The Obama Watch

Greenwashing 9/11

Green for All's free-for-all, so to speak, all in the name of national service.

By 9.1.09

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From inside the Obama White House, green jobs czar Van Jones has been orchestrating a campaign to greenwash the meaning of 9/11 using federal resources and a political front group he founded, new research suggests.

It is unclear if this is illegal but at a minimum it raises questions about ethics, self-dealing, and the proper use of U.S. government resources.

The group, called Green for All, was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in California on Dec. 11, 2007 by Jones. Green for All is one of two groups involved in a campaign called Green the Block. Green the Block was created "to educate and mobilize communities of color to ensure a voice and stake in the clean-energy economy," according to its website. Jones was also on the board of the Apollo Alliance, a hard-left environmentalist group that is now running large chunks of the Obama administration. The group has acknowledged that it dictated parts of the February stimulus bill to Congress.

In an apparent conflict of interest, Jones, a self-described "communist," presided over the White House endorsement of Green the Block in an online video conference on Aug. 4. Jones touted Green the Block's first major initiative which involved participating in the National Day of Service scheduled for this Sept. 11. He described the day as a great opportunity "for people to connect, to find other people in your peer group who are also passionate about repowering America but also greening up America and cleaning up America."

As I wrote last week, about 60 groups including ACORN, Apollo Alliance, Color of Change, and Rainbow PUSH Coalition are trying to help the Obama administration modify the meaning of 9/11. They want to turn each Sept. 11 into a National Day of Service focused on the importance of bicycle paths, ethanol, carbon emission controls, putting solar panels on your roof, and radical community organizing. It has nothing to do with healing the nation and everything to do with easing the nation along in the ongoing radical transformation of America that President Obama promised during last year's election campaign.

On a White House-sponsored teleconference call Aug. 11 leaders of these groups said that they view Sept. 11 as a "Republican" day because it focuses the public on supposedly "Republican" issues like patriotism, national security, and terrorism. According to liberals, 9/11 was long ago hijacked by Republicans and their enablers and unfairly used to bludgeon helpless Democrats at election time. Shifting the focus of 9/11 from remembrance to environmentalism and community service helps diminish the day as a Republican symbol, they believe.

Although Sept. 11 was designated a "National Day of Service and Remembrance" when President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act into law on April 21, few Americans associate Sept. 11 with the activities envisioned by Green the Block. Americans tend to think of the horrors of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but Green the Block is trying to change that.

Using the language of markets, Green the Block attempts to further the goals of the radical environmentalist left by convincing Americans that the utopian fantasy of an oil-free so-called green economy is possible without turning the U.S. into a Third World country.

"Green the Block is a movement to build a clean-energy economy where everyone has a chance to succeed," said Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All. "That starts with making sure that those who are often left out and left behind -- low-income people and communities of color -- have a voice and a presence in this movement. These communities also need a fair share of the economic, social and environmental benefits this transition is creating."

No IRS Form 990 -- the tax return a nonprofit files -- is yet publicly available for the group, possibly because the group is so new, but some donations to it have been identified.

According to philanthropy databases, Green for All has received charitable contributions from the Kendada Fund ($1 million in 2008), the Schmidt Family Foundation ($125,000 in 2007), the Starfish Group ($100,000 in 2007), and the Susie Tompkins Buell Foundation ($10,000 in 2006). Tompkins Buell is a member of the George Soros-led donors' collaborative known as Democracy Alliance that aims to turn America into a European-style socialist state.

James Rucker, a former MoveOn.org lead organizer, is on the board of directors  of Green for All. Rucker is also, like Jones, a co-founder of Color of Change, the group that is urging an advertiser boycott of Glenn Beck's TV show after the commentator called President Obama a "racist." Rucker is also a co-founder of the Secretary of State Project, a group that aims to elect Democrats across the country to that key state office that presides over elections. The Secretary of State Project has been funded both by Soros and by Tompkins Buell.

Many of the donations to Green for All were passed through another nonprofit Jones founded called the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Such pass-through arrangements are common with small or new nonprofits that have not yet attained tax-exempt status from the IRS.

Major donors to the Ella Baker Center include reliable left-wing funders Nathan Cummings Foundation ($1,125,500 since 2002), George Soros's Open Society Institute ($1,026,800 since 1999), Tides Foundation ($891,168 since 2000), Annie E. Casey Foundation ($558,424 since 2001), and Surdna Foundation ($500,000 since 2001).

The Ella Baker Center is also notable because it was involved in an Oakland, California vigil the day after Sept. 11, 2001, "mourning the victims of U.S. imperialism around the world." The vigil was organized by another group Jones founded called Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM). (For more on the vigil, see my report filed here yesterday.)

Meanwhile, David Paine, president of My Good Deed Inc., a 9/11 families group involved in the upcoming National Day of Service, told me in an interview Monday night that he wishes to make it clear that his group has nothing to do with the Green the Block campaign.

Paine didn't express an opinion on Green the Block but said his group wants the National Day of Service to remain outside the realm of government, adding "We would oppose anything that would make it either political or commercial."

"No one should utilize 9/11 to try and score political points," he said.

Paine said his group is encouraging people voluntarily to serve their communities on Sept. 11 as a way to honor those killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "We're not promoting any particular activity," he said. "This is a free country."

He also stressed that his group, which pushed for a National Day of Service for years, resisted earlier calls to make Sept. 11 a federal holiday.

"We believe volunteerism should be something that people do out of the goodness of their hearts," he said. "Self-directed service: Americans know what needs to be done."

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About the Author

Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative journalist at a conservative watchdog group in Washington, D.C. Vadum is also author of Subversion Inc: How Obama's ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers.