Conservative journalists have exposed the Obama administration’s attempts to politicize the National Endowment for the Arts. Andrew Breitbart’s website has detailed two conference calls in August aimed at recruiting artists to shill for health care “reform” and environmental legislation. However, it has been overlooked that an NEA official and numerous employees in Valerie Jarrett’s office hosted an earlier meeting on May 12 to enroll “artists” in advancing its political agenda – and to get their input in shaping it. Both aspects are troubling, as the invited participants included several of Van Jones’s ideological fellow travelers, three people who claimed the CIA sells crack in minority neighborhoods, a Jewish lesbian who confessed to having “a little crush on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” representatives of the SEIU and the Tides Foundation, a publisher who dubbed 9/11 “a major piece of performance art conceived by” a jihadist with “an artist’s mind,” a director who wrote 9/11 was tied to Ronald Reagan’s withdrawal from UNESCO, and the “former International Spokeswoman for the Universal Zulu Nation.”
The evidence shows the heavy involvement of Valerie Jarrett’s office – and possibly Jarrett herself – the participants’ explicit understanding they were to promote Obama’s legislative agenda, and the administration’s acceptance of those whose beliefs are at least as radical as those of Van Jones.
Sweeping the NEA’s Politicization Under the Rug
The furor began when word leaked out then-National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) communications director Yosi Sergant invited Patrick Courrielche and 74 other artists to participate in an August 10th conference call supporting the United We Serve Program. Sergant invited his readers to “celebrate how the arts can be used for a positive change!” The call’s organizer, Michael Skolnick, said (as administration officials listened in) that artists who had worked to elect Obama must continue “to support some of the president’s initiatives…to push the president and push his administration.” Sergant then emphasized, “I would encourage you to pick something, whether it’s health care, education, the environment….” (Read the full call transcript.)
However, it was one of Valerie Jarrett’s employees, Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement Buffy Wicks, who was most explicit about the call’s partisan goals. She told the participants, “we’re going to come at you with some specific asks here.” She did this because, “We’re actually running the government. We need your guys’s help to promote this.” Wicks asked her audience to “focus on the four main areas: One is health care. Obviously, that’s a big issue…Second was energy and environment.” Wicks hoped this would steer the public toward left-wing ideological and political organizations: “We wanted folks to connect…with federal agencies, with labor unions, progressive groups, face groups [faith groups, perhaps?], women’s groups, you name it.” She helpfully suggested, on the environment, “we can partner with the League of Conservation Voters or the Sierra Club and on those efforts and really funnel people’s energies that way.” She praised the adulatory Obama “Hope” poster and will.i.am’s propaganda video. Only the fourth “main area,” community renewal, encompassed “traditional service activities – you know, food shelters, homeless shelters.” (Oddly, Buffy mentioned only the fourth area in her YouTube message introducing USAService.org.)
Confronted with the transcript, NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman wrote the call “was not a means to promote any legislative agenda and any suggestions to that end are simply false.” But his protests don’t pass the smell test. Flush with $50 million from the stimulus bill, the NEA began doling out grants, awarding $2 million this year to 16 participants in the August 10th conference call or their affiliates. The organizations on the call responded to the “asks” as though they were invited to support a legislative agenda. Within 48 hours of the first conference call, 21 arts organizations endorsed ObamaCare. “Rock the Vote” initiated a “health care design contest” to pump the proposal.
The conference call included a representative of the L.A.-based PR firm Winner & Associates, a group not generally thought to be part of the “arts community.” His name is Bim Ayandele, who co-chaired Generation Obama before he helped establish Jarrett’s Office of Public Engagement. The day after the 8/10 call, Ayandele began tweeting in favor of the president’s health care plan and against the tea party protesters – during work hours. As Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com has pointed out, many other participants followed suit – on the same day as Ayandele.
On August 27, the OPE invited artists to yet another conference call, led by Kalpen Modi. Modi, who formerly acted under the stage name “Kal Penn,” is now associate director of the Office of Public Engagement under Valerie Jarrett. He announced the NEA and NEH had backed out of the call, so it was apparently an all-OPE event. The announcement of this meeting has subsequently disappeared from the web. Less is known of the call’s proceedings, but Lee Rosenbaum, one of its participants who supports the president’s agenda, admitted to being “creeped out” by being contacted to advance the administration’s goals.
