Bill Ayers is just “a guy who lives in my neighborhood....”
Barack Obama, during April 2008 debate
Barack Obama asserted during a Democratic primary debate in April 2008 that Pentagon bomber Bill Ayers was just a guy who lives in his neighborhood. Bill Ayers did indeed live just three blocks from Obama in an upscale Hyde Park neighborhood. However, Obama disingenuously left out the rest of the story. This is another case of appalling dishonesty and deception that characterized his entire political career.
Here’s what Obama left out. Barack and Michelle had a complex 20 year relationship with the Ayers family. The patriarch of the family, Thomas Ayers, was one of the most powerful political brokers in Chicago. Bill Ayers, his son, is a socialist, a terrorist, and a political activist who leveraged his father’s influence to advance the cause of Marxism. Bernardine Dohrn, Bill’s wife, is a socialist and a terrorist who helped lead the violent Weather Underground to riot and murder. All three of them nurtured Barack Obama’s career for two decades.
This chapter documents the entangled relationship between the President of the United States and a dangerous family that has blood on its hands and a frothing commitment to destroy capitalism and the middle class of America. We will begin with a brief biography of the Ayers clan, and then we will explore their involvement with Barack and Michelle Obama.
Thomas Ayers was a wealthy businessman, philanthropist, and social activist. He had so much local clout that he was sometimes referred to as the godfather of Illinois politics. As CEO of Commonwealth Edison (later known as Exelon), he was tightly connected to many powerful figures in Chicago. His influence or support could help elect a mayor, a governor, or a senator.
Tom Ayers served on the boards of philanthropies that had combined assets exceeding $5 billion. He helped direct how they spent their money. He leveraged this powerful network to manipulate political outcomes in Chicago.
The resume of Tom Ayers is a testament to his connections with the sociopolitical elites of Chicago. He became President of the giant utility, Commonwealth Edison, in 1964, and was Chairman and CEO from 1973 to 1980. He continued to exert influence over the utility until his death in 2007. He served on numerous corporate boards, including Sears, G.D. Searle, Zenith, Northwest Industries, General Dynamics, First National Bank of Chicago, the Chicago Cubs, and the Tribune Company. He was Chairman of several boards, including the Chicago Urban League, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bank Street College of Education in New York, the Chicago Community Trust, and Northwestern University Board of Trustees.
He was also connected with the Daley political machine in Chicago, and was Vice President of the Chicago Board of Education. He used these and other corporate and philanthropic connections to nurture the career of his radical son, and then the career of Barack Obama. He was steadfastly protective of the destructive political activities of his prodigal son, his criminal daughter-in-law, and their radical associates. John Ayers, Bill’s brother, said, “Our father always stood by us. He was an establishment guy, but he believed in us. He believed in change.” As we shall see shortly, Bill Ayers is a man that only a father or fellow radicals could love.
William Ayers was born in 1944 in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. He went to the University of Michigan, Bank Street College of Education, and Teachers College of Columbia University. He earned an M.Ed and an Ed.D., and now works as a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
At the University of Michigan, his career took a radical turn toward violence and crime when he joined the socialist Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). As the conflict in Vietnam deepened, the anti-war SDS grew quickly. By 1968, it had 300 chapters on college campuses with a combined membership of 100,000. Ayers became increasingly influential in the SDS as the group engaged in anti-war violence in Chicago and on college campuses. During the 1969 “Days of Rage” riots accompanying the trial of the Chicago Seven, 287 SDS protesters were arrested and 59 police officers were injured.
Ayers and wealthy girlfriend Diana Oughton became leaders of a militant regional faction of the SDS called the “Jesse James Gang.” Ayers described the Gang as “the arms of liberation inside the monster,” and said, “We are tired of tiptoeing up to society and asking for reform. We’re ready to kick it.” The Detroit-based faction eventually morphed into the Weatherman, a name taken from the Dylan song Subterranean Homesick Blues (“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”). During the June 1969 SDS national convention in Chicago, the Weatherman surreptitiously took control of the group, even though they were the smallest faction. They snuck off to a separate location and essentially declared their faction to be in charge of the SDS.
In December 1969, the Weatherman declared “war on AmeriKKKa” at a War Council in Flint, Michigan. They believed that the American system was irredeemable and that revolutionary war against the U.S. Government and capitalism should begin immediately. They wanted to create a “white fighting force” to collaborate with the “Black Liberation Movement” to accomplish the “destruction of U.S. imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism.” Ayers called the group “an American Red Army.” John Jacobs, a Weatherman leader, said, “We’re against everything that is ‘good and decent.’” They likened themselves to the barbarians who destroyed decadent Rome.
FBI informant Larry Grathwohl reported that the Weatherman planned to build reeducation camps in the American Southwest, with the assistance of foreign communist regimes. “Diehard capitalists” who resisted the revolution would be murdered. According to Grathwohl, they estimated that 25 million Americans would have to be killed. Ayers declared, “Kill all of the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home; kill your parents….” Ayers was called “one of the chief theoreticians of the Weatherman” by the New York Times in 1970.
The group became fugitives after being indicted for the “Days of Rage” riots, and changed their name to the Weather Underground. They went on a bombing spree to foment their revolution. During a three year span, they bombed the New York City Police Headquarters, the Capitol Building, and the Pentagon. When the spree was over, they were responsible for 30 bombings at government sites. The human toll included five fatalities and scores of injuries. Three Weather Underground terrorists were killed when a nail bomb they were assembling for an attack on Fort Dix exploded in a Greenwich Village townhouse. Ayers’s girlfriend, Diana Oughton, was one of the casualties.
Ayers was a cold, calculating terrorist. In his words, “Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon. The sky was blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them.” During the planning for a bombing in San Francisco, FBI informant Grathwohl objected to the proposed placement of the bomb because it would kill innocent people. Ayers replied, “We can’t protect all the innocent people in the world. Some will get killed. Some of us will get killed. We have to accept that fact.” He dismissed Grathwohl’s sentimentality as “unrevolutionary.” According to Grathwohl, Ayers “seemed self-important, a controller of subordinates, the type who loved to give orders.”
Grathwohl also reported that the Weather Underground considered kidnapping politicians such as Spiro Agnew and Henry Kissinger to facilitate their communist revolution. The group helped spring narcotics guru Timothy Leary from prison and arranged for his transport to Algiers.
During his fugitive years with the Weather Underground, Ayers lived in 15 states. He hid in safe houses and experimented sexually as the radicals tried “smashing monogamy.” His sexual partners included his best male friend. Drug use, including LSD, was prevalent in the Weather Underground.
While a fugitive, Ayers coauthored the book Prairie Fire with Bernardine Dohrn and other Weather Underground members. The book was dedicated to, among others, Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted assassin of Robert F. Kennedy. In the book, the authors wrote, “We are a guerrilla organization. We are communist men and women, underground in the United States….”
Bernardine Dohrn became Ayers’s girlfriend after Oughton’s brutal death. The two fugitives changed locations, changed jobs, adopted multiple aliases, and eventually got married. They came out of hiding and surrendered to police in 1980. However, the charges against them were dropped because of wiretapping improprieties. A reasonable suspicion is that Thomas Ayers used his influence to clear the way for his son and daughter-in-law to surrender without consequences. At the end of the saga, Bill Ayers declared, “Guilty as sin, free as a bird, America is a great country.”
After rejoining mainstream society, Ayers prepared himself to work within the system to achieve socialism in America. He enrolled at Bank Street College of Education in New York, and then Teachers College at Columbia University, eventually earning a Master’s degree and a Doctorate in Education. He began working for the University of Illinois at Chicago and is now a Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar.
Ayers specializes in public school reform in Chicago, which is unfortunate for middle-class Chicago school children and their parents. It may have been safer for America when he was bombing buildings rather than perverting the minds of a new generation. Ayers is a strong proponent of radicalizing schools. According to Sol Stern of the Manhattan Institute, “Instead of planting bombs in public buildings, Ayers now works to indoctrinate America’s future teachers in the revolutionary cause, urging them to pass on the lessons to their public school students.”
Ayers has a six-figure income and lives in a lavish Hyde Park home. This is an incredible turn of fortune for a bomb-setting terrorist who was a fugitive from the FBI for eleven years. His remarkable rehabilitation would have been impossible without his powerful father. For example, Tom Ayers was a board member of Bank Street College of Teaching where Bill began his rehabilitation and prepared for his career in education. For all of Bill’s professed Marxist hatred of wealth in America, he is a spoiled beneficiary of it. In spite of this, he did not lose his radical edge. He still publicly defends his Weather Underground bombing spree, and he has suggested that they didn’t do enough.
Bernardine Rae Dohrn was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1942. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 1963 and from the University of Chicago School of Law in 1967. She met Bill Ayers in 1967 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She was a member of the SDS who spoke and dressed flamboyantly. She worked for the National Lawyers Guild, a group that was accused by the FBI of being a communist front.
During the Vietnam War, Dohrn connected with Castro’s Cuban delegation at the U.N. She arranged for SDS groups to visit Havana as part of the infamous “Venceremos Brigade” to help Cubans with sugar harvests and to learn revolutionary tactics.  The FBI reported that the “Brigade” assisted the Vietnamese and Cubans to “bring war home” to America. Some “brigadistas” learned how to assemble bombs, a skill they later employed with great effect. Dohrn and others met with Viet Cong representatives in Hungary to discuss antiwar strategy. Her influence grew in the SDS and she organized the October 1969 “Days of Rage” riots in Chicago.
