Obama/Ayers Update: Debunking the Debunkers – Scott Shane and the New York Times

Now it appears that the New York Times reporter Scott Shane is unwilling to leave well enough alone and is staking a claim to having debunked a myth – no doubt to give rise to a new myth, about Scott Shane.
He sent off yet another explanation of his recent story on the Ayers/Obama relationship to a former New York Times staffer named Charles Kaiser as it is apparent to more and more of the readers of the Times that his story does not hold up.
I sent in an email to Charles Kaiser at Full Court Press in reply as follows:

I suggest you visit my blog for my response to Mr. Shane’s claim to have debunked a theory that I never held. I do not contend that Obama and Ayers met in the 80s and thus Ayers appointed Obama to the CAC board.

Just the opposite: it was because I determined, based on written contemporaneous records of the CAC that Mr. Shane either does not understand or has willfully ignored, that Ayers appointed Obama to the CAC that I have speculated, and it is only speculation, that Ayers knew Obama prior to 1995.

In either case, because Ayers appointed Obama – and he was the only individual (along with his co-founder Anne Hallett) with the legal authority to do so – to the CAC board it means that Obama owed Ayers a huge favor for a big leg up in his young career. And that was followed up by the Ayers hosted launch of Obama’s state senate campaign later in 1995.

Let me know if you have any questions after you have read the blog.

