York Post - Commentary
By KENNETH R.
2004 -- Yesterday, self-appointed civil- rights activist
Jesse Jackson began his seventh annual "Wall Street Project"
conference, a fund-raising extravaganza intended to put on
display the dazzling array of Jackson's corporate sponsors
and shakedown victims.
Unlike earlier years, however, this year's event is turning
out to be less a show of force than a demonstration of
Jackson's waning influence.
During the Clinton years, Jackson could count on keynote
speeches from the Rainmaker-in-Chief and top cabinet
members, whose blessings translated into millions of dollars
in income for Jackson's supposedly nonprofit enterprises.
This year, he's glad he could attract the former first lady,
now the junior senator from New York. It's not certain how
many big corporate donors Hillary will attract.
Jackson still has his friends, and his backers. This year,
as last, Time Warner will be a major sponsor, hosting the
opening reception and two workshops. Jackson has long had a
friend at TimeWarner's CNN, which hosted his weekly talk
show, "Both Sides with Jesse Jackson," shortly before the
2000 elections. Perhaps they are thinking of a remake, just
in time for this year's open season on George W. Bush.
One thing Jackson has understood with the savvy of the
former street operator he is: Corporate America is easily
aroused to guilt, and is willing to pay big money to assuage
it. In recent years, Jackson has focused on two industries
and milked them for millions of dollars in contributions to
his Citizenship Education Fund and Rainbow PUSH Coalition:
the telecoms, and the consumer banking and brokerage
Both industries fit Jackson's bill as potential shakedown
victims. Operating nationwide, they serve large numbers of
consumers, including those in traditionally minority
communities. That gives Jackson leverage for his
Victims have included telecoms SBC Ameritech, Verizon,
AT&T and GTE, brokerages such as Merrill Lynch, Lehman
Brothers and Solomon Smith Barney and banks such as Citicorp
and Bank of America.
These days, Jackson no longer needs to rely on the
Blackstone Rangers to enforce his threats, the infamous
Chicago street gang whose close ties to Jackson I exposed in
my book "Shakedown." (Jackson's half-brother, Noah Robinson,
is serving multiple life-sentences for drug-trafficking,
murder-for-hire and racketeering in connection with
gang-related activities, and was Jackson's business partner
in his early Chicago days.)
Instead, he invites the authorities with the power to
investigate his activities to keynote his conference and
Under Clinton, Jackson hosted Treasury Secretary Robert
Rubin, whose portfolio included the Internal Revenue
Service, which failed to investigate alleged financial
improprieties by Jackson and his groups. He also invited New
York State Comptroller Carl McCall, and later stumped for
his ill-fated gubernatorial campaign.
McCall sat on the compensation committee of the New York
Stock Exchange when it awarded $140 million compensation
packages to former chairman Richard Grasso and invited
Jackson to ring the closing bell. In 2000, the exchange gave
Jackson $194,634, tax records show. With McCall and Grasso
gone, so went the favors.
Following the revelations in "Shakedown" and pressure from
conservative groups, Jackson's flagship Citizenship
Education Fund showed a deficit for the first time in 2002,
as Jackson's victims got wise to his act.
But Jackson never gives up hope of finding new friends. This
year, informed sources tell me, he has asked New York City
Mayor Michael Bloomberg for a $100,000 contribution. An
official with Bloomberg LP's charitable giving division,
Chris Taylor, refused to confirm the gift but did not deny
it, either. "We don't confirm our corporate giving as a
matter of company policy," she said.
Jackson also has invited as keynote speaker New York
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, whose office is responsible
for regulating charitable corporations operating in the
"This has all the appearance of a conflict of interest,"
says Ken Boehm of the National Legal and Policy Center, a
Jackson's groups present "a dog's breakfast of sloppy
accounting," Boehm says. But with Spitzer in Jackson's camp,
don't hold your breath for the AG's office to show any zeal
in investigating complaints against the good Rev.
Kenneth R. Timmerman, author of "Preachers of Hate: Islam
and the War on America," is a senior writer for Insight
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