At the December 1969 Weatherman War Council meeting in Flint, Michigan, Dohrn uttered some of the most disturbing comments imaginable. Actress Sharon Tate, who was 8½ months pregnant, had recently been murdered by the Manson cult. Tate was found with a carving fork protruding from her swollen abdomen. Dohrn celebrated the slaughter by shouting, "Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into a victim’s stomach! Wild!" She praised the psychopath Manson as a true “revolutionary,” giving him a three-fingered “fork salute.” Echoing Manson’s “Helter Skelter” call for a race war, she declared, “the best thing that we can be doing for ourselves, as well as for the Panthers and the Revolutionary Black Liberation Struggle, is to build a fucking white revolutionary movement.” She and the War Council issued a declaration of war against “AmeriKKKa,” which she frequently spelled with three K’s to highlight U.S. racism.
During the War Council, the 400 participants sang songs like “Communism is What We Do,” “I’m Dreaming of a White Riot,” and “We Need a Red Party.” They also chanted “Sirhan Sirhan power!,” “Charlie Manson power!,” and “Red Army power!” The meeting hall was adorned with large banners of Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, and Malcolm X. One wall was papered with posters of murdered Black Panther Fred Hampton. An enormous cardboard machine gun dangled from the ceiling.
Dohrn broadcast the group’s declaration of war against America on KPFK radio, declaring: “If you want to find us, this is where we are. In every tribe, commune, dormitory, farmhouse, barracks and townhouse where kids are making love, smoking dope, and loading guns.” In another communiqué, Dohrn warned, “Guard your planes. Guard your colleges. Guard your banks. Guard your children. Guard your doors.”
In 1970, after the explosion at the Greenwich Village townhouse, Dohrn skipped her “Days of Rage” trial. She participated in the Weather Underground spree of bombings in the early 1970’s. According to FBI informant Grathwohl, Dohrn planted a shrapnel-filled pipe bomb in a San Francisco Police station in February 1970 that killed one officer and partially blinded another. No one was formally charged with the crime, although the FBI was reportedly close to indicting Ayers and Dohrn before the couple surrendered. J. Edgar Hoover called Dohrn “la Pasionaria of the Lunatic Left” and put her on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. 
When Ayers and Dohrn surrendered in 1980, the federal charges against them were dismissed. Dohrn pled guilty to state charges related to the “Days of Rage” riots. She was fined $1,500 and given three years probation. This was remarkably weak punishment for a woman who J. Edgar Hoover described as “the most dangerous woman in America.” When she surrendered, she declared, “I remain committed to the struggle ahead. I regret not at all our efforts to side with the forces of liberation.”
However, Dohrn’s legal troubles did not end there. She was later jailed for seven months when she stonewalled a federal grand jury investigating a 1981 armored-car robbery that was carried out by remnants of the Weather Underground. The grand jury demanded a handwriting sample from her, because she was suspected of renting the getaway cars. Two police officers and a security guard were killed during the crime. Weather Underground members Kathy Boudin, David Gilbert, and Susan Rosenberg eventually went to prison for their roles in it. The robbery took place in New York City, where Ayers, Boudin, Gilbert, Dohrn, and Barack Obama were living at the time.
Dohrn has been unable to practice law since she returned to normal society because of her criminal record. She is, however, a Clinical Associate Professor at Northwestern School of Law, and an adjunct faculty member of the University of Illinois at Chicago, where Bill Ayers works. Coincidentally, Thomas Ayers was at one time the Chairman of the Northwestern University Board of Trustees, which might explain how Dohrn landed her associate professorship there. Tom Ayers was a gift that kept on giving for his son and daughter-in-law.
Ayers and Dohrn adopted and raised Chesa Boudin, the son of terrorists Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, who were unable to parent because of their incarceration for the armored-car robbery and related murders. Today, both Chesa Boudin and Bill Ayers are working with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, a Marxist, to “improve” the education system there. Ayers and Dohrn named their first biological son “Malik” after Malcolm X and their second son “Zayd” after Zayd Shakur. Shakur was a Black Panther who was killed in a firefight with police that left an officer dead.
It is important to note that Ayers and Dohrn were avowed Marxists. Presented below are quotes from them that originated in the book Prairie Fire and a Dohrn article entitled Our Class Struggle that she wrote for a Weather Underground newsletter.
“We are building a communist organization to be part of the forces which build a revolutionary communist party to lead the working class to seize power and build socialism….The struggle for Marxism-Leninism is the most significant development in our recent history....We discovered thru our own experiences what revolutionaries all over the world have found — that Marxism-Leninism is the science of revolution, the revolutionary ideology of the working class, our guide to the struggle."