After word of the calls leaked out, Obama’s counsel Greg Craig drafted a memo expressing “regrets” that“[s]ome comments made in the call” had been “misunderstood as seeking to inappropriately politicize activities of the NEA.” Sergant was demoted, then forced to resign for his part in the call, and no further action appears likely. However, the resignation ignores the greater role played by Buffy Wicks and other OPE officials, in the August calls and in the underreported May conference. The August calls followed upon a meeting between numerous White House officials (including Sergant and Wicks) and artists which could not be more clearly political, and who could not have been more radical.
Jarrett’s Office Deeply Involved in May 12th NEA/Radicals Conference
The Washington Post has reported that on May 12, White House officials were present in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House for what one of its participants described as “a White House briefing on Art, Community, Social Justice, National Recovery.” Some 60 artists were – in the words of one of the meeting’s organizers – “challenged to come up with promising and attractive ideas about how artists can work for the administration’s agenda.” The meeting was a reciprocal gesture, seeking the artists’s input on the Obama agenda and asking their help in promoting its legislative aims. (Lest anyone be accused of bias, the extensive summary of the meeting was reportedly written by Meghan McDermott of Global Action Project, an Obama ally.)
The May meeting included an NEA official (Mario Garcia Durham), two representatives of the first lady (Joseph Reinstein and Trooper Sanders), White House Arts Czar Kareem Dale (who reports to Valerie Jarrett), and three members of what was then known as the Office of Public Liason – now the Office of Public Engagement, headed by Valerie Jarrett: Buffy Wicks, her boss Tina Tchen, and Mike Strautmanis. Strautmanis had been a paralegal at Michelle Obama’s law firm. The New York Times calls him “Obama’s former chief counsel and de facto younger brother.”
The notes seem to suggest Valerie Jarrett was present at some point during the meeting, as well. The summary states: “Mike Strautmanis directed our attention to key people with whom to foster relationships: Kareem Dale, who was appointed to deal with the arts specifically; and Valerie Jarrett, a close confidante and advisor to the First Family, who connects directly to the Oval Office. He also introduced Yosi Sergant, who was instrumental in arranging the briefing. Yosi had just left the Office of Public Engagement to serve as Communications Director at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)…With Yosi and Anita Decker (Director of Government Affairs at the NEA) in place, he explained, people very close to the President are involved in the effort.” Kareem Dale was present and addressed the meeting twice; the summary notes do not record that Yosi Sergant was present – but he made clear to The Washington Post that he was. Was Valerie Jarrett also in attendance, even briefly? As head of OPE, so richly represented at the meeting, she was undoubtedly aware of its proceedings.
And that should give us pause.
You Scratch My Back….
The summary continues that Strautmanis “described two paths.” The first was “set pieces of work such as the healthcare debate, efforts to reduce energy costs and the commitment to community service. In these areas, the administration wants to bring people in informally to advise and offer perspectives and to receive updates on impact. The administration wants to know what’s missing or doesn’t make sense, and will reach out periodically as issues come up.” Second, he encouraged the group to think of “ways to communicate” this administration’s agenda “with people and how to motivate them culturally,” then to communicate directly with Kareem Dale.
Buffy Wicks followed and was, again, less coy. Wicks “asked briefing participants to think through how their networks and organizations can participate in areas such as the arts in education, healthcare and preventative care, energy and environment, or economic opportunity.” Tina Tchen added, “The administration wants to sustain energy from the election process and turn it toward the agenda.”
Curiously, the participants took this to mean they should advance a political agenda. Community organizer Sally Kohn likened the artists’ efforts to “a movement to create a climate for change, banging down that door.” In subsequent “breakout sessions,” the artists came up with ways to promote the Obama agenda. But the politicization is less troubling than those invited to do the thinking.
