Fw: Stanley Kurtz Article Re; Obama, Part 1

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Chicago Annenberg Challenge Shutdown?
A cover-up in the making?

By Stanley Kurtz

The problem of Barack Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers will not go away.
Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn were terrorists for the notorious
Weather Underground during the turbulent 1960s, turning fugitive when a bomb
— designed to kill army officers in New Jersey — accidentally exploded in a
New York townhouse. Prior to that, Ayers and his cohorts succeeded in
bombing the Pentagon. Ayers and Dohrn remain unrepentant for their terrorist
past. Ayers was pictured in a 2001 article for Chicago magazine, stomping on
an American flag, and told the New York Times just before 9/11 that the
notion of the United States as a just and fair and decent place “makes me
want to puke.” Although Obama actually launched his political career at an
event at Ayers’s and Dohrn’s home, Obama has dismissed Ayers as just “a guy
who lives in my neighborhood,” and “not somebody who I exchange ideas from
on a regular basis.” For his part, Ayers refuses to discuss his relationship
with Obama.

Although the press has been notably lax about pursuing the matter, the full
story of the Obama-Ayers relationship calls the truth of Obama’s account
seriously into question. When Obama made his first run for political office,
articles in both the Chicago Defender and the Hyde Park Herald featured
among his qualifications his position as chairman of the board of the
Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation where Ayers was a founder and
guiding force. Obama assumed the Annenberg board chairmanship only months
before his first run for office, and almost certainly received the job at
the behest of Bill Ayers. During Obama’s time as Annenberg board chairman,
Ayers’s own education projects received substantial funding. Indeed, during
its first year, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge struggled with significant
concerns about possible conflicts of interest. With a writ to aid Chicago’s
public schools, the Annenberg challenge played a deeply political role in
Chicago’s education wars, and as Annenberg board chairman, Obama clearly
aligned himself with Ayers’s radical views on education issues. With Obama
heading up the board and Ayers heading up the other key operating body of
the Annenberg Challenge, the two would necessarily have had a close working
relationship for years (therefore “exchanging ideas on a regular basis”). So
when Ayers and Dorhn hosted that kickoff for the first Obama campaign, it
was not a random happenstance, but merely further evidence of a close and
ongoing political partnership. Of course, all of this clearly contradicts
Obama’s dismissal of the significance of his relationship with Ayers.

This much we know from the public record, but a large cache of documents
housed in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at
Chicago (UIC), is likely to flesh out the story. That document cache
contains the internal files of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The records
in question are extensive, consisting of 132 boxes, containing 947 file
folders, a total of about 70 linear feet of material. Not only would these
files illuminate the working relationship between Obama and Bill Ayers, they
would also provide significant insight into a web of ties linking Obama to
various radical organizations, including Obama-approved foundation gifts to
political allies. Obama’s leadership style and abilities are also sure to be
illuminated by the documents in question.

Unfortunately, I don’t yet have access to the documents. The Special
Collections section of the Richard J. Daley Library agreed to let me read
them, but just before I boarded my flight to Chicago, the top library
officials mysteriously intervened to bar access. Circumstances strongly
suggest the likelihood that Bill Ayers himself may have played a pivotal
role in this denial. Ayers has long taught at UIC, where the Chicago
Annenberg Challenge offices were housed, rent-free. Ayers likely arranged
for the files of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge to be housed in the UIC
library, and may well have been consulted during my unsuccessful struggle to
gain access to the documents. Let me, then, explain in greater detail what
the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) records are, and how I have been
blocked from seeing them.

Initially, as I said, library officials said that I could examine the CAC
records. I received this permission both over the phone and in writing. The
subsequent denial of access came with a series of evolving explanations. Is
this a politically motivated cover-up? Although at this stage it is
impossible to know, it is hard to avoid the suspicion. I also have some
concerns for the security of the documents, although I have no specific
evidence that their security is endangered. In any case, given the relative
dearth of information about Barack Obama’s political past, there is a
powerful public interest in the swift release of these documents.

When I learned that the CAC records were housed at UIC Library, I phoned and
was assured by a reference librarian that, although I have no UIC
affiliation, I would be permitted to examine the records. He suggested I
phone the Special Collections section of the library and set up an
appointment with a special collections librarian. This reference librarian
also ran a search for me and discovered that, in addition to the CAC
records, one file folder in the UIC Chancellor’s Office of Community
Relations archive contains information on CAC from 1995.

I then spoke with a special-collections librarian and was again assured that
I would have access to the CAC records. I was told that, while I could not
personally make copies of the material, I could identify documents of
interest and have copies made by the library, for a fee. I set up an
appointment to meet with the special-collections librarian, and she
suggested that I e-mail her the information on the CAC-related chancellor’s
documents the reference librarian had discovered, and confirm my appointment
time. After I did so, this special-collections librarian forwarded my
message to a graduate assistant.

The graduate assistant then e-mailed to let me know that, while the CAC
collection had been “processed,” the “finding aid” had not yet been put
online. (The “finding aid” is a detailed document of over 60 pages
specifying the topics covered by each of the 947 folders in the collection,
and showing which boxes hold which folders.) Because the finding aid was not
yet online, the graduate assistant attached a copy to her e-mail, inviting
me to browse it and identify documents of particular interest, so that the
library could have some of the CAC material out and ready for me immediately
upon my arrival. I wrote back indicating that I would like to see the single
CAC-related folder from the chancellor’s archive, and further identifying 14
boxes from the main body of CAC records containing folders of special
interest. Having received clear and repeated representations from the UIC
library staff that I would be granted access to the CAC records, I arranged
a trip to Chicago.

What follows is more detail than some readers may want to know, but it seems
important to get it on record. If a body of material potentially damaging to
Barack Obama is being improperly embargoed by a library, the details matter.

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SJT said...

Oh boy, I can't wait for part 2!

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