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Organization Trends

A monthly newsletter that reports on and analyzes the activities of advocacy organizations.

Deadly Policies: Activist groups are hindering immigration law enforcement across the nation

Deadly Policies: Activist groups are hindering immigration law enforcement across the nation

By Michael Volpe, Organization Trends, August 2014 (PDF here)

County sheriffs in charge of the nation’s jails are increasingly reluctant to respect the federal government’s requests to detain suspected undocumented immigrants. The official requests, known as “detainers,” are issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In most jails, the processing of new inmates involves running their fi ngerprints through a federal database to ascertain their immigration status. DHS flags detainees suspected of being in the U.S. illegally and sends out detainer documents that local sheriffs have traditionally treated as warrants requiring them to keep the individuals in custody. But many local officials these days won’t keep illegal immigrants under lock and key, waiting until ICE retrieves them for possible removal from the U.S. Jailers used to think of immigration detainers as mandatory, but several key court decisions have made clear to local law enforcement that the detainers are mere requests by ICE.

Although detainers have been around for a long time, their use has proliferated under an ICE program known as Secure Communities. That program consists of a computer software system that connects federal agencies like ICE, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service with local police departments. In jurisdictions that participate in the program, it facilitates access to data on individuals booked in local prisons. Left-wing activists complain that Secure Communities has led to the proliferation of arrests for minor offenses like speeding, because when local police book suspects, they share the booking information with ICE.

Detainers are valid for up to two days (excluding weekends and holidays) and exhort jailers to keep in custody illegal immigrants who are otherwise scheduled for release, so ICE can claim them and process them for deportation. If ICE does not take custody after 48 hours, the local law enforcement agency is required to release the individual.

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Unabashed Radicals: The mission of Demos, Elizabeth Warren’s favorite left-wing group

Unabashed Radicals:  The mission of Demos, Elizabeth Warren’s favorite left-wing group

By Barbara Joanna Lucas, Organization Trends, July 2014 (PDF here)

Summary:  Demos, a New York City think tank and advocacy shop, is not a place for the timid.  It pines for “global governance,” major redistribution of wealth, significant restrictions on political speech, and a Democratic presidential candidate to the left of Hillary Clinton.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the freshman Massachusetts senator who pioneered the “you didn’t build that” philosophy, is using her new book, Fighting Chance, to throw red meat to the Left and position herself to the left of Democrats like Hillary Clinton, who are more comfortable with Wall Street donors. Warren’s book tour was well received among fawning liberal supporters across the country, many of whom are looking for an un-Hillary in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

“I’d spent nearly twenty years fighting to level the playing field for the middle class, and I’d seen millions of working families go over the economic cliff—and it was getting worse,” Warren writes in her book, explaining why she decided to run for Senate in 2012. “What kind of country would my grandchildren grow up in? What if the conservatives and the big banks and the big-time CEOs got their way and Washington kept helping the rich and powerful to get richer and more powerful? Could I really stand on the sidelines and stay out of this fight?”

The New Republic has called Warren “Hillary Clinton’s Worst Nightmare,” and much reporting since has followed similar themes, even as Warren feigns uninterest in presidential politics (just as she claims public clamor forced her to run for the Senate).

Still, many political observers claim former Secretary of State Clinton is invincible. Of course, similar claims were made in 2008. That year, in addition to her official campaign organization, Hillary had close allies in the nonprofit sector propping her up, such as the Center for American Progress (founded by a former Clinton White House chief of staff, John Podesta) and targeting her enemies, as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) did.

How can Warren compete with that?

Should Warren run, she will likely have her own infrastructure in place with Demos, the research and advocacy group whose slogan is “An Equal Say and Equal Chance for All.” Notice the similarity to the title of Warren’s book.

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A Church of Community Organizers: How the United Church of Christ was transformed into a political machine for the Left

A Church of Community Organizers:  How the United Church of Christ was transformed into a political machine for the Left

By Susan Bradford, Organization Trends, June 2014 (PDF OT0614)

Summary:  For decades the Left has worked to turn churches into one more pressure group that will serve its political agenda. One of the saddest examples is the denomination known as the United Church of Christ, whose two most famous members are Barack Obama and his longtime pastor, the notorious Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

I am a longtime member of the United Church of Christ, baptized and confirmed within the church. My grandfather, Judge William C. Dixon, served on the committee that established the founding UCC constitution. This denomination, which was formed from the merger of the Congregational, Evangelical, and Reformed Churches, traces to the Pilgrims and to the congregationalists who helped slaves escape to freedom through the underground railroad during the American Civil War.

