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Organization Trends

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

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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ACORN International: Wade Rathke shakes down the whole wide world

ACORN International: Wade Rathke shakes down the whole wide world

By Michael Volpe (Organization Trends, October 2013, PDF here)

Summary: Community organizer Wade Rathke created ACORN and watched it grow to hundreds of affiliated groups around the country, until scandals forced the network into bankruptcy. Now he’s created ACORN International to bring his special style of community organizing around the globe, but often with the same old corporate American targets.

Although ACORN founder Wade Rathke disappeared from newspaper headlines when the group he created closed its doors in disgrace three years ago, he has kept busy ever since by trying to conquer the world. Rathke’s current nonprofit group, ACORN International, was created to allow ACORN to apply its corporate shakedown techniques against Western corporations as they expand into rapidly developing markets such as India. ACORN International agitates overseas, stirring up tenants and working against huge U.S. corporations such as Walmart. The group also fans the flames of discord in the microfinance and cross-border remittance industries.

Rathke is trying to spread the gospel of so-called social justice beyond America’s borders. Like a modern-day Karl Marx in exile, he is doing his best to redistribute wealth all around the globe, spreading socialism through shakedowns. He uses the ACORN brand, which isn’t yet tarnished abroad, in his international organizing campaigns, but the nonprofit hides behind a different moniker—Community Organizations International (COI)—here in the United States. ACORN International’s stated mission is “to build community organizations of low income families and to partner with grassroots organizations outside the United States.” A man who likes to operate in the shadows, Rathke has taken off on the next chapter of his career, even if no one has been paying attention.

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Community Organizers in Charge: Three who pack a political punch

Community Organizers in Charge: Three who pack a political punch

By John Gizzi, Organization Trends, September 2013 (PDF here)

Summary:  “Community organizer” is a term few Americans had heard until one was elected president in 2008.  Now it’s a badge of honor and a passport to the highest levels of political power.  We profile three of the most significant examples of the breed.

Community organizer? Ever heard that term before?

A credential increasingly found in up-and-coming leaders in government and the younger leadership of the labor movement is a background in community organizing.  The former top political adviser to the president, a man touted increasingly as the premier voice for immigrants, and the founder of a fledgling league of restaurant workers who is tapped as the future superstar of organized labor—all spent their formative years in jobs mobilizing small communities into action.

The reason for the rise to political clout of former community organizers (not to mention the growing interest in them) can be summarized in two words: Barack Obama.

As the first president who actually held a job bringing together citizens of a local community to advance their common interests (as defined by the far Left), Barack Obama put the position of “community organizer” on the map.

Fresh out of Columbia University in 1983 and unhappy with his first job as a financial planner in Manhattan, the young Obama moved to Chicago and went to work on behalf of the residents of the Altgeld Gardens public housing project.  Frequently billed as “the man who gave Obama his start,” veteran Chicago community organizer Jerry Kellman hired the future president at an annual salary of $10,000 and threw in another $2,000 for Obama to buy a used car.

From there, Obama went to work agitating among the 5,300 mostly black and lower-income residents of Altgeld Gardens, and seeking solutions to the perceived problems in their community.  These included, according to Kenneth Walsh of U.S. News and World Report, “a nearby landfill, a putrid sewage treatment plant, and a pervasive feeling that the white establishment of Chicago would never give them a fair shake.”

As his wife, Michelle, would recall years later to Walsh, “His work as a community organizer was really a defining moment in his life, not just his career,” because it helped Obama decide “how he would impact the world.” A better public service announcement for a starting career as a community organizer could not be scripted.

Obama is not, of course, the first community organizer to have gone far, and he won’t be the last.  But because of an early career that is unique among presidents, there is considerable interest in other leaders of today who began as organizers of local citizens and their concerns.

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Uncle Sam Pays Activists to Hit “ROC” Bottom

Uncle Sam Pays Activists to Hit “ROC” Bottom

An agitation group wages war on restaurant owners

By Julia Tavlas, Organization Trends,  August 2013  (PDF here)

Summary:  Your tax dollars are subsidizing left-wing activists that harass restaurants that haven’t been unionized.  And as part of that scam, the union-backed forces have opened their own restaurant, where they mistreat workers and skimp on hygiene.

