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Archive for October 1st, 2009

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Cry Wolf! A Clarion Call to Separate Church and State

By Jerry A. Kane

 “Change comes from power, and power comes from organization.”

—Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, Saul Alinsky

Gamaliel is actually a more dangerous group than its corrupt cousin ACORN for it actually embodies the dreaded union of church and state, and, if left unchecked, will emasculate individual liberty in the name of God and sacred community and will sacrifice religious freedom on the advocacy altar of social justice and the greater good.

Brietbart TV has recently unearthed a 2:00 video of a Gamaliel International Leadership Assembly “prayer meeting” held December 4, 2008, in Washington, DC, which has created a bit of a stir. 

In the video, people hurriedly enter a room while chanting, “Everybody in! Nobody out!” an apparent reference to universal health care. The group then gathers to offer a scripted prayer for “all of us who face health care without good health care insurance.”

In liturgical fashion, a woman leads a responsive reading, and the group purportedly responds at appropriate intervals “Hear our cry Obama” and “Deliver us Obama.” Whether the respondents clearly say “Obama” or “O God” is open to debate, but what is not debatable are the current and historical ties that Brother O has to the Gamaliel Foundation.

During the 1980s, Chicago served as the intellectual epicenter of Black Nationalism, Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, and Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns, and from 1985 to 1989, at the apex of black radical political thought, Brother O worked as a consultant, trainer, and leadership developer for the Chicago-based Gamaliel Foundation, a group of community organizers trained in the political strategies and leftist principles of radical intellectual Saul Alinsky.

Alinsky’s organization was based in Chicago, and it trained a cadre of community organizers for such groups as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the Gamaliel Foundation in the political strategies outlined in Rules for Radicals. To build left-wing political coalitions within inner city neighborhoods and black churches, Alinsky-style organizing specialized in ideological stealth, deception, and camouflage.

Like ACORN, the Gamaliel Foundation is a politically active organization with Marxist goals and differs only in its narrowly-focused outreach for infiltrating local church communities rather than entire neighborhoods. Once infiltrated, the Gamaliel Foundation hijacks the church leadership to combine a Marxist agenda with a smattering of Christian doctrine and push leftist political issues through methods of intimidation and agitation. Gamaliel organizers quietly share the same anti-American liberation theology brought to the limelight through the guttural discharges of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Gamaliel stands at the center of a well-coordinated, well-funded, and complex campaign to take back the debate and move Obamacare forward. Almost thirty denominations including mainstream Episcopal, Presbyterian USA, and United Methodist churches have joined Gamaliel and the Whitehouse to sell Obamacare through a nationwide TV ad with local clergy and lay leaders supporting reform, prayer rallies and in-district meetings, petition drives, and a call-in Webcast that featured Brother O and diverse faith leaders.

Alinsky created partnerships among faith-based community organizations as a means to seize power to realize his utopian dream of equality, justice, and peace. In Chicago, Brother O learned how to use power at the feet of some of the most radical socialists in America and to advance the Alinsky agenda into the highest levels in government. 

Now that America is in the throes of an Alinsky dream, Americans may wish to examine what the Reverend John C. Welch and Gamaliel acolytes say about the man into whose hands the governance of this nation has been placed: 

“He is Gamaliel.  He is African American.  He is one of us.  He is the 44th President of the United States of America!”

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Breaking News

ACORN’s Prophetic Lawyer

By Matthew Vadum

“But whether you try to implement some or all of these recommendations, there must be someone committed to follow-up. There must be a review mechanism, and a means of holding people accountable after any final decisions are made. If you do not make some hard choices now and ensure they are carried out, they almost certainly will be made for you.”—attorney Elizabeth Kingsley of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg Eisenberg LLP, in a prophetic legal memo to ACORN dated June 19, 2008, the day before ACORN’s national board ousted ACORN founder organizer Wade Rathke.

ACORN’s lawyer warned ACORN 15 months ago to begin fixing its massive internal problems or face certain catastrophe. ACORN didn’t listen. It let the problems fester.

The advice from Elizabeth Kingsley of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg Eisenberg LLP came in the form of an eerily prophetic legal memo to ACORN dated June 19, 2008, the day before ACORN’s national board fired disgraced founder Wade Rathke.

The memo is a kind of Holy Grail for ACORN researchers. One source of mine keeps a copy in a safety deposit box. I’ve lost track of how many people have asked me over the last year if I knew how to get a hold of it. One source told me yesterday that there are many people who would “kill” to gain possession of it. This is a bit of an exaggeration perhaps, but not much.

