push called Citizens Action with leadership provided by Ken Rolling and Alice Palmer.  Rolling worked with Obama on school reform, served with him on the board of the Woods Fund, provided funding for Obama’s US Senatorial campaign, and served in the Chicago Annenberg Challenge under the leadership of Obama and Bill Ayers. Alice Palmer was the Illinois state senator who ceded her office to Obama by not running for re-election.

Obama’s own community organization in 1985 was called the Developing Communities Program.  Most of the funding came from two sources. One was the Woods Charitable Fund on whose board Obama would later sit along with Bill Ayers.  The other was the Campaign for Human Development (CHD) which was the brain child of Saul Alinsky for bringing in money from the Catholic Church.

The CHD eventually became the CCHD (Catholic Campaign for Human Development). The money comes primarily from a special collection taken at Thanksgiving time, ostensibly to help the poor.  It is controversial among parishioners because they know some of the money goes to support abortion and unwed motherhood.  The campaign literature reads like a socialist pamphlet but never uses the word “socialism”.  Proponents of the stealth approach to advancing socialism point to the CCHD to bolster their view.  This is money that would be lost under a policy of openness.

In 1992 Barack left Harvard and returned to Chicago where he became one of only two board members of Public Allies (PA). The other board member was Jackie Kendall. Public Allies mission was to recruit young people for community organizing work. Barack persuaded Heather and Jackie to hire Michelle to head the PA Chicago office.

A man named Robert Creamer played an intriguing part in the connections between the Obama administration and the Midwest Academy.  Creamer was a founding board member of the MWA and at one time the head of IPAC where Rahm Emanuel served as the financial director.  Creamer was also a political consultant for ACORN, the SEIU and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

While serving time in prison for tax evasion and bank fraud, Creamer wrote a book that carried endorsements by UNO founder Greg Galluzzo and SEIU head Andrew Stern.  [Stern was one of the most frequent White House visitors during Obama’s first year in office.]  The book outlined strategy for health care reform. It was titled “Listen to Your Mother: Stand up Straight! How Progressives Can Win”. Senior White House Advisor David Axelrod contributed a blurb for the book.

Barack Obama did not campaign for the Democratic Party nomination to run for his Illinois state senate seat.  He was chosen by the Democratic Party to have Alice Palmer’s seat. He could not have been chosen without the recommendations of the many people connected with the Midwest Academy.

RADICAL-IN-CHIEF A Conference for Marx

This post continues the series of chapter summations of Radical-In-Chief by Stanley Kurtz.

The book takes the reader into the world of Barack Obama prior to his emergence as a national figure.  The Preface makes a bold opening statement.  The chapters that follow are evidential arguments that substantiate the statement.  The author’s documentation is exhaustive and the source attribution is impeccable.  The source notes alone number 1,119 and take up 63 pages.

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Chapter 2
A Conference for Marx

Here Kurtz delves further into the nature of community organizing and how Barack Obama came to embrace it.

It was just a few months after the Marx Bicentennial Memorial Conference when Obama sent out letters in search of a community organizing job. In Dreams from My Father” Obama speaks of his decision – “I’ll organize black folks. At the grass roots. For change.”

Given the influence the 1983 conference had on Obama’s life, it is important to understand the nature of the conference. It was a symposium where proponents of the purist form of socialism in the style of Marx and Lenin presented their various views in forums and break-out sessions.

Debate centered around two schools of thought about the best way to implement socialism in the United States, either by open advocacy of socialist beliefs culminating in a militant forced change or by the slower but more pragmatic method of working within the democratic process.

Michael Harrington was the leading proponent for the pragmatists. The principle voice for militant change was Stanley Aronowitz.  Aronowitz wanted to infiltrate the banks with employees loyal to the socialist cause, and then on a pre-planned day, literally burn the banks by setting fires within their confines. Harrington’s strategy was to engineer a non-violent form of redistribution using the banks as a conduit through which money could be controlled to flow to the cause.