“I Have a Little Crush on Mahmoud Admadinejad”
Sally Kohn is Senior Campaign Strategist at the Center for Community Change and formerly worked at the Ford Foundation. The CCC is an Alinskyite “community organizing” pressure group founded by Heather and Paul Booth, former SDS radicals who founded the Midwest Academy. The Booths have ties to Industrial Areas Foundation, where Barack Obama got his community organizing training.
In September 2007, before his speech at Columbia University, Kohn wrote an entry at DailyKos entitled, “Why I Have a Little Crush on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” She recognizes, “I’m a Jewish lesbian and he’d probably have me killed. But still, the guy speaks some blunt truths about the Bush Administration that make me swoon.” True, “There are certainly many things about Ahmadinejad that I abhor — locking up dissidents, executing of gay folks, denying the fact of the Holocaust, potentially adding another dangerous nuclear power to the world and, in general, stifling democracy. Even still, I can’t help but be turned on by his frank rhetoric calling out the horrors of the Bush Administration and, for that matter, generations of US foreign policy preceding.” She then details how the man who helped kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq “cares more about American troops than President Bush.”
Sadly, her views were the mainstream in this gathering addressed by NEA, OPE, and Michelle Obama’s office.
The Van Jones Caucus
Several of the invitees had ties to Valerie Jarrett’s prize recruit, Van Jones. Alli Chagi-Starr is Community Partnerships and Events Manager at Green For All, the group founded by Van Jones. She is also the Art and Events Director for Reclaim the Future at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, another of Jones’s organizations. Unfortunately, Jones may be her most moderate influence. Alli is a guest speaker for Medea Benjamin’s Global Exchange, an organization that takes credulous leftists on tours of repressive dictatorships like Cuba to demonstrate the glories of socialism. Starr is featured in chapter 10 of Code Pink’s book, Stop the Next War Now alongside Rep. Cynthia McKinney. She co-founded the Radical Performance Fest and “Art and Revolution,” a group of far-Left puppeteers. In 2000, she helped bring protesters to the violent anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle organized by Benjamin.
Also invited were Caron Atlas and Ryan Friedrichs of an organization called State Voices. The list of “projects” on its website includes The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Van Jones’ group. Other projects include This Brave Nation, which honored Van Jones, and League of Young Voters (another conference attendee and Van Jones sycophant; see below). Others include the Adelante Alliance, which believes “increasing the Spanish-language skills of [Brooklyn-area] Mexican primary school age children” is a “key to affecting long-term social change”; the far-Left news organization Free Speech TV; ALLGO- Austin Latina/Latino Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Organization; and the Allied Media Conference, which works on the “cutting edge of social justice-based independent film, radio, print, web, Hip Hop, and youth-based organizing.” This year’s AMC confab featured a “video chat between the Palestine Education Project Indigenous Youth Delegation and partner organizations in Palestine,” discussed “techniques for lobbying policy-makers,” and allowed “[n]etworks of radical women and trans[-gender] people of color media makers” to “share skills and strategize.“
Some attendees went out of their way to protect Van Jones. Among them is Robert “Biko” Baker, Executive Director of the League of Young Voters. The LYV website currently asks its visitors to “Sign Our Petition to Support Van Jones,” which LYV apparently posted on a website called ILoveVanJones.com. Below that, it asks surfers to donate funds to its Maine chapter, so it can hire an organizer to support the state’s gay marriage initiative. Baker spoke at the Netroots Nation, where Valerie Jarrett praised Van Jones for his “creative ideas.” Like Jones, Baker is obsessed with race. He wrote, “Structural racism is embedded in America’s DNA” and insisted Henry Louis Gates was “being racially profiled.”
However, he is also ready to play political ball. The video announcing Baker’s elevation to the executive director features him giving a speech in which he says: “If we don’t, as young people – and I’m speaking to the young people in the room – if we don’t push the party, or progressives, to be progressive, are they gonna be progressive? And the only way that we can push people to be accountable is if we’re there on the first Tuesday in November pushin’ people to the polls.” This conference seems to have pushed Baker to get moving on health care “reform.” Afterwards, Baker informed his readers there are “approximately 52 million Americans who have no health coverage,” posted socialized medicine propaganda from Media Matters and Campus Progress, and commented on a clip of Bill Moyers’s appearance on Bill Maher’s program, writing that health care reform “will save us googabs of money.” The LYV also announced its “sister organization, the League of Young Voters Education Fund,” has “launched a hot new website for progressive community building.”