In articles by investigative reporter Stephanie Strom, the New York Times has published excerpts of the document. Incidentally, aspects of the Old Gray Lady’s coverage of ACORN were top-notch last year until management made a conscious decision to suppress Strom’s reporting before Election Day, apparently for political reasons.

Bearing the subject line “Initial Report on Organizational Review,” the Kingsley memo is addressed to ACORN and major affiliates ACORN Beneficial Association, ACORN Housing Corp., ACORN Institute, ACORN Votes, American Institute for Social Justice, Citizens Consulting Inc., Citizens Services Inc., Communities Voting Together, Pennsylvania Institute for Community Affairs Inc., and Project Vote (formal name: Voting for America Inc.).

The complete memo will be posted at Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com later today. It consists of sequentially numbered pages, but one page — page 14 — is missing, so in my file page 13 abruptly jumps to page 15. My source, who insists on anonymity, says the document arrived in that form via a fax machine. I have not retouched or altered the document in any way except where I superimposed the logo of the think tank I work for, Capital Research Center.

Underscoring how important the document is to ACORN, all pages except the first page bear lawyerly caveats at the top: “Sensitive Report — Do Not Distribute Beyond Initial Recipient List.” Perhaps that’s community organizer-speak for “TOP SECRET.”

The Kingsley memo paints a picture of a once-proud activist conglomerate in utter meltdown and confirms some of the most serious allegations about ACORN now being heard on Capitol Hill.

The problems within ACORN, she admits, are systemic.

Kingsley explains that her concerns fall into four major categories: “respect for corporate integrity, the necessary separation between different types of political work, the niceties of 501(c)(3) tax compliance and accounting for those funds, and a big-picture question about organizational capacity.” She goes to great pains explaining that she is not trying to single any person out, “but to point to systemic institutional concerns.”

Americans who follow the news know that the activities of the ACORN network, a tangled mess of interlocking directorates and affiliated tax-exempt groups that routinely swap seven-figure checks, have long cried out for a probe under federal racketeering laws. The undercover prostitution sting videos that began popping up at BigGovernment.com in mid-September made America intensely interested in ACORN for the first time. While the mainstream media is now covering ACORN, kind of, sort of, no longer can ACORN be said to be the exclusive preserve of Fox News Channel and conservative talk show hosts.

In her reference manual for left-wing activists, The Practical Progressive, Erica Payne reports ACORN’s total 2008 budget was $50 million. Surely that figure is too low.

The network has taken in at least $107 million in donations and $53 million in federal funds since 1993, yet it owes millions of dollars in back taxes and is eligible for up to $8.5 billion in federal funding this year.

No one really knows how big the entire ACORN network’s budget is. One of the reasons is that tracking housing and community development grants administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is difficult. HUD often distributes the money to states and localities, which then allot the funds to many different nonprofit groups. Getting a total financial picture would require enlisting an army of Freedom of Information Act requesters.

Kingsley seems to confirm my assertion that there is no meaningful distinction, no discernible institutional firewalls that separate ACORN and its hundreds of tax-exempt nonprofit affiliates:

There is no point in having these different corporations in place if they are not respected. If not properly operated, they create difficulties (e.g., potential conflicts of interest for lawyers, non-trivial administrative burden of state filings, and the appearance that someone is trying to hide something under a byzantine corporate structure) without generating the desired benefits, whatever those may be.

This is “the natural result of thinking of all these different corporations as part of the family, or ‘us,'” she writes.

Key ACORN affiliates argue they are not “‘affiliated,’ ‘related,’ or ‘controlled’ by or with each other, for various legal purposes, while allowing actual control to be exercised in a highly coordinated manner,” she writes. ACORN suffers from “an organizational culture that resembles a family business more than an accountable organization.”

She argues “it may be time to consider whether direct governance control and/or acknowledged connections are appropriate, rather than trying to pretend that these groups are not connected to one another and create control mechanisms behind the scenes.”

“The IRS says that it cares about governance because it finds good governance linked to legal compliance, and slip-shod or absent governance and internal accountability are red-flags for tax and other legal problems,” Kingsley counsels. “In this case, the IRS is right.”

