Michael Gaynor
ACORN's Rathke and Talbott: just believe what Obama says about himself and ACORN!
By Michael Gaynor
January 5, 2011

Americans need to know the whole truth about Obama's involvement with ACORN, not merely whether he "worked for" or "worked with" ACORN.

ACORN founder and Chief Organizer from 1970 to 2008 Wade Rathke on investigating ACORN: "With ACORN there is literally no 'there there' since the organization has ceased to exist, so, yawn, yawn, what's the point [of investigating it]?" (from "More News on Congressional Repub Witchhunts" at http://chieforganizer.org/2010/12/31/more-news-on-congressional-repub-witchhunts/)

Longtime Chicago ACORN and Illinois ACORN leader Madeline Talbott: "...Acorn was a good organization with a very few bad apples, ...Barack never worked for Acorn (I would know, as I ran the Chicago and Illinois Acorn offices) and was at most someone we liked and admired as the good man he was."

Rathke claims that investigation of ACORN would be a waste of money and Talbott would have us believe that she and "good man" Obama only knew each other because they sometimes walked on the same street at the same time. (Obviously "Barack" is still a Talbott favorite.)

When a political opponent is pursuing the wrong strategy, the smart thing to do is to do nothing or get out of the way.

When a political opponent is pursuing the right strategy, the smart thing to do is try to try to dissuade or distract.

Rathke and Talbott are smart.

On New Year's Eve 2010 Rathke posted a call for others to ignore calls by Congressman Steve King for investigating ACORN and me for scrutinizing the Obama/ACORN relationship.


"Clearly there's nothing to investigate. This is just a Hail Mary press play.

"And, of course pure politics. Michael Gaynor, a right wing blogger has argued as recently as this week that 'The Key to Beating Obama in 2012 Is Publicizing the Truth About Him and ACORN.'

"It's hard for some of these folks to climb off the old, high horse even when it's clear that horse just doesn't ride anymore.

"Let's really have a new year in 2011!"

On New Year's Day 2011 Talbott commented on the same article, which was posted at ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief's www.emergingcorruption.com on December 28, 2010. (The post had gone up a week earlier at www.webcommentary.com, without comment by either Rathke or Talbott. Apparently they follow Moncrief's site.)

Talbott wrote:

"Hi, this is Madeline Talbott. I am mentioned in this posting, so I thought I would respond. I am a Chicago community organizer who worked for Acorn for many years. Both Acorn and I opposed predatory lending, the high risk subprime lending that 'teased' borrowers in with a medium interest rate and then started hitting them with big increases every six months, quickly making the loans unaffordable. This kind of lending was very profitable until the price of homes started dropping; at that point, borrowers could no longer refinance their way out of the loan as it became unaffordable, because by then their mortgages were underwater.

"The kind of lending that Acorn and I pressured the banks to engage in was conventional lending through the Community Reinvestment Act, some of the safest and securest lending, with low fixed rate mortgages that borrowers could afford to pay. Unfortunately, most mortgage companies and Wall Street investment banks did not fall under bank regulations, so they were free to provide and back predatory loans. They did target these high interest mortgages to minority communities, who often had no alternative credit source because we were not successful enough in getting conventional lenders to offer credit to them, but the house of cards started to fall when they offered option ARMs and no doc loans to speculators in high end communities of California, Florida and Nevada, to name a few. Even that would not have brought down the entire economy if Wall Street had not been trading heavily in derivatives, making every failed loan an exponentially larger failure. 'The Big Short' is a good book for seeing how all this worked.

"Anyway, I know I won't change your mind right now, but over time, I believe you will discover that Acorn was a good organization with a very few bad apples, that Barack never worked for Acorn (I would know, as I ran the Chicago and Ilinois Acorn offices) and was at most someone we liked and admired as the good man he was. Thanks for the opportunity to weigh in with my side."

Obama has boasted of being a community organizer, while minimizing his involvement with ACORN.

Talbott tries hard to help him out.