The UCC also shares an affinity with the French Huguenots of Le Chambon sur Ligon, celebrated for the heroic efforts of Pastor André Trocmé, who harbored Jews in this quaint French village while Nazis marched through Vichy, France. Trocmé’s heroism, documented in Philip Hallie’s inspiring book Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed, dramatizes how perfect love and unflinching courage, as exemplified by Trocmé and his congregation, can overcome evil. Once the Nazis descended upon the village, they encountered peaceful resistance and immediately backed down, sparing the lives of the Jews. Not a single shot was fired nor drop of blood spilled. What Trocmé and his congregation demonstrated was the nobility of character the UCC inculcated in its members. The congregants did not need to be prompted by the government or community organizers to express their allegiance to God and to serve their neighbor. Their outpouring of love and charity emanated from within.

In recent years, the church has morphed into something that neither I nor other members recognize. Ministers often preach with cynical resignation to empty pews. When Barack Obama arrived on the national stage, I was intrigued to learn of his affiliation with the UCC and inspired by his message of hope and change, which is central to the heart of the denomination. The hateful rhetoric spewed by his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, at the Trinity UCC in Chicago was confusing, but every denomination has its fiery preacher and rogue. Wright’s words condemning the United States and denigrating whites were antithetical to the spirit of the denomination. I wondered: Did Wright not know that white congregationalists were champions of the Civil Rights Movement? How could a man who professed to be a man of God still harbor such hatred in his heart and condemn the exceptionalism of the United States, which was founded on Judeo-Christian principles?

Like many other Christians, I attend church services to nourish my soul, rather than hear political diatribes. And yet so often in recent years UCC churches have been inclined to set the Bible aside and preach only “social justice,” while offering opportunities for involvement in various forms of political expression, like marching for illegal immigrants and participating in gay pride parades. Privately, many congregants have disagreed with the church’s position on gay marriage and the Affordable Health Care Act (known as Obamacare), but church leaders have not consulted them. Yet the UCC Synod claims to speak on Capitol Hill for its million-member denomination.

Disappointed with the direction of my once-beloved denomination, I decided to find out why the UCC has strayed so far from its original mission of being a cohesive force for all of Christendom and instead become congregations of community organizers and activists for the Democratic Party.

Socialism Enters
After extensive research, I was saddened to discover that my denomination had transformed into a vehicle to stir up revolution, exploit racial division, expand entitlements, and usher in a global socialist society. In this context, Wright’s rhetoric makes sense.

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Uncommon Hypocrisy: Common Cause claims to seek good government but prefers big government

Uncommon Hypocrisy:  Common Cause claims to seek good government but prefers big government

By Barbara Joanna Lucas, Organization Trends, May 2014 (PDF here)


Summary:   Common Cause was sired by an architect of the Great Society, so it’s no wonder this grande dame of “good government” groups is willing to sacrifice its own principles to boost big government and smear conservatives. Yet the mainstream media are always happy to parrot the line that the group floats high above politics.

At its founding, Common Cause described itself as a “nationwide, independent, non-partisan organization” that would be a watchdog of powerful politicians and push good government policies for ordinary people. The organization’s website still displays its founding document, which proclaims, “We want public officials to have literally millions of American citizens looking over their shoulders at every move they make. We want phones to ring in Washington and state capitols and town halls. We want people watching and influencing every move that government makes.”

That’s the kind of talk that would fire up a Tea Party rally or almost any conservative organization, and indeed, Common Cause has led efforts on laws to protect government whistleblowers, strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, and it has attacked crony capitalism. Sounds better and better, but not so fast.

For every good policy the group backs, often in the vaguest terms, it supports a dozen or so other loathsome policies. It calls for good government, but seeks to achieve it by empowering big government—which historically has done nothing but create opportunities for more corruption.

Over the more than four decades since its founding, the organization has made it one of its highest priorities to limit the political speech of individual Americans through various campaign finance reform ruses and various “media reform” schemes, all of which would allow government to have a hand in news content. It has also been hostile toward even the most modest election integrity laws.

New President, Old Politics
Common Cause recently gained new leadership when Miles Rapoport became president in March. He is a former Democratic secretary of state and state legislator in Connecticut. Most recently, Rapoport was the president of Demos, a left-wing advocacy and research group.

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Dismantling Self-Government: The Brennan Center’s Election Fraud Offensive

Dismantling Self-Government:  The Brennan Center’s Election Fraud Offensive

By Alexander J. Kroll, Organization Trends,  April 2014 (PDF here)

Summary:  Named for a Supreme Court Justice whose jurisprudence undermined the Constitution, the Brennan Center at New York University is best known for its attacks on efforts to stop voter fraud.  The underlying principle in the work of the center and its judicial namesake is simple: the rule of law should not be allowed to interfere with the liberal agenda.