The LYV’s “extended family” of links to like-minded websites includes ColorOfChange.org (founded by Van Jones), Green for All, the Ella Baker Center, MoveOn.org, SEIU, Planned Parenthood, Campus Progress, and the Soros-funded America Votes. Its blogroll includes Mother Jones, Firedoglake, DailyKos, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and MyDD.
CIA Crack Conspiracy Theorists
Others Jarrett’s office asked to help shape the administration’s agenda shared Van Jones’ conspiratorial outlook on the world. The OPE invited Judith F. Baca, who once noted some of her Los Angeles-area public murals “were about drug abuse, including the government-supported influx of drugs into the communities, including the Las Tres issue in Los Angeles, where three people were imprisoned for shooting a narcotics agent who was bringing narcotics into the community.” She described another mural as “an alternate history to the U.S., a sort of ‘pre-Howard Zinn Howard Zinn’ giant-scale monument.” She seemed truly honored that Buffy Wicks “mentioned our name. She knew us. She read the materials.”
Fellow Los Angelean John Malpeade (who founded the “Los Angeles Poverty Department”) went to Evo Morales’s Bolivia this July to perform Agents & Assets, a play that focuses on “CIA involvement in cocaine trafficking into the Los Angeles area in the 1980’s in order to support the Contra war in Nicaragua.” He once declared, “The hoarding of wealth and power, results in the gross inability of American society to efficiently allocate its abundant resources to generate social capital or well-being for its citizenry” and that calling America the “richest, greatest, country” on the planet “would be laughable, (and much of the world is laughing), if it weren’t so tragic.”
Others had more expansive conspiracy theories. Ian Inaba, Co-Executive Director, Citizen Engagement Lab, produced rapper Eminem’s videos “Mosh” and “White America.” As a blogger for the Guerrilla News Network (GNN), he eulogized Gary Webb, the man who popularized the false story of the government selling crack to inner city youth to finance the Iran-Contra scandal in a series of articles for the San Jose Mercury News. (GNN itself produces such films as Crack the CIA, a short film “about the CIA’s involvement in drug trafficking during Iran Contra.”) Inaba also produced the film American Blackout, featuring Cynthia McKinney’s claims of voting irregularities in 2000 and 2004 presidential elections (due to perfidy from the corporation Diebold). Its screening was hosted by the League of Young Voters and the SEIU. Inaba’s contributions can be found in the GNN book True Lies, which discusses everything from “the turning over of our democratic process to shady corporations, to the unanswered questions of 9/11.”
Also present were Michelle Miller, Manager of Popular Media Organizing at SEIU, the union headed by Andrew Stern, one of Barack Obama’s closest advisers. Michelle Coffey of the Tides Foundation was there, as well.
The meeting was “organized” by the Nathan Cummings Foundation. According to its profile at DiscoverTheNetworks.org, the foundation supports universal health care to “ameliorate the physical and psychological consequences of social and economic injustice” and seeks to finance “the roles that artists and cultural workers play in stimulating social change and championing economic justice in both traditional and non-traditional venues.” It had funded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Tides Foundation and ACORN, the ACLU, the Earth Island Institute, and dozens of leftist causes.
God as “The Erotic Feminine” and Free Vibrators
Denise Brown, Executive Director of the Leeway Foundation was there, as well. With the NEA’s long history of financing offensive “art,” this is a poor omen. Leeway gave $2,500 to the Rev. Beverly Dale, an ordained minister in the liberal Disciples of Christ denomination to promote her “ministry,” PassionWorks. The promotional literature for her one-woman show, “An Irreverent Journey from Eggbeaters to Vibrators,” claims “the very survival of the earth may be linked to our own individual spiritual and erotic well being and our ability to connect erotically with one another.” She describes herself as “outspoken advocate” for “peacemaking, worker rights, women’s concerns, race relations, civil rights for the sexual minority communities, and gender equity.” She also ponders, “could God be the erotic feminine?” An announcement on the Leeway Foundation’s blog invites those in the area where she was performing, at the University of Pennsylvania, to “Come get a vibrator!!!!”