Talbott at her website (www.madelinetalbott.com) on her relationship with Obama "Because I had worked with ACORN for more than thirty years, and because I knew Barack Obama as a professional acquaintance, (no, Barack never worked for me or ACORN, but the right wing says it so often that it has become a kind of folk wisdom — believe, me, I would have noticed if he worked for us, as I was running the Chicago office, the only office in Illinois.) But in fact, if I ran into him on the street, he would speak to me, so it's not like I didn't know the man."

Of course, Talbott knew Obama...and they did much more than acknowledge each other when they passed each other on Chicago streets.

Talbott helpfully claims that Obama never worked for her or ACORN, but, as with the definition of "is," it depends on what "works for" means.

Perhaps Talbott means that neither she nor ACORN ever sent Obama a W-2 form!

Americans need to know the whole truth about Obama's involvement with ACORN, not merely whether he "worked for" or "worked with" ACORN.

I had written in my article to which Rathke and Talbott promptly reacted:

"Ironically, Obama, 'the Senator from ACORN,' benefited hugely from the financial crisis that his kind of thinking created with his personal help as organizer, trainer, lawyer, funder and political supporter and won the Presidency.

"Fox News and talk radio notwithstanding, Obama was not generally perceived as a radical and a stealth socialist.

"And critically important Obama lies went unexposed.

"'Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drives in Illinois, Acorn was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work,' Mr. Obama said.

"That was the truth.

"But in the last presidential debate Obama blatantly lied.

"Obama in the last presidential debate: 'My only involvement I've had with ACORN was I represented them alongside the U.S. Justice Department in making Illinois implement a motor voter law that helped people get registered at DMVs.'

"That's a lie, not a fact. Obama represented ACORN in that lawsuit and the Clinton Justice Department predictably sided with ACORN, but that was the public tip of the iceberg, NOT Obama's only involvement with ACORN. Obama looked into the camera during the last presidential debate and flat out lied to the American people about it (in his calm, seemingly non-threatening manner).

"ACORN is the organization with which Obama has been associated throughout his adult life, as organizer, trainer, lawyer, funder and political beneficiary...and Obama's Achilles heel.

"ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief revealed connections between ACORN and the Obama campaign based on personal knowledge that all Americans should know, but most do not know.

"In late 2007, MonCrief related, she received a call from the Obama campaign asking if this was the same Project Vote that Obama worked for in the 90's. With a staff retreat fresh in mind, she answered yes and sent an email to Zach Polett, Karyn Gillette, Nathan Henderson James, and Kevin Whelan stating that the campaign wanted someone to call them back regarding some media questions that were being asked at the time.

"In late 2007, MonCrief related, Gillette told her that she had direct contact with the Obama campaign and had obtained an Obama donor list. MonCrief was given an excel spreadsheet to work with for cultivation of new donors. When she had trouble because of the duplicates, Gillette stated that she would contact her person at the Obama campaign to get another one.

"(MonCrief explained that Gillette also provided lists obtained from the Kerry and Clinton campaigns, as well as the 2004 DNC donor lists, and that these lists were shared with the Political directors of roughly 12 ACORN battleground states in order to raise money for a $28 million dollar (number as of 11/2007) voter registration drive.)

"Bottom line: ACORN improperly coordinated with and operating as an arm of the Obama campaign, and 'the Senator from ACORN's involvement with ACORN was much more than his representation of ACORN in the motor voter case years ago."

Perhaps Talbott would acknowledge that Obama worked WITH her and ACORN!

She surely should.

People like Obama, Talbott and Rathke wear many hats.

Don't let their hat collections confuse you.

See, for example, www.keywiki.org/index.php/Madeline_Talbott:

"Progressive Chicago was founded in 1993 by members of the New Party, in particular Madeline Talbott and Dan Swinney.

"In an April 27, 1993 letter to prospective Progressive Chicago members, Dan Swinney wrote:

I recently have become interested in the New Party as well as committed myself to see if we can build a Progressive Chicago network, working with Madeline Talbott of ACORN — the local New Party convener.

I wanted to introduce you to the NP andProgressive Chicago and would like to talk to you about it to see if there is a role you want to play.

Enclosed is a brochure, a longer description of the NP and the ideas behind it...

"In late 1993 Progressive Chicago letters were always signed by 17 people...."