Late last year, undercover agents for New York City’s Department of Investigations showed up at 63 polling places attempting to vote. The agents posed as individuals who had died, moved out of town, or were serving prison sentences. Not one of the prospective voters was legally eligible to cast a ballot.

In 61 of these instances (97 percent), the agents were permitted to vote. In one case, a 24-year old female agent who identified herself as someone who had passed away in 2012 at the age of 87 was given a ballot with no questions asked. DOI published its findings in a 70-page report accusing the city’s Board of Elections of incompetence and lax procedures.

This investigation in the Big Apple demonstrates how easy voter fraud is to commit. Combined with countless examples of actual voter fraud, it is easy to understand why Americans are concerned about the fairness and validity of their elections.

Yet one powerful organization has waged a relentless campaign to convince the public that voter fraud is a “myth.” This group’s talking points have been accepted, echoed, and bolstered by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the rest of the mainstream media. That organization is the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

The Living Constitution
William Joseph Brennan Jr. was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, shortly before that year’s presidential election. A Roman Catholic Democrat from the Northeast, Brennan appealed to Eisenhower advisers who thought he could attract critical voters in the upcoming election. Eisenhower’s attorney general, Herbert Brownell, also attended a speech given by Brennan. The talk convinced Brownell that Brennan was a conservative, especially concerning criminal matters. He was deeply mistaken.

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Dubious Mayors Against Legal Guns: The not so pretty story behind Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Dubious Mayors Against Legal Guns:  The not so pretty story behind Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns

By Barbara Joanna Lucas, Organization Trends, March 2014 (PDF here)

Summary:  Former New York City mayor and donor extraordinaire Michael Bloomberg has hit a number of speed bumps in his efforts to restrict the Second Amendment.  Scandals and political reversals have recently plagued his group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

James Schiliro, the one-time Mayor of Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, has been a proud proponent of gun control, a member of Michael Bloomberg’s group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and one of 600 mayors to sign a letter to Congress demanding more gun control laws at the federal level. And so it was embarrassing when in January the mayor was sentenced to as much as 20 months in jail following what a news report described as “an alcohol-fueled episode … in which he had a police car bring a former neighbor—a 20-year-old to whom he said he was attracted—to his home, made him drink wine, and refused to let him leave for 3 1/2 hours.”

After the young man rejected the mayor’s sexual advances and tried to leave, the mayor threatened to shoot himself with one of three guns. He discharged one weapon into a stack of papers. The victim, though anxious to leave, still managed to talk the mayor out of killing himself by reminding him of his daughter asleep upstairs. The young man got out of the home and called police.

Schiliro was convicted of recklessly endangering another person, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, official oppression (i.e., abusing his mayoral powers), and furnishing liquor to a minor. On top of the jail time, Schiliro received five years of probation, 50 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay a $1,300 fine. He is reportedly eligible for work release and time off for good behavior. (Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 15, 2014)  Marcus Hook, with fewer than 3,000 residents, was rocked by the sordid political scandal in February 2013. Before handing down the sentence, state Judge James F. Nilon said, “I don’t think you appreciate the seriousness of the nature of the behavior that you engaged in.”

It’s unlikely Nilon was making any type of statement beyond the case, but the reprimand about the mayor’s personal responsibility for his own actions is notable because of Schiliro’s membership in a group that blames, not criminals, but the tools they use in committing the crimes.

After the incident, Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) removed Schiliro’s name from its list of signatories demanding action from Congress (Breitbart News, March 23, 2013). That’s an interesting call, because as we’ll see, he’s hardly the only member of the more than 1,000-mayors group to engage in felonious behavior.

MAIG was founded in 2006 by then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then-Boston Mayor Thomas Menino on the theory that mayors have a closer, more direct understanding of the problems of violence. But Bloomberg, with his willingness to use his vast personal fortune to attack the Second Amendment, quickly became the face of the organization.

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The Chicago Way: Despite its good reputation, a network of housing charities has serious flaws

The Chicago Way:  Despite its good reputation, a network of housing charities has serious flaws

By Michael Volpe, Organization Trends, February 2014 (PDF here)

Summary: Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago receives much public praise for its mission of helping the unfortunate, but a bit of investigation reveals that it runs an elaborate network of nonprofits that appear to engage in the very kinds of misbehavior the group claims to combat.