In the end, Aronowitz won the argument. Harrington capitulated to the anxious Aronowitz who wanted to burn the banks with the simple statement “OK, if you think it will work.” Kurtz cites this as evidence that “even the greatest modern proponent of democratic socialism saw democracy more as a tactic than a principle – merely the most practical route to socialism in the United States.” Of course Aronowitz never followed through on his plan to burn the banks.

Peter Dreier led another panel entitled Socialist Movements.  Most likely this was the best attended panel at the 1983 conference. Dreier was a DSA National Executive Committee member and the “key strategist in ACORN’s campaign to pressure banks into funding high-risk mortgages to low-credit customers.”

Dreier proposed a twofold plan. First to implement legislative change democratically as “reforms” within the capitalist system. The “reforms” however, would be “so incompatible with capitalism that they gradually precipitate the system’s collapse.” He argued for “injecting unmanageable strains into the capitalist system, strains that precipitate an economic and/or political crisis,” to “gradually expand government spending until the country nears fiscal collapse.” And then, capitalism having failed, organizers would turn the people toward socialism as the solution.

Simultaneously, grass roots organizations like ACORN should be built to influence public policy through advocacy and by winning seats on corporate boards, municipal boards and various commissions. In addition to helping enable the legislation Dreier sought, this cadre-in-waiting would help to minimize the violence expected with the collapse of capitalism.

100 FUND RAISERS BUT NOT A SINGLE MEETING WITH HIS JOBS COUNCIL

In the last six months the President has traveled to over 100 fund raisers but not once has he convened an official meeting of his jobs council.  That’s Barack Obama.

Two possibilities for reasons immediately come to mind.  First, raising money is such an all out priority that spending an hour or two improving the jobs picture is a sacrifice he doesn’t want to make; or second, he knows what the Council will advise him to do and he knows he won’t do it.  Both are likely to be correct.

Obama’s animosity toward the business world is very clear.  There is the statement in Dreams from My Father where he said his one and only job in a business firm was “like working behind enemy lines”.  Then there is his promise to put the coal industry out of business and his assurances to ACORN organizers and labor unions that in healthcare ”single payer is the goal”  That of course means there would be no more insurance companies.  And as we watch Air Force One jet from fund raiser to fund raiser at our expense, let us not forget how he railed against the captains of industry who came to his beck and call on smaller jets paid for, not by us but by their own stockholders.  Obama is not about follow the recommendations of advisors who tell him the way to create jobs is to create a favorable climate for private industry.

His record of job recovery coming out of a recession is the worst since the days of FDR in the 1930s.  The only accomplishments he has going for him with independent voters are 1) the Navy Seals got Bin Laden on his watch and 2) the passage of Obamacare.  The first had little to do with Obama’s planning and the second is unpopular and it’s a job killer.  He can’t run on his record so he has chosen a combination of the Alinsky model of demolishing your opponent and the ACORN tactic of gaming the election process as his strategy for winning re-election.  These are unsavory tactics but, unfortunately, the community organizer in Barack Obama excels at both.

RADICAL-IN-CHIEF BOOK REVIEW ON THE WAY

When Barack Obama first came onto the national scene the public asked, who is this man running against Hillary Clinton and the other candidates in the Democratic primaries.  What does he stand for?  What are his visions and objectives?  The answers were elusive.  In fact, they still are.  Radical-In-Chief by Stanley Kurtz sheds some light on what the answers to these questions might be.

The book carries the sub-title Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism.  Indeed, the author does cover the socialist movement in the United States very comprehensively.  Here is a sample from our synopsis of Chapter 6.

ACORN’s assault on the banking industry is not as well known. The plan was to confront banks publicly for failure to lend money to applicants who were poor credit risks and force the banks to lower their standards.

Targeting banks was one half of a two part strategy outlined in a paper entitled “The Case for Transitional Reform written by Peter Dreier. The overall strategy was first to establish quasi socialist institutions in the heart of capitalist society; then through these institutions inject “unimaginable strains into the capitalist system, strains that precipitate an economic and/or political crisis” which would lead to an “evolution of rising entitlements” that “cannot be abandoned without undermining the legitimacy of the capitalist class”. Dreier continued, “The process leads to expansion of state activity and budgets, and to fiscal crisis in the public sector” opening the door to socialism as the solution.