Other Leeway grantees focused more directly on Buffy Wicks’s “asks.” In 2008, the Leeway Foundation gave $2,500 to Gage Johnston to produce a documentary explaining “how the food industry, the medical industry and the federal government often make matters worse for the sick by placing concerns of profit and reputations above concerns about health.” It has also financed a documentary “on the historical transgender sit-in that took place in 1965” and their continued “relevance to the movement for LGBT equality.” It has awarded $2,500 to craft a curriculum about “how screen-printing and print shops have been and continue to be used in movements for social change.” And it underwrote a bilingual broadcast on Spanish radio discussing “labor struggles.”
Reagan Caused 9/11?
Dudley Cocke of the Roadside Theater in Kentucky was impressed with the May 12th meeting, adding he had long worked, “with organizers with some training in the Saul Alinsky school – for example, the Industrial Areas Foundation.” Cocke shares their ideology.
As I wrote in my book 57 Varieties of Radical Causes, Teresa Heinz Kerry feted Cocke with the 2002 Heinz Award for Arts & Humanities. Of 9/11, Cocke wrote: “A lot of this hatred is based on an ignorance that allows the hater to perceive the United States only in monolithic terms, as a heartless materialist and imperialist state…It is my contention that U.S. arts policy, beginning with the Reagan administration, has played a surprising role helping to create this misperception.” Specifically, “The Reagan administration’s withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1987 signaled to the international community that the U.S. no longer considered itself just one among many of the world’s cultures.” Cocke would have us believe al-Qaeda’s brand of Islamists – which forbids its adherents from enjoying any form of music whatever – hates the United States, not out of religious fanaticism nor even the shibboleths of “poverty and disease,” but based on artistic rejection.
Elsewhere, Cocke berated Reagan and other conservatives for daring to question the National Endowment for the Arts’ inalienable right to fund Robert Mapplethorpe and the “Piss Christ.” Dismissing their objections, he mused, “Ironically, those attacks were led by our own homegrown religious fundamentalists.” Al-Qaeda, the Southern Baptists; what’s the difference?
Illegal Immigrants? Si! Military Recruiters? No!
The conference note-taker, Meghan McDermott, is Executive Director of Global Action Project, an NEA grant recipient also financed by the Ford and Rockefeller Brothers Foundations and George Soros’s Open Society Institute. This GAP produced the film Aliens vs. Predators – which is not a sci-fi film but an amateurish short protesting military recruitment of illegal aliens by promising college education. GAP prefers giving illegals in-state tuition rates.
The anti-military animus was shared by others at the May meeting. James Kass of Youth Speaks asked “if the NEA can support a program for young artists, creating pathways to college towards arts careers, and jobs for disconnected youth instead of enlistment. The military is fine if you have a choice, he said, but too many have had none.” Mario Garcia Durham replied, “now is the time to come forward with such ideas.”
An International Zulu Radical
Perhaps the most outrageous attendee was Rha Goddess, a female hip-hop artist who declares, “I use my art as a vehicle for liberation and social change.” Rha provided “rants” at a Code Pink rally in D.C. alongside Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, Ann Wright, Jodie Evans, Gael Murphy, and Phyllis Bennis. In fact, Rha appears to have been a fixture at Code Pink events. According to the bio on her book We Got Issues!, she co-founded the Sista II Sista Freedom School for Young Women of Color and is the “former International Spokeswoman for the Universal Zulu Nation.”