What if charitable work for the poorest and weakest is covering up deceit and corruption? No one would ever suspect such behavior from a charity, and the people who appear to be swindled are not only unsophisticated but also don’t seem to be credible. This was the thought I had while listening to an attorney with Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Chicago as he attempted to defend his company from charges it was committing mortgage fraud.

“We’re the good guys,” the attorney screamed. The charity certainly appears to be. On the surface, Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago Inc. is a parochial, garden-variety liberal nonprofit located in the Windy City. But if you look deeper you find that NHS runs an empire of sorts whose power extends beyond its home base, and that it is deeply tied to the world of Saul Alinsky-inspired radical left-wing community organizing and the corruption that accompanies it.

Every year NHS gives out the Gale Cincotta Community Visionary Award. The person the award is named after is the first clue something isn’t quite right. Sometimes referred to as the “Mother of the Community Reinvestment Act,” Cincotta was an energetic community organizer who worked to eliminate “redlining” and other “discriminatory practices against low-income and minority communities,” as NHS puts it. Critics say the Community Reinvestment Act, which was significantly strengthened by the Clinton administration, helped to cause the subprime mortgage crisis by pressing banks to lend money to people they ought to have known would not be able to pay it back. Taking their cues from activists, banking regulators were given the power to make trouble for banks that in their opinion failed to lend enough money to so-called underserved communities. (See the account in Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon, published by a New York Times imprint and written by the Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson and housing expert Joshua Rosner.)

A founding board member of NHS, Cincotta also co-founded the extreme-left National Training and Information Center (NTIC), which provides technical assistance and training for community agitators. She also co-founded Chicago-based National People’s Action (NPA), an increasingly influential, sometimes violent nationwide coalition of some 300 community organizations throughout America.

NTIC, like so much in Chicago, has corruption issues. The group had to pay $550,000 to the U.S. government to settle claims from a 2006 federal lawsuit in which it was accused of misusing federal grant money, Crain’s reported. That media outlet also reported that a U.S. attorney accused NTIC “of violating the federal False Claims Act when it used some of the millions it received from a division of the U.S. Department of Justice to lobby members of Congress with hopes of securing more grants.”

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The War on Women Myth: Pro-abortion groups and others on the Left keep trying to use this weapon on opponents – but is its ability to wound lessening?

The War on Women Myth:  Pro-abortion groups and others on the Left keep trying to use this weapon on opponents – but is its ability to wound lessening?

By Barbara Joanna Lucas, Organization Trends, January 2014 (PDF here)

Summary:   For years, left-wing activist groups and their “progressive” politician allies have pretended that their opponents are waging a “War on Women!”  Sometimes this public relations meme has worked, but a review of its history suggests that its effectiveness as a political weapon is diminishing.

It’s like a really bad movie that’s oddly successful and keeps spawning sequels with new characters and the same plot.  This past November marked a huge month for the truly awful movie, first in the state of Virginia, where one battle in the so-called “War on Women” ended but the U.S. Supreme Court promised a sequel.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe—sometimes referred to as a stalking horse for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign—squeaked out a close victory over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia governor’s race after his side outspent Cuccinelli ten to one on television ads.  The bulk of TV ads emphasized Cuccinelli’s supposed war on women, the meme that was so successful for Democrats in the 2012 national elections.  In this case, the tag stuck in the eyes of the mainstream media, because as a state legislator and state attorney general Cuccinelli had supported pro-life policies.  “It was the most pronounced I’ve ever seen it,” Dawn Laguens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said following the election (Politico, Nov. 9, 2013).

Planned Parenthood dumped another $1 million in TV ads on top of McAuliffe’s vast campaign war chest, claiming that Cuccinelli abhorred women, wanted to take over their health choices, seize their birth control pills, make it tougher for women to divorce their husbands, and ensure there was no pay equity between the sexes.

It worked.  McAuliffe won the overall women’s vote by 9 percentage points, but he won the unmarried women’s vote by 42 points.  Without a gender gap that size, it’s very likely Cuccinelli would have closed the race’s two-point margin.

That same month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear a case regarding the controversial Obamacare mandate that requires health insurers to provide free abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception to women—all classified as “preventative” measures.

The plaintiffs in this case are two family-owned companies, the Oklahoma-based arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby and the Pennsylvania-based Conestoga Wood Specialties Store Corp., both of which argue that paying for employee-based coverage of these drugs violates their religious freedom.

White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett used intense hyperbole the day the court announced it would hear the case.  “No corporate entity should be in position to limit women’s legal access to care, or to seize a controlling interest over the health care choices of women,” Jarrett said in a statement on the White House blog.  “To take that type of power away from individuals, and to let the personal beliefs of a woman’s boss dictate her health care choices would constitute a major step backward for women’s health and self-determination.”