I think you will find it to be a very intriguing book.  Our review will be launched with the first chapter on July 15th.  The succeeding chapters will published weekly and added cumulatively to Book Reviews on the main menu.

RULES for RADICALS by SAUL ALINSKY – THE EDUCATION OF AN ORGANIZER

Continuing with the chapter by chapter series on Rules for Radicals, today we add our Comments about the chapter called The Education of an Organizer.

Synopsis of the chapter entitled The Education of an Organizer
“The building of many mass power organizations to merge into a national popular power source cannot come without may organizers”.  Training organizers is a daunting task.  Candidates come from every corner, from students to priests to union leaders and minority groups.  Many trainees start but few go on to great accomplishment.  The failure rate is high.”

“Certain qualities mark a candidate as more likely for success.  A good candidate is curious; of every issue, he asks why?  A good candidate is irreverent.  “He is challenging, insulting, agitating. discrediting.  He stirs unrest”.  He has imagination, a good sense of humor and “a bit blurred vision of a better world”.

Alinsky explains that the best organizer is “a well integrated political schizoid.  The organizer must become schizoid, politically, in order not to slip into becoming a true believer.  Before men can act an issue must be polarized.  Men will act when they are convinced that their cause is 100 percent on the side of the angels and that the opposition are 100 percent on the side of the devil.  He knows that there can be no action until the issues are polarized to this degree”.

Commentary (Revised)
When Alinsky wrote “The building of many mass power organizations to merge into a national popular power source” there can be little doubt that ACORN was in the professor’s mind.   However he never addressed the need for a grand leader, a Commander in Chief to preside over the Lieutenants and Generals who were the focus of his teachings.  Barack Obama will be ideally positioned to fill that role after his term in office.  Don’t be surprised if that’s the route he takes.  Martin Luther King is dead, Jessie Jackson has run his course and Al Sharpton is… Al Sharpton.  The door is open.

Good middle managers are the key to success in any business.  That’s just as true for building a political power base as it is for building a chain of shoe stores.  It is particularly difficult however, to find good candidates within a political movement that is populated by members more interested in achievement by taking that in achievement by producing.

Union leaders are unreliable because they can get better pay for leading unions.  Among priests, only the disgruntled are likely to apply.  And students grow up.  So it’s no mystery why the failure rate is high.

The author says the best candidate is a “schizoid” with “blurred vision”.  Level headed clear thinkers need not apply.

Why “schizoid’ and why is a “blurred vision” helpful?  Ethics Rule 11 says in part, the organizer’s mission must be phrased in terms like “Equality, Fraternity or the Common Welfare”.  Thus we see the goal of taking property from those who earned it and redistributing it to those who have no right to it expressed as Equal Justice.  We see the goal of expanding central power over another 16% of the economy and increasing the Party’s constituency of dedicated voters phrased as providing healthcare to 30 million hard working Americans presumed to be denied any medical treatment otherwise.

The organizer must preach these causes with a deep fervor that only a true believer can muster.  But he must not become a true believer because the causes are not the goal, they are just vehicles.   Power is the goal.

When Alinsky says blurred vision, I take him to mean vague vision.  When the 2012 Republican primary campaigns were in full swing each contender and his or her followers were comprised of true believers with their own clear vision and the result hurt the Party’s chances to win the general election. It’s an age old dilemma; do you stand unwavering on your principles, possibly in vain, or do you yield to compromise for the greater probability of gaining half of what you seek?  Alinsky taught continual new demand followed by compromise, gaining a little each time until you reach the final goal.

As an aside, you may have noticed the synopsis of this chapter is almost entirely in quotes, which means the text is reproduced exactly as it was written in the book.  You may have noticed the grammatical errors many of which occur throughout the book.  We noticed them but for the sake of simplicity didn’t point them out with the customary sic notation.