The Universal Zulu Nation’s beliefs are expressed in a rambling, disjointed manifesto. The “Amazulus” declare, “The Bible has been tampered with,” and “all history books that contain falsehoods should be destroyed.” They echo the Nation of Islam’s “white devils” theology: “To put one race over the other because you feel your one race is better than the other race) is wrong and when you do this, you indeed have become a race of Devils, causing destruction to everything that is life or truth on this planet so-called Earth or in the Universe.” Their doctrinal statement contains numerous references to “this planet so-called Earth,” and to “bloodsuckers” in “secret societies.” A representative example states:
We, Amazulu, feel that no one should be in secret societies, because secret societies are Bloodsuckers of the poor or less fortunate people. Secret Societies do not wish to give knowledge to all in the Human Family, but wish to control Humans with truth and falseness mixed together, to rule countries, nations, cities and towns. These Humans everyday are bringing about a New World Order, under their rule of evil (SATAN). The Humans of Secret Societies wish to erase the memory of God, The Creator, and want to put themselves as the Lord of The World. Demons are what they are.
Luckily, it has a plan of action against the demons: “if we are attacked by an aggressor or oppressor (one or many who wish to do harm (PAIN) against Us), Amazulu then we believe and are taught that we should fight in The Name of Allah, Jah, Jehovah, Eloahim, The Creator, The Most High Supreme One, God.”
Luckily, Rha has moved on. Her book contains a blurb from Eve Ensler. She and her co-author did a show at the Apollo just before the 2004 elections entitled “Vaginas Rock, Chicks Vote,” produced by Ensler, Jane Fonda, and Ensler’s V-Day organization. Her book was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation and others, and written in collaboration with Code Pink, the League of Young Voters, the Omega Institute, the Empowerment Institute, the Prison Moratorium Project, and the Center for Civic Participation.
9/11 as “Performance Art”
The editor and co-founder of PAPER Publishing Co., Kim Hastreiter, wrote that during the meeting, “I kept thinking about how after September 11th, every artist I knew agreed that the horror we had witnessed was actually a major piece of performance art that could not possibly have been conceived by a lawyer or a politician, but more likely by a jihadist with a wild imagination and an artist’s mind.” During the “breakout sessions,” she and others offered to form a “Department of Alternative Thinking” to “formally integrate creative brain consultation (performed gratis as a national service) as a required aspect into every detail of governmental decision-making, whether about arts education, the economy, health care, energy and environmental policy, national security, the country’s infrastructure or international policy.”
Various Pressure Groups
Others at the meeting believed deeply in using the arts to push a left-wing agenda. William Cleveland, of the Center for the Study of Art & Community, wrote some time ago America is undergoing an “inexorable” change away from “such core issues as: the loss of the nuclear family, the changing roles of men and women, the definition of right and wrong, our relationship to the earth, the distribution of wealth, freedom of expression, the importance of cultural identity and much more… As the grip of hierarchy, patrimony, and monoculture slowly fades, there is both jubilation and fear. Conflict is inevitable.” He ended by encouraging artists to “Join with those who are advocating positions that are in our long term self-interest” on such “national issues” as “national health insurance, civil rights, immigration reform, education reform, AIDS and many others” and “REWRITE THE DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN CULTURE.” (Emphasis in original.)
Others were more generic leftists. Among them was Nick Behunin of the HOPE Campaign, which credits Shepherd Fairey, the artist behind the Obama “Hope” poster, as a key partner. So was Matthew Brady, Creative Director of the Global Inheritance, which wishes to use “the power of creativity to create and push for progressive social change while rejecting conflict.” Liz Manne of Work in Progress, formerly in charge of marketing for the Sundance Channel, worked with MoveOn.org’s “10 Weeks” campaign in 2004. Also present was Milly Hawk Daniel, Vice President for Communications, PolicyLink, which describes itself as “a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity.” Finally, Maria Teresa Petersen, Founding Executive Director, Voto Latino, was in attendance.
An Explicitly Partisan Agenda
According to Hastreiter, after the White House’s presentations, the group was “invited” to break into small sessions and “ideate” on what to do next. Their reaction show they believed they were to promote a politicized, left-wing agenda.
Michelle Miller of the SEIU was explicitly partisan in her discussion of artists and health care reform. She suggested she and her partners: “Create a counter narrative to the Luntz memo/Republican talking points designed to destroy health care reform. They can offer creative, humorous voices that can think outside of white papers or New York Times op-eds to communicate effectively about the importance of health care reform and diminish the increasing attacks on our movement for reform. For example, the satirical webisodes SEIU is producing with comedy writers with content from Lutz [sic.] memo.”