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Attacking ALEC: Left-wing politicians and activists pursue the American Legislative Exchange Council

Attacking ALEC: Left-wing politicians and activists pursue the American Legislative Exchange Council

By Matthew Vadum (Organization Trends, December 2013) (PDF here)

Summary:   The American Legislative Exchange Council has long worked to improve government at the state level by limiting it to its proper roles and by preventing unions and other special interest groups from currying political favors.  ALEC’s effectiveness may be seen in the fury with which certain senators and left-wing activists are now trying to harass the group’s donors, especially skittish corporations, and bankrupt ALEC.

Few conservative organizations have been more routinely smeared and unfairly attacked in the Obama era than the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), based in Arlington, Virginia.  ALEC is a membership organization of more than 2,000 legislators and corporations. Left-wing activists demonize the group because, quite simply, it is effective in advancing the cause of free markets, limited government, and federalism at the state level throughout America. ALEC is one of a handful of political groups in the country that tries to reverse the civic rot that has eaten away at the nation since the tumultuous 1960s. It seeks, in economist Milton Friedman’s words, to “develop alternatives to existing policies [and] keep them alive and available.”

Since President Johnson and Congress launched the “Great Society” welfare programs, tens of thousands of nonprofit advocacy groups have emerged. Most of these groups lean to port and promote more government programs and regulations in areas once considered the domain of families, charities, neighborhood associations, and other voluntary organizations. They argue it is the government’s responsibility to solve almost all of society’s problems and push big government solutions in education, the environment, and healthcare. With the help of the Left, government has increasingly supplanted the voluntary, community-based problem-solving that the great observer of early American society, Alexis de Tocqueville, recognized as a key to America’s thriving.

For ALEC’s efforts to restore the time-honored virtues of the American republic, leftists have rewarded the group with histrionics and slander. ALEC’s enemies have struggled to kill the group in recent years, savaging it for its principled positions on public policy issues of interest to conservatives and libertarians. ALEC’s story is a cautionary tale of what happens when left-wing, Saul Alinsky-inspired agitators target a conservative group for destruction.

Left-wing activists claimed ALEC was racist because its members in past years had supported voter ID laws and “stand your ground” self-defense laws like the Florida statute mentioned repeatedly by the media (but not by the defendant) during George Zimmerman’s murder trial earlier this year. Of course, most people of all races tell pollsters they support voter ID laws, and “stand your ground” laws have been signed into law by (now retired) Democratic governors like Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Janet Napolitano (who later became Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security).

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When Nonprofits Compete with Businesses: Leveling an unfair playing field

When Nonprofits Compete with Businesses: Leveling an unfair playing field

By Neil Maghami, (Organization Trends, November 2013) (PDF here)

Summary:   Congress is seriously considering changes to the complicated rules that govern the way nonprofits may operate income-generating businesses.  While reform won’t be simple, this is an area that cries out for greater fairness in the way nonprofits and for-profits are treated under our tax laws.

Tax reform is a perennial topic in Congress, but this year proposals that touch the world of philanthropy and nonprofit activism have been in the spotlight.  Plans are afoot to fine-tune various kinds of government-granted tax-exemptions that nonprofits and foundations enjoy.  Ahead of its Feb. 14, 2013 hearings on this subject, the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee declared that it wanted to hear “from the charitable community before considering any proposals as part of comprehensive tax reform that might impact their ability to obtain the resources they need to fulfill their missions.”

A funny thing happened at the hearings.  Among the more than 40 speakers testifying was John Palatiello, president of the Business Coalition for Fair Competition based in Reston, Virginia.  He dared to make an observation that likely stunned some of his fellow speakers.  While praising nonprofits and charities for the “exemplary” work they do throughout the nation, he also drew attention to the problem of “non-profit organizations unfairly compet[ing] with private, for-profit businesses by engaging in commercial activities, but not paying taxes.”  This results, he said, in an “unlevel playing field for the private sector, particularly small business.”

The tax code isn’t the sort of topic that usually stimulates passionate discussion, but Palatiello’s testimony has helped renew interest in capturing the revenue foregone by the U.S. Treasury because nonprofits are generally exempted from paying taxes.  (The current tax-exemption rules could be costing the Treasury almost $40 billion, by one estimate.)  The specific problem Palatiello zeroes in on, which we will explore in this issue of Organization Trends, is how the inconsistent application of existing tax exemption rules allows groups that are immune to the burdens of taxation to compete directly with tax-paying private businesses.

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