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Obama and the Woods Fund

As a board member, Obama helped scratch a lot of backs with grants to politically connected groups.

by
Jennifer Rubin

Bio

September 13, 2008 - 12:05 am
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The mainstream media is not much interested in probing Barack Obama’s record before he arrived in the U.S. Senate in 2004. For example, they have studiously ignored the eminently well-researched book by David Freddoso, The Case Against Barack Obama. There is no shortage of material or information which might be relevant to voters. One aspect of Obama’s past in particular provides insight into Obama’s modus operandi in the world of Chicago politics: his service on the board of the Woods Fund.

The Woods Fund is a non-profit foundation which declares its goal to “increase opportunities for less advantaged people and communities by giving money primarily to not-for-profit groups involved in housing, the arts and other areas.” Obama joined the board of the Woods Fund in 1993 and remained until 2002. But Obama didn’t merely use the Woods Fund to help his fellow man — he used it to further his career.

According to a November 29, 2007 report from the Chicago Sun-Times, “Sen. Barack Obama was on the board of a Chicago charity when his former boss, Allison S. Davis, came looking for money. At the time, Davis was a developer represented by the law firm where Obama worked, as well as a small contributor to Obama’s political campaign funds. He wanted the charity to help fund his plans to build housing for low-income Chicagoans.”

When Davis approached the Woods Fund, he was building another apartment building with now convicted felon and Obama friend/fundraiser Tony Rezko. The Chicago Sun-Times recounts: “Obama agreed. He voted with other directors of the Woods Fund of Chicago to invest $1 million with Neighborhood Rejuvenation Partners L.P., a $17-million partnership that Davis still operates.” To date the Obama campaign has refused to comment on whether Obama disclosed his ties to Davis when he voted on the project. Another Woods Board Fund member with ties to Davis did abstain on the vote.

Perhaps the most notorious of the Woods Fund recipients was the Arab American Action Network (AAAN). AAAN was established in 1995 as non-profit group supposedly dedicated to improving the conditions of Arab immigrants in the Chicago area.

But its activities were hardly benign. For example, AAAN sponsored a Palestinian art exhibit on the “Nakba” — that is, the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment in 1948. AAAN’s officials routinely have made statements vilifying Israel. AAAN Board member Ali Abunimah in 2002 declared: “‘By deliberately denying food, water and medical aid, and wantonly destroying public and private property, and deliberately destroying the economy in the occupied territories, Israel is in flagrant breach of this [Geneva] Convention. … Unfortunately, we are seeing the world turn a blind eye to atrocities being committed under its nose.” (Abunimah co-founded and operates the Electronic Intifada, a website replete with anti-Israel slurs and which declares Israel to be an apartheid state.)

On the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of AAAN, announced: “Arafat was a great man. Yes, Arafat was an icon. … We’re saddened by his death, but we don’t ignore the fact that this is not an issue of individuals, it’s an issue of a people who have been oppressed and occupied for 55 years.”

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