Sally Kohn’s panel focused on Immigration Reform. She lamented the failure of the 2007 amnesty bill but hoped, “Artists and cultural organizers can play a critical role this year on helping advance the legislation, as well as over the coming years helping bring the humanity and personal/family stories of the issue to light.”
This seems to put the lie to Greg Craig’s insistence the OPE meetings did not politicize the NEA and the arts community. This was a meeting of far-leftists, invited to help shape policy and encouraged to motivate their equally radical followers to support Barack Obama. How on “so-called planet earth” did government officials find this collection of conspiracy theorists, radical protesters, and “goddesses” an acceptable group of partners?
Buffy Wicks, OPE Radical
One answer may be the radicalism of at least one OPE member. Prior to overseeing the Obama campaign in Missouri, Buffy Wicks worked for W*A*R*N*: Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Now, a project of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). The Washington Post refers to Wicks as “an antiwar activist” who served as WARN’s “political director.” WARN was funded exclusively by UFCW, which Fortune notes declared “war” on Wal-Mart after the corporation resisted unionization and put many of that union’s closed-shops out of business. UFCW is, with SEIU and other unions, a member of the 6-million-member Change To Win Coalition. In October 2005, UFCW announced “an exciting new partnership” between its Wal-Mart campaign and “two of the largest grassroots organizations in the country – Jobs with Justice and ACORN.” Jobs with Justice is one of the key U.S. organizers of the World Social Forum. The history of WARN affiliate ACORN is well-known. Despite its corruption (or because of it), the UFCW funded ACORN, giving it, SEIU and other unions $10 million from 2005-2008. From WARN, Wicks became field director of Obama’s primary campaign in California and deputy field director in Texas (for which a Hufftington Post blogger called her “Buffy the Hillary Slayer”), then headed up his general election campaign in Missouri, where Obama narrowly lost.
Now she works for Valerie Jarrett.
More Convergence with Jarrett
Writer Jeff Chang, who was at the May 12th meeting, discussed the gathering with the arts community, saying he saw this as an opportunity to radically change society. “If we are to be talking about demonopolization and re-regulation” of the media, he said, a “discussion has to be happening at the FCC.” And such a discussion is underway at the FCC, headed by Diversity Czar Mark Lloyd, who was reportedly recruited by Valerie Jarrett.
Chang then talked about bringing this “cultural policy” to a schoolhouse near you. “If we are serious about arts education and the Artist Corps notion of putting artists to work in the schools,” he said, “then the Department of Education needs to be involved, not to mention state departments of education.” Coincidentally, at the May 12 meeting, William Cleveland asked Joseph Reinstein, Michelle Obama’s deputy social secretary, about such a convergence, and Reinstein assured him, “President Obama has asked for greater cohesion and collaboration between agency work and departments, such as the Department of State, Department of Education [and] the White House.”
Why Were They Invited?
Who drew up the invitation list for the May meeting? Why did numerous officials connected to Valerie Jarrett – and perhaps Jarrett herself – invite this group of extremist radicals to help shape U.S. policy?
The Obama administration has dramatically increased funding for the NEA, then used its inside channel – Valerie Jarrett’s OPE and Michelle Obama’s office – to steer grant recipients toward promoting its legislative agenda. The three incidents prove the invaluable role Valerie Jarrett’s Office of Public Engagement played in this process and how comfortable that group, headed by Obama’s alter ego, is with Marxists, hatemongers, and the deranged Left. This is more troubling yet, as Jarrett has often said she and Barack Obama share “a kind of mind meld.” The president said Jarrett is “always very insistent on me trusting my instincts.” Now, Jarrett’s office appears to be the conduit of radical leftists into the White House.
Van Jones is no anomaly; he is a reflection of Jarrett and the Obamas’s most deeply held beliefs.
This article originally appeared as the lead article on October 5, 2009, on FrontPage Magazine.