Steve Diamond

Now, let me just recap the highlights of what we know and why the New York Times is likely mistaken. Recall that the Times has said that the Obama campaign was right when it told Stanley Kurtz of National Review that Bill Ayers had “nothing” to do with the recruitment and appointment of Barack Obama to the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.
1) In late 1993 Bill Ayers organized a working group later named the Chicago School Reform Collaborative to develop and submit a proposal to Ambassador Walter Annenberg for a $50 million grant to support Ayers’ approach to school reform in Chicago.
2) The agenda for reform included support for so-called Local School Councils, a controversial watchdog group that could hire and fire school principals, that had been put in place in Chicago in 1988 after an unpopular teachers strike, along with support for what Ayers calls “social justice” approaches to teaching and “small schools” as well as race-based approaches to curriculum in the public schools.
3) In July 1994 Ayers received a grant of $80,000 from the Joyce Foundation headed by Deborah Leff to organize the working group into the Chicago School Reform Collaborative. It appears that this was, legally, an unincorporated nonprofit association which is simply an association of 2 or more persons associating under a common name for a common purpose.
Pursuant to the agreement with Vartan Gregorian, the CSRC began to operate under the direction of a board of directors which first met on March 15, 1995. A new name, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, was used to describe the association. It appears that its legal status continued to be that of an unincorporated non profit association. By laws were drafted to elaborate the relationship between the CAC and the Collaborative by Obama, Arnold Weber, Ayers and Anne Hallett.
The CAC would incorporate as an Illinois non profit corporation two months later and held its first organizational meeting on May 11, 1995. The newly elected President of the Challenge, Barack Obama, was authorized by the board to delegate certain activities to the CSRC.
3) On November 8, 1994 Bill Ayers and Anne Hallet submitted the grant proposal to Vartan Gregorian, President of Brown University, who was Ambassador Annenberg’s representative handling the grant proposal process. The cover letter signed by Ayers and Hallet was on the letterhead of the University of Illinois at Chicago where Ayers taught and stated that the proposal was being submitted by Ayers and Hallett “on behalf of the Chicago School Reform Collaborative.”
That letter is prima facie evidence that Ayers and Hallett were the agents of the Collaborative responsible, at least, for submitting the grant application.
4) On November 18, 1994, Gregorian wrote to Ayers and Hallett expressing strong support for their application and urging them, among other details, “as you compose the board…to engage people who reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of Chicago.”
This letter is additional evidence of the fact that the national Annenberg Challenge recognized Ayers and Hallett as the agents of the CSRC responsible for the recruitment and selection of a board of directors. There are no such letters to any other figures who might have played a role in the board selection process.
5) Ayers and Hallett wrote back to Gregorian on December 1 agreeing that they would form a board of directors that would reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of Chicago.
They pointed out that they were working with other foundation heads in Chicago to help with this process, including Deborah Leff, Patricia Graham and Adele Simmons.
This letter is additional evidence that Ayers and Hallett were the agents of the CSRC for the purpose of recruiting and selecting an appropriate board of directors.
Adele Simmons also wrote to Vartan Gregorian in response to his solicitation of advice from her that Ayers, Hallett, Simmons, Leff and Graham had all met on November 22 and that this group was “constituting a governing board” to oversee the grant, if successful.
This is evidence that Ayers was involved in the process of constituting the board.
A reporter for Education Week who recently interviewed me has told me that Graham said that at that meeting she, Leff and Simmons “were charged with” the responsibility of recruiting board members.  Amazingly, this quote was left out of the Education Week story of the Obama/Ayers connection.
This is, in fact, clear evidence that Ayers and Hallett, as agents of the CSRC, the grant applicant, and thus the only individuals who could have “charged” anyone to do anything on behalf of the CSRC, delegated some authority to Graham, Leff and Simmons to assist in the board selection process.
It would have been a violation of the fiduciary obligation of Ayers and Hallett that they owed to the CSRC to cede to the three presidents of other non-profits their responsibility, confirmed in the letter to and from Gregorian, to select an appropriate board. At a minimum they would have defined the specific qualifications they wanted for board members and would have required feedback during the process.
It is highly likely that at this point Ayers and Hallett defined the characteristics of board members they desired including their commitment made to Gregorian about racial and ethnic diversity, if not the discussion of possible individual candidates.
6) In December, 1995, Bill Ayers negotiated with the Donors Forum to become the fiscal agent of the CSRC. A fiscal agent is required when a non profit association is not a corporation so that the funds provided to the non profit association are channeled through an incorporated non profit in order to provide the protection of limited liability. This was a condition of the receipt of the grant set forth in the letter from Vartan Gregorian to Ayers and it was agreed to by Ayers in his December 1 letter to Gregorian.  This is further evidence that Ayers was the agent of the CSRC responsible for managing its affairs.
6) In January, 1995, the national Annenberg Challenge announced that the application submitted by Ayers and Hallett on behalf of the CSRC was successful.
7) Sometime in early 1995, Deborah Leff told the New York Times, she suggested the name of Barack Obama to Patricia Graham. Graham told the Times she met with Obama and he agreed to become a board member and chair.
This is evidence that, indeed, Leff and Graham were carrying out their instructions from Ayers and Hallett.
8) Sometime after the meeting between Graham and Obama, Ayers and Obama, according to the New York Times had lunch. This is evidence that Ayers, the legal representative of the CSRC, approved of the recommendation from Graham that Obama join the board and become chairman. Only Ayers, and Hallett, could make that decision since they were the only legal representatives of the CSRC.
There is no indication that Ayers objected to Obama’s selection but if there had been Obama could not have become a board member because no one else had sufficient legal authority to impose Obama as a board member against the wishes of the CSRC.
9) After the lunch with Obama, on March 15, 1995, the first board meeting of the new CAC was held with Obama and Ayers both present, further indication that Ayers approved of the choice of Obama since the minutes of the meeting do not indicate any opposition from Ayers to the presence of Obama.
Thus, I conclude on the basis of the evidence available to me that Bill Ayers, and Anne Hallett, were the individuals legally responsible for the appointment of the board members of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The evidence indicates that, as is not at all unusual, they enlisted outside advisors to help with the process, but that, in the end, they made the final decision.
A legal primer on agency law.
1) An agent is a someone who agrees to act on behalf of a principal and is subject to that principal’s control.
2) An agent owes a fiduciary duty to the principal.
3) An agent only has that authority granted to him or her by the principal and thus a principal is only liable for acts carried out by an agent within the scope of the authority of that agent.
In the CAC situation we have a principal in the form of the Chicago School Reform Collaborative and an agent of the CSRC in Bill Ayers and then a sub-agent of Ayers in Leff, Graham and Simmons.  (Vartan Gregorian was an agent of Ambassador Annenberg.)
Thus, it appears on the basis of the evidence available that Ayers had the authority to submit the grant proposal, work to ensure its success, negotiate terms and conditions with Gregorian, select board members, and appoint sub-agents to assist if necessary.  There is no indication that the CSRC attempted to give away its obligation – committed to Gregorian by Ayers on their behalf – to create a board to oversee the grant program.
Thus, whatever Leff, Graham and Simmons think may have happened, as a legal matter, they had no authority whatsoever to appoint members to the CAC board.
Unfortunately, our national paper of record decided not to share with its readers the written evidence that explains this conclusion nor even to mention their existence!