“We are a guerrilla organization. We are communist women and men…deeply affected by the historic events of our time in the struggle against U.S. imperialism….Our intention is to disrupt the empire, to incapacitate it, to put pressure on the cracks, to make it hard to carry out its bloody functioning against the people of the world, to join the world struggle, to attack from the inside….We need a revolutionary communist party in order to lead the struggle, give coherence and direction to the fight, seize power and build the new society….The only path to the final defeat of imperialism and the building of socialism is revolutionary war.”
Mark Rudd, a fellow SDS member with Ayers and Dohrn, wrote a pamphlet titled Columbia that described the SDS takeover of the Columbia University campus in 1968. In it, he wrote, “It was no accident that we hung up pictures of Karl Marx and Malcolm X and Che Guevara and flew red flags from the tops of two buildings.” The pamphlet quoted Communist Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung: “Dare to struggle, dare to win.”
In a 1995 interview, Ayers said: “I am a radical, Leftist, small ‘c’ communist….Maybe I’m the last communist who is willing to admit it.” According to Ayers, “Socialism is the total opposite of capitalism/imperialism. It is the rejection of empire and white supremacy. Socialism is the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the eradication of the social system based on profit….Socialism means control of the productive forces for the good of the whole community instead of the few who live on hilltops and in mansions. Socialism means priorities based on human need instead of corporate greed.”
Ayers has a memento from his days as an anti-war terrorist. Vietnamese communists gave him a ring made from an American plane shot down over North Vietnam. He was so moved that he “left the room to cry.” According to Ayers, he realized then that America was evil.
Let’s examine the 20-year relationship between Barack Obama and the Ayers family. From the outset, it is difficult to imagine Obama describing a suspected murderer, a terrorist, a communist, and an anti-American radical as “just another guy in the neighborhood,” but I suppose that depends on what kind of neighborhood you frequent. Let’s look inside Mr. Obama’s neighborhood.
Obama was first exposed to the radical world of Bill Ayers at Occidental College in California. He mingled with the Students for Economic Democracy (SED), a group headed by former SDS founder and compatriot of Ayers, Tom Hayden. Obama’s first public speech, a critique of South African apartheid, was at an event sponsored by SED.
It is unclear when Obama, Ayers, and Dohrn first met, but there were numerous opportunities for these three socialists to link up when Obama transferred to Columbia University in New York City in 1981.
According to Obama, he continued to protest South African apartheid through the Black Students Organization at Columbia. At roughly the same time, remnants of the Weather Underground were also involved in protests against apartheid around New York City. When Obama was living in New York, Ayers was at Bank Street College of Education and at Teachers College of Columbia University. Bank Street College is 371 yards from Columbia, where Obama studied. Weather Underground terrorists David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin lived in the same part of New York as Obama. Dohrn lived four blocks away. Weather Underground terrorists Dianne Donghi, Jeff Jones, and Mark Rudd were all former members of the Columbia University SDS chapter. Weather Underground members were captured after a dramatic Brinks armored car robbery and chase that ended in three deaths right in the city. Bill Ayers would likely have attended the annual Socialist Scholars Conference at nearby Cooper Union College, which Obama said he attended in Dreams from My Father. It is reasonable to assume that the politically active Obama, already familiar with Hayden’s SED, would have been keenly aware of the highly visible SDS and Weather Underground presence in and around his home and university. 
Perhaps Frank Marshall Davis connected Obama with Bill Ayers. Davis was allegedly acquainted with Thomas Ayers from his own radical days in Chicago. Davis certainly had a connection to the Ayers family via the family of Valerie Jarrett, who has been a close friend of Barack and Michelle for at least two decades and who is now a senior adviser to the President.
The Jarrett family and the Ayers family were connected over the course of two generations. Jarrett’s mother, Professor Barbara Taylor Bowman, co-founded the Erikson Institute in Chicago. The board Chairman of the institute was Thomas Ayers. Bernardine Dohrn was a board member. Valerie Jarrett’s father-in-law, Vernon Jarrett, was a noted Chicago Sun-Times columnist. According to political activist Trevor Loudon, Vernon worked in the late 1940’s in the South Side Community Art Center and on the Chicago Defender newspaper, a journal sympathetic to communist causes. Frank Marshall Davis also worked at the Art Center and the Chicago Defender. Davis and Jarrett collaborated as officials of a citizens’ sub-committee supporting a CIO labor union strike. The Davis-Jarrett-Ayers connection was a possible catalyst for the relationship between Obama and Bill Ayers.
