The Obama-Ayers Connection At The Chicago Annenberg Challenge Comes Into A Little Better Focus — In Spite Of The Efforts Of The Obama Campaign To Obscure It
[Posted by WLS]
Two weeks ago today I posted here on the New York Times story that actually mentioned Obama, William Ayers, and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) as part of a longer piece looking into the formulation of Obama’s views on education policy.
As I noted, it wasn’t until the 22nd paragraph of this article that the name “William Ayers” flowed from the word processor of the New York Times‘s “education” reporter, Sam Dillon. Even then, it was not much more than a passing reference, which seemed odd given the emerging controversy about efforts made by unknown individuals to block investigation into the documents of the CAC which were being sought from the library of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where they were housed.
Today we know a little more about the background on this New York Times story, and how the Obama campaign was working behind the scenes with this “friendly reporter” to put distance between Obama and Ayers with respect to the CAC.
It just so happens that as a matter of fortuitous luck (Obama’s camp may disagree with that characterization) that a particularly enlightening e-mail was produced to Stanley Kurtz at National Review in response to a FOIA request he filed with UIC. Kurtz writes about this email here.
First, a very short recap:
CAC was a project in the Chicago school system funded with a grant of $50 million from the Annenberg Foundation in 1995. William Ayers, unrepentant terrorist and former member of the Weather Underground, was the driving force in securing the grant in 1995, and was one of 3 founders of the CAC. After the CAC was created, Obama, then a third-year associate at a small Chicago civil rights law firm, was named as the Chairman of the CAC Board, which oversaw the fiscal side of the CAC (it decided how the grant money would be spent, as well as having the responsibility for raising matching funds from other charitable foundations).
Ayers and the other two CAC founders, Warren Chapman and Anne Hallett, operated a second part of the CAC: the “Collaborative” that assisted in the preparation of foundation guidelines and working with community organizations in the drafting of funding proposals to be presented to the Board. This operation involved educational theory, as the proposals funded by the CAC were supposed to improve individual Chicago area schools by matching individual schools with third-party groups who would receive funding from CAC to operate programs in support of the schools.
Among other things, the controversy about Ayers’s role in the CAC is the fact that he is an outspoken advocate and author on the subject of teaching principles of “social justice” beginning in grade school, and continuing up through high school graduation. ”Social Justice” is nothing more than a value system that believes in the inherent racist and imperialist nature of the United States from the time of its founding as a nation where slavery was legal, right up to today. Ayers is a self-professed little-”c” communist, who only disassociates himself from the failed Soviet state, and not the political theory behind communism itself. Basically, he wants to begin indoctrinating grade schoolers in his extreme left-wing ideology, so they will all grow up believing capitalism is evil — which makes turning them into communists in college that much easier.
Stanley Kurtz is looking carefully through the documentary history of the CAC — documents that were originally denied to him by the UIC at the request of their “donor.” Who was that donor? A gentleman by the name of Ken Rolling. And that’s where the e-mail story gets interesting.
In early August Kurtz was working through the UIC library to arrange to look at the CAC documents. Everything was quite ordinary, and on August 11, Kurtz was given a date and time when he could begin his review. On August 13, as he was preparing to leave for Chicago, he received a telephone call from the library telling him that the documents were suddenly unavailable due to a request by the “donor” to close them to public access. As reported in the Chicago Tribune, Rolling says he was the “donor” who called UIC to close off the collection.
The university initially said it temporarily blocked that request in order to do an inquiry into the circumstances of the gift of the records. But e-mails released in response to a law student’s Freedom of Information Act request show university officials had a series of exchanges with Kenneth Rolling, the charity’s former executive director, days before the files of the charity were opened to the public.
As it turns out, Rolling called UIC and asked that the documents not be released on the same day that Kurtz called to inquire of UIC about having an opportunity to look at them. Rolling’s version of events is that he coincidentally called UIC the same day as Kurtz.
So, how did Rolling know about Kurtz’s request? Well, that’s where a certain e-mail becomes interesting. As it turns out, one of the 3 original CAC founders, Warren Chapman, happens to be the current UIC vice chancellor for external affairs. It’s by virtue of this fact that another of Rolling’s e-mails came into the public arena. On August 12, the day after Kurtz’s request to see the CAC documents, and the day after Rolling moved to block his access to them, Rolling sent an e-mail to Chapman and Alice Hallett, the other CAC founders in addition to Ayers. The text of Rolling’s e-mail was produced in the FOIA request to UIC, since it was sent to a UIC administrator. Kurtz reprints it in his article:
Anne and Warren:
I gave your contact info to Sam Dillon, Education Reporter for the NYTimes who is doing a story on McCain vs. Obama’s education platform (McCain has a one-pager; Obama has a 17 page, 10-point platform). Dillon was sent to me from the Obama campaign to discuss Barack’s role in the Annenberg Challenge. – I have spent at least 4 hours in interviews with Sam Dillon who is trying to understand everything he can about the Challenge to see where Barack’s experience with it influenced his education reform views or where Barack had influence on education policy and/or practice during those years. Sam is pretty thorough in his questions and one question or response leads to many other things he is interested in learning about the Challenge. – The Challenge is just one phase of Barack’s ‘education interests’ that Dillon is exploring. He’s also trying to learn about Barack’s community organizing days and how education reform was part of them.
Sam would like to talk with either or both of your to understand how the “ad hoc group” you two and Bill Ayers lead [sic], aarived [sic] at the structure of the founding board and the Collaborative. He is trying to understand how Barack got “picked” for the CAC board, by whom, why, etc. – I have avoided that question head-on though I believe Barack was Debbie Leff’s/Joyce nomination.
I think the article will be friendly and is truly looking to see the influences on or by Barack re: education/school reform in Chicago, ete. [sic]
Let me know if you talk to Dillon?All the best.
That’s the same Sam Dillon who wrote the New York Times article about Obama and the CAC that barely mentions any connection by Obama to Ayers.
This e-mail goes to Chapman and Hallet one day after Kurtz is first told he can review the records by UIC, and one day before UIC reverses themselves at the request of Rolling.
Notice how in the e-mail Rolling refers to how Obama was “picked” — and he puts the word in quotes? That generally means the word is being used as a euphemism for something else.
I was also struck by the fact that Rolling didn’t bother to direct Dillon to Ayers along with Chapman and Hallett. Why not?
I was struck, also, by the fact that Rolling put out there the “talking point” about how Obama came to be Chairman — that it was Debbie Leff of the Joyce Foundation. “Stick with the script and we’ll all be fine.”
It also seems like this sentence: “Sam is pretty thorough in his questions and one question or response leads to many other things…” was a clear warning to them to be careful what they say.
So, Rolling is the go-to man for the Obama campaign when they are trying to feed favorable information to a New York Times reporter to spin away the CAC connection between Obama and Ayers, and it just so happens that Rolling gets quite aggressive with UIC in trying to block Kurtz’s access to the CAC records, and maybe even take back possession of them completely.
How can one not conclude that the Obama campaign was not aware of and sanctioned Rolling’s efforts on Obama’s behalf with respect to getting UIC to initially block Kurtz or anyone else from seeing the records? At the same time they used a friendly New York Times reporter to get their version of events involving CAC into the public record.