With each passing week, the shadowy radical political network that has made possible the career of President Barack Obama is being dragged into the sunlight. And almost all paths of this network, directly or indirectly, lead to or from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a virtual corruption machine of the Democratic Party Left. One of the more disturbing aspects of the Obama-ACORN connection is that the White House political affairs director is one Patrick Gaspard.
Gaspard doesn’t register on the media radar screen in the way that his immediate Bush-era predecessor, Karl Rove, did. But as the New Orleans-based ACORN has been implicated in a host of illegal schemes ranging from voter registration fraud to embezzlement to tax evasion, he may get there. That’s because prior to assuming his current job, Gaspard, at least according to ACORN founder Wade Rathke, had been political director for the New York City chapter of ACORN under Bertha Lewis, who last year replaced Rathke as the group’s chief organizer and CEO. What’s more, he’s worked closely with the ACORN-controlled Working Families Party and the largest local within the Service Employees International Union.
Political affairs director is a position near the very top of the White House hierarchy. A dual role of bureaucrat and politician, it requires an ability to secure passage of legislation, develop a media outreach strategy, and win elections for his boss and his party. With the possible exception of chief of staff, no person in an administration provides a better window into the president’s mind than political director. Karl Rove at times functioned as a stand-in for George W. Bush. So when President Obama hired Patrick Gaspard to be his political director, it was because Obama saw him as possessing the requisite loyalty, tenacity and networking skills. A closer look reveals Obama long has been part of that network. Indeed, without its help, his presidency would have unlikely.
President Obama long has been close to ACORN. While never formally a community organizer with the group, he has served its interests in a much more crucial way. In 1995, while as an attorney for the Chicago firm of Miner Barnhill, he was part of the team representing ACORN in its effort to block the State of Illinois from circumventing a federal court order to implement the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 – more commonly known as the “Motor Voter” law – signed by President Clinton. The Illinois State Board of Elections believed the law lacked sufficient safeguards against fraud. ACORN didn’t just defend the legislation; it worked to create it – and little wonder. The organization this decade has been at the center of voter registration fraud investigations in more than a dozen states, with the result in several instances being guilty pleas by volunteers. The Motor Voter law thus was tailor-made for ACORN fraud. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit early in 1996 denied the state’s motion on procedural grounds.
Obama would need those allies for his nascent political career, as he geared up for a first-time run for the Illinois Senate. One potential source of support was a new, and short-lived, hard-Left political entity based in Brooklyn, N.Y. called the New Party, whose Chicago branch was effectively a ward of ACORN and the ACORN-dominated Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 880. The New Party, which dissolved in 1998, explicitly pursued a strategy of endorsing Democratic Party candidates in states that allowed ballot cross-listing. In this way, its favored candidates could be listed under both parties. Obama aggressively sought a New Party endorsement in his bid for state senator, something confirmed in an article in the September-October 1995 issue of New Ground, the newsletter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Around this time, Patrick Gaspard was serving as a New Party organizer in New Jersey. He would continue his work for its successor group, the Working Families Party, a New York City entity co-founded by ACORN activists, most of all, longtime New York ACORN boss Bertha Lewis, a hardcore radical who serves as party co-chair. Ms. Lewis last June became chief organizer for the national organization, replacing ACORN founder Wade Rathke, who resigned under a cloud of suspicion in an embezzlement scandal. Lewis had headed the New York operation since 1994, and Gaspard had worked for her for a while this decade. Wade Rathke had written in his blog: “Tell me that 1199’s former political director Patrick Gaspard (who was ACORN New York’s political director before that) didn’t reach out from the White House and help make that happen, and I’ll tell you to take some remedial classes in ‘politics 101.'” But Ben Smith, a blogger for politico.com, says that Gaspard never was an employee of ACORN in New York. His source was Jennifer Cunningham, former political director of the very “1199” entity to which Rathke alluded, and Gaspard’s former boss.