Obama refuses to release his Columbia University records. Perhaps they indicate that he was in a seminar that Ayers or Dohrn presented at, or that he and Ayers attended the same class as students (Bank Street College collaborates with Columbia). Obama studied under Edward Said, the left-wing Columbia professor who was friends with Ayers and Dohrn, so perhaps Obama’s records point to something there.
It is clear, though, that Obama met Ayers and Dohrn at this point, based on later events that would make no sense unless they had previously connected. For example, Obama eventually interned at the same Chicago law firm, Sidley & Austin, where Dohrn had worked. One of Sidley’s major clients was the utility company that Thomas Ayers ran. Out of all of the law firms in the U.S., it is an almost impossible coincidence that Obama would end up interning at the same one that Dohrn and Thomas Ayers were involved with, unless there was already some relationship between Obama and the Ayers family.
From 1984 to 1988, Dohrn worked as a legal clerk at Sidley & Austin in their New York and Chicago offices (she transferred when she and Bill Ayers moved from New York to Chicago in 1987). Howard Trienens, a managing partner of the law firm, said that he hired Dohrn as a favor to his fellow Northwestern University trustee and classmate, Tom Ayers. He said, “We often hire friends.” Trienens succeeded Ayers as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Northwestern University. Ayers’s firm, Commonwealth Edison, used Trienens at Sidley as a legal counsel for years.
Sidley & Austin was the law firm where Michelle Robinson, Obama’s future wife, began work in 1988. Michelle worked in the area of entertainment law and intellectual property at the law firm. She mentored Obama in the summer of 1989, after his first year at Harvard Law School. Howard Trienens hired Obama as an intern, even though it was rare for big law firms to hire first year law students. It seems likely that either Thomas Ayers, a major client of Sidley and connected to Frank Marshall Davis, or Bernardine Dohrn, a former employee of Sidley and recently arrived from Obama’s locale in New York City, recommended that Sidley hire Obama.
As we saw in the last chapter, it appears that Thomas Ayers helped Obama get into Harvard, which would make no sense unless they already knew each other. Ayers collaborated on business and philanthropic efforts with Black Panther Dr. Khalid al-Mansour, who Percy Sutton reported was soliciting funds and letters of recommendation to help Obama get into Harvard. Coincidentally, the Weather Underground, according to a claim by Bernardine Dohrn, firebombed the home and car of a New York judge named Murtagh who was presiding over the “Black Panther 21” trial in the early 1970’s. Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn knew al-Mansour when he was Donald Warden. At one point, Ayers, Dohrn, and Warden hid from the FBI together in San Francisco.
Another associate of Tom Ayers, John L. McKnight, wrote a letter of recommendation to Harvard for Obama.  McKnight, a Saul Alinsky admirer, was a Northwestern University professor when Tom Ayers was Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Northwestern University.
An eye witness reported that Obama was involved with the Ayers family shortly after he graduated from Columbia in the mid 1980’s. According to Political Scientist Steve Diamond, a U.S. Postal worker claimed that Obama periodically visited the residence of Tom and Mary Ayers in Glen Ellyn, a suburb of Chicago. Allen Hulton, the mail carrier who serviced the Ayers residence for years, had numerous conversations with Mary Ayers. Such conversations would have been quite natural, because Hulton had graduated from the same high school as Tim Ayers, a son of Tom and Mary. In one of the conversations, Hulton claimed “Mrs. Ayers told me that her family had been helping out a brilliant young black man.”
Hulton claimed that he encountered Obama outside the Ayers residence one afternoon and that he chatted with him for a while. According to Hulton, Obama said he had come to thank the Ayers’s for helping with his education. Hulton also said he occasionally ran into Bernardine Dohrn, who was living with the Ayers’s at the time.
Hulton claimed Mary Ayers said that she and Tom communicated in code with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn when they were fugitives. He also said that when he complained about senior management at the Post Office, Tom Ayers commented about “the struggle between the common man and those with means or power,” which Hulton thought sounded Marxist.
After graduating from Harvard as President of the Harvard Law Review, Obama could have gone to any legal firm in the country. He received advice from noted judges to pursue law clerkships that would culminate in a Supreme Court assignment. Instead, he chose to work for a small Chicago civil rights law firm with ties to the Ayers family. In 1991, Judson Miner of the Chicago law firm Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland offered Obama a job. Miner was a law school classmate and fellow anti-war activist with Bernardine Dohrn at the University of Chicago. Obama joined Miner’s firm in 1993 after a brief stint working for ACORN’s Project Vote.
Miner served as legal counsel to Chicago’s mayor Harold Washington, from 1984 to 1987. Coincidentally, Valerie Jarrett, the long-time friend of Michelle and Barack Obama, also served as legal counsel for Harold Washington. Jarrett and Dohrn may both have been influential in arranging Obama’s hire at Miner’s law firm. As we shall see in the next chapter, the law firm of Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland connected Obama with Antoin Rezko and Allison Davis, both of whom later drew Obama into spurious real estate ventures.
Obama collaborated with organizations led by Bill and Tom Ayers that were focused on education reform in Chicago. The reform movement began in 1987 after a strike by the teachers’ union. Bill Ayers was involved in the effort though the Alliance for Better Chicago Schools (ABC’s), which he later chaired. This alliance included the Developing Communities Project, which Barack Obama led at the time. The alliance also included Chicago United, which Thomas Ayers led.
These school reform efforts in Chicago got off to a rough start, so philanthropist Walter Annenberg stepped in to assist Thomas Ayers and other civic leaders. As part of a broader nationwide $500 million initiative headquartered at Brown University, Annenberg offered a $49.2 million grant for a five-year program called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), which was intended to improve student achievement. In 1994, Bill Ayers set up and chaired the Chicago School Reform Collaborative (CSRC) to develop a grant proposal for Annenberg. The CSRC was eventually awarded the money to launch the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.
Ayers and the CSRC hired Barack Obama in 1995 to be the Chairman of the newly formed CAC. Ayers and the CSRC had been instructed by Brown University President Vartan Gregorian to “engage people who reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of Chicago” when staffing the CAC board. Ken Rolling of the Woods fund, which had funded Obama’s earlier stint as the head of the DCP, was recruited to be Executive Director. Obama was chairman of the CAC until 1999 and a member of the board until 2001.
It is unlikely that Ayers would have selected Obama out of millions of Chicagoans to lead this major project if they did not already know each other well. At the time, Obama was an unknown associate at a small law firm, and could hardly have been considered an expert on education reform. The board of the CAC featured several university presidents, including Stanley Ikenberry of the University of Illinois, who said, “It was unusual: here you had a person trained in the law chairing a board on school reform.” Clearly, Ayers must have had a significant relationship with Obama. It is hard to explain his preferential hire of Obama for the prestigious CAC position otherwise.
Ayers and Obama worked together for five years disbursing the original $49.2 million in seed money and raising perhaps as much as another $100 million from local philanthropies and businesses, often leveraging connections made by Thomas Ayers.  The money was used to continue the radical school reform projects that Ayers, Obama, and others had started during the ABC’s collaboration years earlier.
Ayers and Obama ran the CAC and related sub-projects out of third floor offices in a building at 115 S. Sangamon Street in Chicago, so it is reasonable to conclude that they got to know each other pretty well. One of the projects funded by the CAC was the Small Schools Workshop (SSW), which was started by Bill Ayers in 1992. The CAC directed nearly one million dollars to this project.  This was an amazingly clever and incestuous arrangement. Thomas Ayers and friends set up a philanthropic operation (the CAC), Bill Ayers ran the oversight committee (the CSRC), Obama was hired to run the CAC, and then Obama gave $1 million from the CAC to another Bill Ayers project (the SSW). That arrangement has “scam” written all over it. It also has all of the earmarks of a very personal relationship.
As Obama funneled money to Ayers for the Small Schools Workshop, Ayers hired Michael Klonsky, a former SDS member and founder of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party, to help run it. Mike’s wife, Susan Klonsky, a former member of the SDS, was also recruited to help on the project.
During their CAC collaboration, Ayers and Obama funneled money to other organizations focused on radicalizing students, parents, and teachers. Reporter Stanley Kurtz wrote, “Instead of funding schools directly, it (the CAC) required schools to affiliate with ‘external partners’, which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as ACORN.”
The CAC’s radical reform efforts in Chicago were similar to what Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez is doing with education in Venezuela. Coincidentally, Ayers is on the board of a Venezuelan think tank that is radicalizing education in Venezuela. He made at least four visits to Caracas to assist Chavez’s education reform efforts. During his 2006 visit, he told Chavez, “We share the belief that education is the motor-force of revolution….Teaching invites transformations, it urges revolutions small and large. La educacion es revolucion!”
Ayers’s adopted son, Chesa Boudin, is also assisting education reform in Venezuela. Boudin was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 2002 at the University of Chicago. Barack Obama wrote a personal letter of reference to Dennis Hutchinson, a fellow professor at the University of Chicago, in support of Boudin’s scholarship application. This implies that Obama not only knew Bill Ayers well, he knew his son Chesa well enough to be an effective personal reference.
Ayers and Obama collaborated to run the CAC and to coordinate the flow of its money to radical organizations. It is beyond incredible that Obama would later publicly claim that he barely knew Ayers. In addition to their CAC collaboration, they also appeared together on various academic panels. They appeared at the University of Illinois for a 2002 discussion called, “Intellectuals: Who Needs Them?” They also appeared on a panel at the University of Chicago Medical Center for a 1997 discussion called, “Should a child ever be called a ‘super predator?’” This panel discussion was coordinated by Michelle Obama.
There is still no clear accounting of how Ayers and Obama disbursed the CAC money vacuumed up from Walter Annenberg, Thomas Ayers, and others. The CAC files, accumulated in 132 boxes, were prevented from being released to reporters until Ken Rolling, an Executive Director of the CAC, had an opportunity to “review” the files.
The CAC did not accomplish anything significant, according to a University of Chicago team paid to assess the impact of their efforts. The conclusion of the team’s 250 page report was that six years of CAC spending and activity had no impact. Schools that were assisted by the CAC did not have better test results than schools that didn’t get CAC help. There was “no Annenberg effect,” according to the report. The audit stated: “There were no statistically significant differences in student achievement between Annenberg schools and demographically similar non-Annenberg schools.”
From 1999 to 2002, the two men who barely knew each other were fellow board members of the Woods Fund. Barack had been a member since 1993, and Ayers joined him in 1999. The Woods Fund granted money to leftist organizations such as the Midwest Academy, the Tides Foundation, the Arab American Action Network, and ACORN. Other notable recipients included Jeremiah Wright and the Northwestern University Law School Children and Family Justice Center, where former terrorist Bernardine Dohrn works.
One of the recipients of Woods Fund largesse, the Midwest Academy (MA), was co-founded by Paul Booth, former National Secretary of the SDS and a trainee of Saul Alinsky’s IAF. The MA, which received $100,000 in grants from the Woods Fund, describes itself as “one of the nation’s oldest and best known schools for community organizations, citizen organizations, and individuals committed to progressive social change.”
The Woods Fund was established by the Woods family, which owned the Sahara Coal Company, a major supplier to Commonwealth Edison, which was coincidentally headed by Thomas Ayers. Coincidentally, the Woods Fund financed Obama’s community organizer job at the Developing Communities Project in 1985. Coincidentally, the Woods Fund appointed Bill Ayers to its Board of Directors along with Obama. Coincidentally, the Woods Fund granted funds to Bernardine Dohrn’s university department and to a law school classmate of Dohrn’s. Since the Woods Fund board met quarterly, and since the membership of Ayers and Obama on the board overlapped three years, the two men would have been in at least twelve board meetings together. But, Bill Ayers was just another guy in Obama’s neighborhood.
In 1995, Barack Obama ran for Illinois State Senator. The kick-off of his campaign was held in the home of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. The event was coordinated by Alice Palmer, the incumbent State Senator who was vacating the seat. She had handpicked Obama as the candidate to replace her. She arranged the meet-and-greet to introduce Obama to potential supporters. Palmer, a Marxist, probably recognized the affinity between her radical politics, the politics of the former SDS members who attended the party, and the radical inclinations of young Obama.
Dr. Quentin Young, the family physician of Ayers and Dohrn and an SDS sympathizer who visited North Vietnam in 1972, attended the party. He said, “I can remember being one of a small group of people who came to Bill Ayers' house to learn that Alice Palmer was stepping down from the senate and running for Congress....It was a small group, half a dozen.”  Young subsequently contributed to Obama’s campaign. Maria Warren, another attendee, wrote on her blog, “When I first met Barack Obama, he was giving a standard, innocuous little talk in the living room of those two legends-in-their-own-minds, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. They were launching him—introducing him to the Hyde Park community as the best thing since sliced bread.”
Obama continued consorting with the Ayers family during his political career. He worked with Bill Ayers at the CAC while he was an Illinois State Senator. He also worked with Thomas Ayers and his son, John Ayers, on the Leadership Council of the Chicago Public Education Fund (CPEF). Obama was on this council from 2001 to 2004, overlapping service with the two Ayers’s. The CPEF was the organization that the CAC turned its assets over to when it expired.
Obama was a board member of the Joyce Foundation from 1994 to 2002. The Joyce Foundation funneled $600,000 to the CPEF, which Tom and John Ayers were involved in. It also funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Leadership for Quality Education, which was an umbrella group for another project that both John and Bill Ayers worked on. In total, millions of dollars were funneled to projects involving the Ayers family from philanthropic foundations that Obama was a board member of.
When Obama ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and the Presidency in 2008, he used David Axelrod to help with his campaigns. Axelrod was a lobbyist for Commonwealth Edison, which Thomas Ayers led.  According to anti-terrorism officer Larry Johnson, Axelrod regularly coached Bill Ayers during Obama’s campaigns on how to respond to questions about his relationship with Barack.
In 1997, Ayers published a book titled A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of the Juvenile Court. It blamed American society for the behavior of criminals, and compared the American justice system to South Africa under apartheid. Obama endorsed the cover, describing the book as “A searing and timely account of the juvenile court system, and the courageous individuals who rescue hope from despair.”