She highlights the following policies or the lack of such policies:

  • Whistle blower policy [priority: CRITICAL]
  • Document retention and destruction policy (simple version prohibiting illegal destruction of documents) [priority: URGENT]
  • Contemporaneous documentation of Board and Committee meetings [priority: URGENT]
  •  Conflicts of interest policy [priority: IMPORTANT]
  • Documented process for determining compensation for the CEO and any other officers or key employees [priority: IMPORTANT]

Apparently ACORN doesn’t follow best practices.

Kingsley hits ACORN for its incestuous hiring practices. “Also, though we have not created a draft policy at this point, all corporations with staff should adopt an appropriate anti-nepotism policy,” she writes. But don’t go overboard.

This is not to suggest a draconian policy that does not permit hiring of related people…But a minimal responsible policy would probably require that immediate family members or people in a domestic partnership or dating relationship not be one another’s direct supervisors.… Critically, all staff must be required to recuse themselves from any decisions relating to the employment of their relatives.

Who knew ACORN headquarters on Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans was Animal House!

Founder Wade Rathke might have been wise to adopt an anti-nepotism policy. His brother Dale embezzled $948,000 from ACORN while working there. Even after Wade covered up the theft, he kept Dale on the payroll for eight years. Wade’s wife, Beth Butler, and reportedly, his two children also work at ACORN.

Kingsley slams her client for not keeping political activities separate from other activities. “It may be that activities are carried out with adequate independence, but without formal policies and separation of staff functions, there are potential liabilities and problems of proof.”

Citizens Services Inc. (CSI), an ACORN affiliate that received $832,598 from the Obama campaign for get-out-the-vote work during primary season, is a prime example. Kingsley writes that “[w]ithin both CSI and ACORN, there needs to be a formal policy adopted and implemented and enforced that separates independent political activity from anything coordinated with a candidate or party.”

This was so urgent that Kingsley insisted the new policy had to be in place “by the end of the month” or the following month.

Kingsley also warns of the danger posed by the affiliates’ lack of proper documentation showing that the ACORN network has been following IRS rules on nonprofit behavior. There is too much overlap between various employees representing different affiliates and confusion about who is controlling which funds and this can only lead to trouble, she argues.

She warns ACORN that “merely papering the transfer of money is not sufficient.” The nonprofits have to be able to show that their funds were used for appropriate purposes.

She writes that ACORN Institute and American Institute for Social Justice should not make further grants until such time as offices with outstanding paperwork for previous grants get around to filing the needed reports.

Suffice it to say, Kingsley lets her client know it is in big trouble. There are further serious questions about the use of pension funds and about the Dale Rathke embezzlement and coverup.

The expulsion of the “ACORN 8,” a group of national board members kicked out of ACORN for asking ACORN management to produce documentation on the embezzlement, came months after the memo. You could even say the group’s members were kicked out by Wade Rathke’s successor, Bertha Lewis, for following Kingsley’s advice.

I shudder to think what Kingsley would have to say about Lewis’s flagrant abuse of power.

ACORN, as it turns out, is an ugly, corrupt organization. It is just as bad, just as evil, as people said it was. If you don’t believe me, ask Elizabeth Kingsley.

The Republican National Lawyers Association, which has been in the forefront of the push to investigate ACORN, sounded just the right note. Said RNLA president David Norcross:

“ACORN should view their current situation as an opportunity to truly reform itself and place the interests of its members first and they can start by re-examining the report by Elizabeth Kingsley and addressing the malfeasance and dysfunction running rampant within their organization.”

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Unrepentant Liar

“Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky

 

You Mislead! Fact-checking Obama.

By Michael F. Cannon and Ramesh Ponnuru

“When President Obama makes a factual claim about health-care policy, he does not deserve the benefit of the doubt about its accuracy. We do not know whether he has been badly misinformed or is deliberately trying to mislead. Either way, he cannot be trusted to reform American health care.”

It is a good thing that other congressmen did not follow Rep. Joe Wilson’s lead. If they yelled out every time President Obama said something untrue about health care, they would quickly find themselves growing hoarse.

By our count, the president made more than 20 inaccurate claims in his speech to Congress. [emphasis mine] We have excluded several comments that are deeply misleading but not outright false. (For example: Obama pledged not to tap the Medicare trust fund to pay for reform. But there is no money in that “trust fund,” anyway, so the pledge is meaningless.) Even so, we may have missed one or more false statements by the president. Our failure to include one of his comments in the following list should not be taken to constitute an endorsement of its accuracy, let alone wisdom.