Among the 17: Talbott, her husband Keith Kelleher (head of SEIU Local 880) and...Obama!

In 1993 Obama was a recent law school graduate lecturing at the University of Chicago Law School three years away from his first race for political office.


"In 1991, Obama accepted a two-year position as Visiting Law and Government Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School to work on his first book. He then served as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years — as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004 — teaching constitutional law.

"From April to October 1992, Obama directed Illinois's Project Vote, a voter registration drive with ten staffers and seven hundred volunteer registrars; it achieved its goal of registering 150,000 of 400,000 unregistered African Americans in the state, and led to Crain's Chicago Business naming Obama to its 1993 list of '40 under Forty' powers to be. In 1993 he joined Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, a 13-attorney law firm specializing in civil rights litigation and neighborhood economic development, where he was an associate for three years from 1993 to 1996, then of counsel from 1996 to 2004, with his law license becoming inactive in 2002.

"From 1994 to 2002, Obama served on the boards of directors of the Woods Fund of Chicago, which in 1985 had been the first foundation to fund the Developing Communities Project, and of the Joyce Foundation. He served on the board of directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge from 1995 to 2002, as founding president and chairman of the board of directors from 1995 to 1999."

It's tragic that these facts reported by Stanley Kurtz on May 29, 2008 in "Inside Obama's Acorn, By their fruits ye shall know them" did not become generally known:

"The extent of Obama's ties to Acorn has not been recognized. We find some important details in an article in the journal Social Policy entitled, 'Case Study: Chicago — The Barack Obama Campaign,' by Toni Foulkes, a Chicago Acorn leader and a member of Acorn's National Association Board. The odd thing about this article is that Foulkes is forced to protect the technically 'non-partisan' status of Acorn's get-out-the-vote campaigns, even as he does everything in his power to give Acorn credit for helping its favorite son win the critical 2004 primary that secured Obama the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate.

"Before giving us a tour of Acorn's pro-Obama but somehow 'non-partisan' election activities, Foulkes treats us to a brief history of Obama's ties to Acorn. While most press accounts imply that Obama just happened to be at the sort of public-interest law firm that would take Acorn's 'motor voter' case, Foulkes claims that Acorn specifically sought out Obama's representation in the motor voter case, remembering Obama from the days when he worked with Talbot. And while many reports speak of Obama's post-law school role organizing 'Project VOTE' in 1992, Foulkes makes it clear that this project was undertaken in direct partnership with Acorn. Foulkes then stresses Obama's yearly service as a key figure in Acorn's leadership-training seminars.

"At least a few news reports have briefly mentioned Obama's role in training Acorn's leaders, but none that I know of have said what Foulkes reports next: that Obama's long service with Acorn led many members to serve as the volunteer shock troops of Obama's early political campaigns — his initial 1996 State Senate campaign, and his failed bid for Congress in 2000 (Foulkes confuses the dates of these two campaigns.) With Obama having personally helped train a new cadre of Chicago Acorn leaders, by the time of Obama's 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, Obama and Acorn were 'old friends,' says Foulkes.

"So along with the reservoir of political support that came to Obama through his close ties with Jeremiah Wright, Father Michael Pfleger, and other Chicago black churches, Chicago Acorn appears to have played a major role in Obama's political advance. Sure enough, a bit of digging into Obama's years in the Illinois State Senate indicates strong concern with Acorn's signature issues, as well as meetings with Acorn and the introduction by Obama of Acorn-friendly legislation on the living wage and banking practices. You begin to wonder whether, in his Springfield days, Obama might have best been characterized as 'the Senator from Acorn.'"

Obama moved up to "the President from ACORN and SEIU."

Ironically, key persons and organizations responsible for Obama's great political success don't take credit for it, because it would jeopardize their radical political agenda that he has been pursuing as effectively as he has believed circumstances permitted.

Talbott would have us believe that she and Obama only knew each other because they sometimes walked on the same street at the same time. It's not reality, but it is reminiscent of Rathke telling Fox News' Megyn Kelly that he vaguely recalls shaking hands with Obama on a receiving line (http://nicedeb.wordpress.com/2009/10/04/video-megyn-kellys-fox-report-the-truth-about-acorn/)!

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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