July 7, 2008
Obama and the Woods Fund of Chicago
Barack Obama served on the board of directors of Woods Fund of Chicago from 1993 to 2001. During that time, the tax exempt foundation made some interesting grants, including one to Obama's church, Trinity United Church of Christ, headed by Rev. Jeremiah Wright at the time. Grants were also made to ACORN, a left wing voter registration group and to a partnership for constructing low income housing. The fund also used Northern Trust for financial services, which is the same company that provided Obama his 2005 mortgage.
In 2001 the board of directors included Obama, William Ayers, the former Weather Underground radical terrorist, and serving as chairman was Howard J. Stanback who headed New Kenwood LLC, a limited liability company founded by now-convicted felon Tony Rezko and Allison Davis, Obama's former boss at the law firm of Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland.
Grant to Obama's Church
The Woods Fund in 2001 awarded a $6,000 grant to Obama's church, Trinity United Church of Christ, headed by his now ex-pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The grant was probably awarded since Obama did not receive his $6,000 director's pay in 2001. He had received $6,000 in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Even though the grant may have been made in lieu of Obama's pay, the Fund's own web page in 2001 states that religious organiztions are not eligible for grant consideration.
The reason for the grant to Obama's church may have been because Obama might have felt bad for not having donated much previously. According to the Obamas' tax returns, they deducted $2350 in charitable donations in the year 2000 and a lesser amount of $1470 in 2001. Their adjusted gross income was $240,000 in 2000 and $270,000 in 2001. According to a Chicago Tribune story, the Trinity United Church of Christ encourages its members to donate 10% of their income, yet the Obamas gave only $400 in 1998 to TUCC. The $6,000 grant may possibly have been made to keep Obama in the good graces of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The tax code apparently allows such contributions.
The grant is especially interesting in view of Obama's sudden conversion to the faith based initiative started by President Bush.
Northern Trust Connection
As reported previously, the Obamas' financed their upscale Hyde Park home in 2005 through a mortgage with Northern Trust and obtained a better than average mortgage rate. Coincidentally, Woods Fund had started using Northern Trust investment services a couple of years earlier. The 2005 Woods Fund 990-PF tax filing shows that the fund paid $105,583 in fees and also participated in a Northern Trust private equity fund. Ayers and Stanback were still on the board of directors at that time so it is possible that one of them was somehow involved in helping Obama choose Northern Trust.
Funding for ACORN
ACORN is well known to readers of AT as a left wing voter registration group which seems to skirt the rules. Woods Fund made annual grants of around $70,000 annually to ACORN from 2001 to 2005 for a total of $355,000. There appears to be no grant to ACORN in 2006.
Investment in Neighborhood Rejuvenation Partners
The Boston Globe has a recent article about Chicago's housing problems including Woods Fund's investment in Neighborhood Rejuvenation Partners (NRP). The Chicago Sun Times has an earlier story about this investment with much more detail. Allison Davis (Obama's former boss) asked Woods Fund to invest $1,000,000 in NRP. Obama voted in favor and Stanback abstained since he worked for Davis as noted above. The Sun Times reports:
City records show Davis used some of the money to build a 72-unit apartment building for senior citizens at 87th and Ashland. The $10 million project -- built with a $5.7 million loan from the city -- netted Davis nearly $700,000 in development fees, city records show. His son Cullen Davis is paid to manage the building, which opened three years ago with a ceremony featuring Mayor Daley.Davis, who's now business partners with Daley's nephew Robert Vanecko, has known Obama for years. Obama began serving on the Woods Fund board in 1993, the same year he was hired as an associate lawyer with Davis' small Chicago law firm, Davis Miner Barnhill. Obama kept working there until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.
Obama voted for the investment, but Stanback abstained because he worked for Davis. Davis has donated $25,000 to Obama's various political campaigns according to the Sun Times.
Obama fact check page is wrong
Obama's fact check web page concerning the Boston Globe article claims that Woods Fund has not actually made any payments to Neighborhood Rejuvenation Partners, yet the 2002 990-PF tax filing shows in fact that Woods Fund has an investment of $408,000. As of 2006, the investment was $908,000 out of $1,000,000 committed. Someone needs to fact check the fact checkers.
One interesting investment Woods Fund made was to purchase shares of Countrywide Financial Corporation stock in 2005. As of 2006, the investment was worth $382,000. At the end of 2006, the stock was selling at $42.50. Today it is $4.25 after the sub prime mortgage fiasco.
Another is Wal-Mart, the company every liberal likes to hate. In 2005, Woods Fund had $327,000 invested in Wal-Mart stock. The investment seems to coincide with the approval for the first Wal-Mart store in Chicago in 2004. It is still remarkable that someone like Ayers would be on the board of a fund investing in the bête noire of liberals.
Obama's long association with the Woods Fund is another chapter in his involvement in left wing ideology and it is one which deserves additional scrutiny. Certainly the many associations of Obama with members of the Chicago political machine are noteworthy. Also Obama's term on the board overlapped three years with Bill Ayers. Since the board met quarterly, Ayers and Obama could have been together at least 12 times.
If someone wants to research more about Woods Fund, their non-profit tax forms from 2001 to 2006 are available onlne here.
Richard Henry Lee is the pseudonym of a retired Illinois state employee.