1. “Buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer.” The Congressional Budget Office writes, “Premiums for policies purchased in the individual insurance market are, on average, much lower — about one-third lower for single coverage and one-half lower for family policies.” It is true that individual insurance policies are generally 30 percent less comprehensive than employer-provided insurance, and comparable individual policies are about twice as expensive. But much of the extra cost is a function of the tax penalty on purchasing such insurance and the stunted market that penalty has yielded.

2. “There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage.”An outright falsehood, whether you use the president’s noncitizen-free estimate or the standard, questionable estimate of 46 million uninsured residents.

A study prepared for the federal government estimates that 9 million people counted as “uninsured” in the standard estimate are in fact enrolled in Medicaid. The left-leaning Urban Institute estimates that 12 million are eligible but not enrolled, meaning they could get coverage at any time. Health economists Mark Pauly of the University of Pennsylvania and Kate Bundorf of Stanford estimate that one quarter to three quarters of the uninsured can afford to purchase coverage, but choose not to do so.

3.“And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage.” The paper that generated this estimate assumed that two months of severe job losses would continue forever. Applying that paper’s methodology to a broader period of rising unemployment (January 2008 through August 2009) produces a figure below 9,000.

It also assumes those coverage losses are permanent. Like many of the 46 million Americans we label “uninsured,” many of those 9,000 will regain coverage after a number of months. (David Freddoso illustrates the absurdity of assuming that all coverage losses are permanent.)

4. “One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy. . . . They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it.” He didn’t die because of it. The originator of this false claim, a writer for Slate named Timothy Noah, has admitted he got it wrong.

5. “Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne.” Scott Harrington supplied more facts in the Wall Street Journal: “The woman’s testimony at the June 16 hearing confirms that her surgery was delayed several months. It also suggests that the dermatologist’s chart may have described her skin condition as precancerous, that the insurer also took issue with an apparent failure to disclose an earlier problem with an irregular heartbeat, and that she knowingly underreported her weight on the application.” The woman deserves sympathy, but Obama has stretched the truth here.

6. Rising costs are “why so many employers . . . are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance.” Perhaps no other issue generates as much of a consensus among health-care economists as this one: The “employer’s share” of employees’ health-care costs comes out of those employees’ wages, not out of profits. In this comment and in five others in his speech, Obama contradicts that basic truth. Employers aren’t forcing their employees to pick up a larger share of the bill because they can’t. Workers are already paying the entire bill.

7. Rising costs are “why American business that compete internationally . . . are at a huge disadvantage.” False. The rising cost of health benefits does not increase employers’ labor costs because, again, wages adjust downward to compensate. The Congressional Budget Office, under the leadership of Obama’s OMB director, Peter Orszag, confirmed that health-care costs do not hinder competitiveness. Obama economic aide Christina Romer has called this competitiveness argument “schlocky.”

8. “Those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it — about $1,000 per year that pays for somebody else’s emergency room and charitable care.” That number comes from a left-wing advocacy group. A Kaiser Family Foundation study debunked the group’s analysis, reaching an estimate closer to $200 per year for a family. The CBO report mentioned above reached the same conclusion.

9. At this point, Obama said, “These are the facts. Nobody disputes them.” This comment continues Obama’s already long tradition of trying to curtail debate by denying that anyone disagrees with him.

10. “[Reform] will slow the growth of health-care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.” In July, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf said, “In the legislation that has been reported we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount. And on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health-care costs.” The CBO projects that the legislation that Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) has since introduced “would reduce the federal budgetary commitment to health care, relative to that under current law, during the decade following the 10-year budget window,” but hints that the 40 percent cut in Medicare’s reimbursement rates, which helps Baucus achieve that feat, is politically unrealistic. (More on that below.) Health economist Victor Fuchs writes that the proposals before Congress “aim at cost shifting rather than cost reduction.” Obama and his allies have yet to demonstrate anything to the contrary.

11. “Nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.” Obama’s wording is lawyerly: While not denying that his plan would cause people to lose existing coverage with which they are satisfied, he leads us to believe that he is denying it. But even on its own terms, Obama’s claim is false. The CBO estimates that slashing payments to Medicare Advantage, as Obama advocates, “would reduce the extra benefits that would be made available to beneficiaries through Medicare Advantage plans.” It would also cause some people to lose their coverage.

12. Requiring insurers to cover preventive care “saves money.” Nope. According to a review in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Although some preventive measures do save money, the vast majority reviewed in the health economics literature do not.”

