Obama's Education Groups Funded Controversial Organizations in the 90s, Tax Returns Show
By Maxim Lott
The Annenberg Challenge and the Woods Fund of Chicago funded numerous controversial groups while Barack Obama served on their boards between 1995 and 2002, an analysis of their tax returns shows.
In 2001, when Obama was a part-time director of The Woods Fund of Chicago, it gave $75,000 to ACORN, the voter registration group now under investigation for voter fraud in 12 states.
The Woods Fund also gave $6,000 to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ, which Obama attended. The reason for the donation to the church is unclear -- it is simply listed as "for special purposes" in the group's IRS tax form.
It gave a further $60,000 to the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University, which was founded and run by Bernardine Dohrn, the wife of domestic terrorist William Ayers and, with her husband, a former member of the 1960s radical group the Weather Underground.
Other controversial donations that year included $50,000 to the Small Schools Network -- which was founded by Ayers and run by Michael Klonsky, a friend of Ayers' and the former chairman of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), an offshoot of the 1960s radical group Students for a Democratic Society -- and $40,000 to the Arab American Action Network, which critics have accused of being anti-Semitic.
The Woods Fund did not respond to questions about the funding. When Obama co-chaired the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which calls itself "a public-private partnership improving education for 1.5 million urban and rural public school students," it gave to some of the same groups -- partnering with ACORN to manage funding for schools and giving over $1 million to the Small Schools Network.
It also gave nearly $1 million to a group called the South Shore African Village Collaborative, whose goals, according to Annenberg's archived Web site, are "to develop more collegian relationships between teachers and principals. Professional development topics include school leadership, team building, parent and community involvement, developing thematic units, instructional strategies, strategic planning, and distance learning and teleconferencing."
But the group mentions other goals in its grant application to the Annenberg Challenge:
"Our children need to understand the historical context of our struggles for liberation from those forces that seek to destroy us," one page of the application reads.
Stanley Kurtz, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, found the collaborative's original application when going through Annenberg's archives.
Asked to comment, Yvonne Williams-Kinnison, executive director of the collaborative's parent group, the Coalition for Improved Education in South Shore said, "I don't want to put more fuel on the fire. You can call us back after the election.... I don't want to compromise the position."
Late Afrocentrist scholars Jacob Carruthers and Asa Hilliard were both invited to give SSAVC teachers a training session, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge noted in a report, adding that the "consciousness raising session ... received rave reviews, and has prepared the way for the curriculum readiness survey session."
But Carruthers has been a controversial figure because of inflammatory statements he made in writing.
"The submission to Western civilization and its most outstanding offspring, American civilization, is, in reality, surrender to white supremacy," Carruthers wrote in his 1999 book, "Intellectual Warfare."
"Some of us have chosen to reject the culture of our oppressors and recover our disrupted ancestral culture."
In the book, he compared the process of blacks assimilating into American culture with rape.
"We may not be able to get our virginity back after the rape, but we do not have to marry the rapist," Carruthers said.
Hilliard has come under fire for advocating what many consider an extreme Afrocentric curriculum.
He selected the articles for the "African-American Baseline Essays" published in 1987 and first used in the Portland, Ore., school district. The essays have been criticized for claiming, among other things, that ancient Egyptians were the first to discover manned flight and the theory of evolution.
An Obama spokesman called investigation of these ties "pathetic."
"This is another pathetic attempt by FOX News to distract voters from the economic challenges facing this nation by patching together tenuous links to smear Barack Obama," Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt told FOXNews.com.
"The Annenberg Challenge was a bipartisan organization dedicated to improving the performance of students and teachers in Chicago Public Schools that was funded by a Republican philanthropist who was friends with President Reagan and launched by Republican Gov. Jim Edgar."
But Kurtz says those founders of the Annenberg Challenge would not have known the details about to whom their Chicago office -- one of 18 around the country -- was giving money.
"If you read Ayers' proposal to Annenberg, it doesn't sound radical. But if you actually read Ayers' education writings, they are very radical indeed," Kurtz said. "Ayers, like so many other savvy professors, knows enough not to state his actual views frankly when applying for money. But you can find the truth in his writings."
The controversial donations make up only a small portion of the overall amount doled out by the Annenberg and Woods funds. The Woods Fund gave over $3.5 million to 115 different groups in 2001, and the Annenberg Challenge dispensed nearly $11 million to 63 groups at its height in 1999.
Most of the groups are mainstream and well respected, ranging from the Jazz Institute of Chicago to the Successful Schools Project.
But Kurtz says that this should not obscure what he describes as controversial donations.
"If John McCain had given to white supremacist groups and people said, Hey, the majority of funding didn't go to supremacist groups' -- that wouldn't even cut the ice," Kurtz said.
"I feel certain [Obama] knew about these radical groups," Kurtz said. "We know that he read the applications because he made statements about the quality of proposals."