Question: If something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, is it a duck? A reasonable person would conclude yes, even if that’s not what it was called. Similarly, if an organization organizes like a union and agitates like a union, is it a union?

This is the conundrum surrounding the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, a hospitality workers “advocacy” group, which operates “workers centers” in nine U.S. cities, including New York, D.C., and Chicago. ROC-United sprang from ROC-NY. ROC-NY boasts that it exists to wage “justice campaigns” and provide “job training and placement,” and has even “opened its own cooperative restaurant,” COLORS, in New York City.

All permutations of the ROC organization seek to create a unionized restaurant sector. It was instigated by a notorious labor union; it stages walk-outs and employer intimidation campaigns; and it extracts wage concessions from employers that would be the envy of any big labor boss. And yet ROC is not recognized as a labor union by the United States government, which means not only is ROC exempt from the financial and legal obligations which bind a typical labor organization, but its activities are actually subsidized by generous grants from state and federal agencies.

This is the story of how to quack and swim like a duck, but get Uncle Sam to pet you like a puppy.

‘Ethical Eating’
People feel guilty about what they eat these days for lots of reasons: whether the food is processed, genetically modified, irradiated, locally produced, organically grown, etc. Now we have another reason to fret over our fritters—labor practices.

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The Blueprint: How the Left hopes to capture America

The Blueprint: How the Left hopes to capture America

By James Simpson, Organization Trends, July 2013 (PDF here)

Summary: The Left’s strategy for unhindered political power continues to be refined. In this electoral juggernaut, an increasing role is played by statewide networks of nonprofits that battle in the fields of media, the courts, think tanks, and grassroots organizing. Colorado was one of the first states to fall, but now the Left has its sights set on no less than Texas.

The American Left has made no secret of its ambition to create a “permanent progressive majority” to transform our system of government. To this end, America’s radical Left hopes to have a working majority in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2014 elections. But perhaps its greatest ambition is to create an Electoral College map that will guarantee left-wing presidents for the foreseeable future and render the opposition irrelevant in national elections. They aim to accomplish this by turning the states of Texas, North Carolina, and Arizona Democrat blue.

Left-wingers are now pouring resources into Texas in hopes of capitalizing on favorable demographic trends (read: illegal alien amnesty). The newly formed left-wing organization Battleground Texas lays out their strategy:

Over the next several years, Battleground Texas will focus on expanding the electorate by registering more voters—and, as importantly, mobilizing those Texans who are already registered but who have not been engaged in the democratic process. And we’ll use the data-driven, people-focused approach that has helped win grassroots campaigns around the country.

That last sentence describes, at least in part, how Obama won the 2012 election. A post by Jonathon Moseley at the American Thinker website put it in perspective:

Democrats can now completely bypass the media with their new massive micro-targeting databases. Democrats are able to talk directly to voters, unfiltered, without having to beg reporters to cover the issues or people they want, while controlling the spin placed on each news tidbit.

Obama takes credit for the high-tech 2012 ground game, but a lot of the credit must go to groups like Democracy Alliance and other radical left funders, who quietly built the infrastructure that allowed Obama to win the day.

According to Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri, Democrats have been working on this plan for a while. It’s nothing new. Texas Governor Rick Perry calls Democrats’ dream of turning Texas blue with Hispanic voters a “pipe dream.”

But the recent moves by Obama’s permanent campaign apparatus—now functioning as the 501(c)(4) nonprofit Organizing for Action—portend a much more aggressive effort. Jeremy Bird, President Obama’s 2012 campaign field director, has taken the reins at Battleground Texas. Bird registered, “among a great many others, 361,000 left-leaning voters in Florida, 156,000 left-leaning voters in Colorado and 96,000 left-leaning voters in Nevada.” (Daily Caller, Feb. 27, 2013) After that, Bird had his pick of assignments, and he chose Texas.

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