13. “The [bogus] claim . . . that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens . . . is a lie, plain and simple.” Sarah Palin claimed that Obama’s “death panels” would deny people medical care, not actively kill them. If Palin believes her claim, it is not “a lie, plain and simple.” Most important, the substance of Palin’s claim is, in fact, true. Obama himself proposed a new Independent Medicare Advisory Council with the authority to deny life-extending care to the elderly and disabled.

14. “There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.” For better or worse, the president’s plan would, in his words, insure illegal immigrants. Various federal agencies, immigration critics, and the media all acknowledge that a small number of undocumented aliens obtain Medicaid benefits despite being ineligible. The president seeks to expand Medicaid, which would create greater opportunities for ineligible aliens to enroll.

The House Democrats’ health-insurance exchange, which Obama supports, would “apply to” undocumented aliens. The CRS writes that the House legislation “does not contain any restrictions on noncitizens participating in the Exchange — whether the noncitizens are legally or illegally present.” Nor does it require that the legal status of people receiving subsidies be verified.

Finally, Obama supports granting legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, which would make them eligible for government benefits under his health plan.

15. “Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.” Unless Obama refers to some draft legislation inside his head, this claim is false. The House bill allows the “government option” to pay for abortions directly from the U.S. Treasury. Both the House and Baucus bills would subsidize private insurance that cover abortions. (See Douglas Johnson’s comment on this article.)

16. Critics of the public option would “be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won’t be. I’ve insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects.” How quickly we forget the example of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Like those institutions, the public option would benefit from an implicit subsidy: Everyone would know that Washington would not allow the program to fail, and financial institutions would therefore offer it better rates. (During the Clinton administration, Obama adviser Larry Summers reported that a similar implicit guarantee was worth $6 billion per year to Fannie and Freddie.) The public option would thus be able to undercut its less-subsidized competitors.

17. “And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.” Unless the president proposes to abolish insurance, or abolish all care management, there will always be tension between patients, doctors, and public/private insurers over what patients “need.” Such tensions are sure to arise under the president’s IMAC proposal.

But even if a new program would be “administered by the government, just like Medicaid or Medicare,” it would interfere in those decisions. As an administrative-law judge wrote to one of us after Obama’s address: “I am a government bureaucrat . . . and I just happen to be reviewing [six] cases, albeit involving Medicare and Medicaid, where the government has inserted itself between the patient and the care prescribed by the physician.”

18. “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future.” “The plan will not add to our deficit.” None of the bills before Congress can credibly claim to keep the deficit from rising. The one that comes closest, the Baucus bill, does so by making the wildly implausible assumption that Congress will allow 40 percent cuts in physician payments under Medicare to take place in 2012. Congress has routinely refused to support much smaller cuts.

19. “Now, add it all up, and the plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years.” Even the supposedly parsimonious Baucus bill would cost closer to $2 trillion than $1 trillion once we “add it all up.” The CBO says that bill would spend a mere $774 billion over ten years, in part because the spending begins late in that ten-year window. Republican staffers on the Senate Budget Committee estimate that the Baucus bill would cost $1.7 trillion over the first ten years of full implementation.

Moreover, the preliminary CBO score does not measure the full cost of the bill because it does not include the mandates Baucus would impose on states (about $37 billion) and the private sector (not yet estimated, but 60 percent of total costs in Massachusetts). The other bills would cost even more.

20. “The middle class will realize greater security, not higher taxes.” Obama would make health insurance compulsory for the middle class (and everyone else). If he thinks that isn’t a tax, he should listen to his economic adviser Larry Summers, or his nominee for assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS, Sherry Glied. Both liken the “individual mandate” to a tax, as do other prominent health economists like Uwe Reinhardt (Princeton) and Jonathan Gruber (MIT). The CBO affirms that the penalties for non-compliance “would be equivalent to a tax or fine.”

If Obama thinks the middle class wouldn’t pay the taxes he wants to impose on the “drug and insurance companies,” he should read this CBO report or talk to the junior senator from West Virginia, who accurately describes those levies as a “big, big tax” on middle-class coalminers.

21. “I won’t stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are.” Who are these special interests? In case Obama hadn’t noticed, everyone from the drug-makers to the unions to the insurance companies he demonizes are spending millions to build momentum for his version of reform — in no small part because Obama has promised to buy them off with middle-class tax dollars.

When President Obama makes a factual claim about health-care policy, he does not deserve the benefit of the doubt about its accuracy. We do not know whether he has been badly misinformed or is deliberately trying to mislead. Either way, he cannot be trusted to reform American health care.

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