That would be Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). With some 275,000 active and retired members, the powerful New York City-based union, with members in Boston and other cities as well as New York, is by far the largest local within the 2 million-member SEIU. Gaspard during a period this decade served as its executive vice president for political and legislative affairs and starting in 2006 as its political director. Moreover, according to publicly-available registration and disclosure documents, he was a federal lobbyist for the international union starting on October 22, 2007. He focused on getting Congress to expand coverage under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) – he got what he wanted early this past February.
ACORN is a major partner with the Service Employees union, though one wouldn’t know it from the current, freshly-scrubbed ACORN website (www.acorn.org). ACORN founder Wade Rathke founded and still serves as chief organizer for the New Orleans-based SEIU Local 100, which represents some 5,000 workers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Another ACORN operative, Keith Kelleher, is lead organizer for SEIU Local 880, which represents roughly 75,000 domestic employees in Illinois and elsewhere in the Midwest. Kelleher, along with his wife, Madeline Talbott, were among top ACORN members cited in a criminal complaint filed by eight dissidents (the “ACORN 8”) as having knowingly covered up the embezzlement of nearly $950,000 a decade ago by Wade Rathke’s brother Dale. Any politician who supports ACORN effectively supports the SEIU, especially Locals 100 and 880, the latter of which joined forces a year ago with two other unions to form SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana.
Barack Obama, having demonstrated his fealty to ACORN while as an attorney, would boost Service Employees interests during his tenure as an Illinois State Senator. With encouragement from his mentor, Senate President Emil Jones, Obama promoted legislation favorable to the union. David Freddoso, in his book of last year, “The Case Against Barack Obama,” summarized how the future U.S. president and the union drew close:
(O)bama “carried SEIU’s water” in Springfield on a wide variety of bills. He would increase benefits for SEIU hospital workers and even force hospitals to post mortality statistics on the Internet along with statistics on staffing levels – it was a way of bullying hospitals into hiring more SEIU staff. As a result, Obama would receive that union’s endorsement in his (U.S.) Senate race. It was a very significant development, because most other unions endorsed one of his opponents.
Obama, in other words, knew he had an ally in the Service Employees International Union, and especially the ACORN-affiliated Locals 100 and 880. If ever there were a measure of political loyalty, deep involvement with the SEIU and ACORN would be it. And it would hard to imagine anyone scoring higher than Patrick Gaspard, who had the added benefit (from Obama’s standpoint) of being black.
Gaspard had more than just his experience as an insider for ACORN and the SEIU. He also had a lengthy resume as a Democratic Party operative. He worked as a volunteer in David Dinkins’ victorious New York City mayoral campaign in 1989. Much later, in 2003, he became acting field director for Howard Dean’s presidential run. In 2004, after Dean’s campaign fizzled, he served as national field director for a Washington, D.C.-based get-out-the-vote operation, America Coming Together (ACT), launched the previous July with $10 million of George Soros’ money. ACT would suspend operations in 2005, but in August 2007 made headlines in a different way when the Federal Election Commission imposed a $775,000 fine on the “527” group for campaign finance irregularities. If one takes into account all this, and adds to it his work for the ACORN-controlled Working Families Party, it’s not hard to see why Gaspard became White House political director. He had all the qualifications. Even better, Obama won his own job with the help of ACORN foot soldiers. His 2008 campaign provided an ACORN affiliate, Citizens Services Inc., with $832,598 in contract work to turn out voters.
The linkages between President Obama, ACORN, the New Party and Working Families Party are too close and longstanding to be a coincidence. Democratic progressive activists may claim that unearthing such links constitutes “smears” and “McCarthyism.” But aside from being wrong on their face, such accusations miss the larger context. All political alliances, Left or Right, are “conspiracies” of a small minority designed to attract support from a large majority – in other words, networks. And within the current administration, the common denominator of this network, aside from Obama himself, is Patrick Gaspard. National Review Online columnist Stanley Kurtz notes, “We are talking about a persistent and shared political alliance between President Obama and the complex of community, labor, and party organizations controlled by ACORN.” That may be another way of saying that if ACORN is a criminal operation, then crime pays politically as well as economically.
Flaherty: ‘Deeper Scandal’ is ACORN Finances (video: CNN/Dobbs)