When revelations about Ayers began to reflect badly on Obama’s political career, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a story titled “Who is Bill Ayers?” The article suggested that the relationship between Ayers and Obama was benign, and that Ayers had reformed. The source in the article said, “What Bill Ayers…did forty years ago has nothing to do with” Obama’s presidential run. The source lauded Ayers’s work in public education.
The source in the article was Marilyn Katz, an Obama supporter and former SDS member. Katz was in charge of SDS security during the 1968 Chicago riots. William Frapolly, an undercover police officer, testified that Katz trained rioters on how to use SDS weapons: “She had two types. One was a cluster of nails that were sharpened at both ends, and they were fastened in the center….She said these were good for throwing or putting underneath tires. She showed another set that was the same type of nails sharpened at both ends, but they were put through a Styrofoam cylinder.” Katz’s arsenal also included bags of human excrement and cans of urine.
Katz served on Obama’s national finance committee and was listed as a “bundler” on his website committed to raising $100,000. She hosted fundraisers for him in her home and personally donated thousands of dollars to his campaign. She also helped organize the now-famous October 2002 antiwar rally in Chicago where Barack Obama publicly opposed war in Iraq. Katz once said she supported “sexual freedom and a democratic socialist paradise.”
What should we make of Katz’s assertion that what Bill Ayers did 40 years ago meant nothing in the context of Barack Obama’s political career? We should conclude that her statement is rubbish. Ayers and Dohrn started their bombing spree 40 years ago. They did not surrender to authorities until 1980, at which point Obama was already politically active and involved with an offshoot of the SDS. When Obama moved to New York City, the Weather Underground gang was all there, right in his neighborhood. Remnants of the gang were involved in anti-apartheid protests, just like Obama was.
What should we make of Katz’s assertion that William Ayers is now a reformed citizen? Is it true that he has changed since his days as a terrorist, a Marxist, and an anti-American activist? Let’s review the public record. Ayers was pictured trampling an American flag on a cover of the Chicago Magazine. The related 2001 article was titled “No Regrets.” In a 2001 New York Times interview, he said he was unrepentant for his violence: “I don’t regret setting bombs….I feel we didn’t do enough.” He also said that the notion of the United States as a decent place “makes me want to puke.”
In 2007, Ayers and Dohrn spoke at a reunion of SDS members. Ayers praised the rebelliousness of the SDS and quoted communist heroes. Dohrn called the U.S. the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world” and said that she was living in “the belly of the beast” and “the heart of the monster.” According to Ayers’s own blog, he was still carrying his SDS card in his wallet when he participated in a 2005 antiwar rally with Cindy Sheehan.
In 2007, Dohrn said she wants to “remove capitalism, that evil thing that it is...he is…she is.” In a 2003 article for the Marxist periodical Monthly Review, she lauded domestic and foreign protests against American anti-terrorist security measures as a “resistance” to U.S. imperialism. The Obama presidential campaign, unfazed by such anti-American rhetoric, defended Ayers and Dohrn in 2008 as “respectable fixtures of the mainstream in Chicago.”
Ayers and Dohrn released a new book in February 2009 titled Race Course against White Supremacy. They discretely waited until after the election and inauguration of Obama before releasing the book.
On January 20, 2009, Bill Ayers was “overflowing with happiness, relief, love” when he and Bernardine and thousands of Chicagoans celebrated Obama’s inauguration in Grant Park. Ayers and Dohrn spoke with an NBC reporter near the site of their 1969 “Days of Rage” riots. “I couldn’t stop crying a couple of times. I found the exact spot where I was beaten 40 years ago,” Ayers said. They were perhaps celebrating the manifestation of a prophecy Dohrn made in 2006: “Stay vigilant. The light will come.” It is certainly illustrative that Ayers connected SDS riots in 1969 with Obama’s inauguration in 2009. He connected two very big dots.
The Ayers’s were celebrating two decades of purposeful nurturing of Obama’s career. The Ayers family helped enable Obama’s Harvard education, hired him into numerous jobs, worked with him on various boards, used their home to kick off his political career, and made connections for him in Illinois politics. Their nurturing built a foundation that helped a relatively unknown Chicago radical to suddenly become President. The 40-year-old vision of SDS radicals to take over America finally came to fruition with the election of Obama as President. This was an impressive accomplishment by Bill Ayers, who otherwise was “just a guy in the neighborhood.”
One can imagine Ayers’s vicarious thrill, in light of his youthful dreams to lead a revolution in America, seeing that his protégé was now in a position to do just that. Ironically, Obama’s campaign logo, the blue oval with stripes on the ground, vaguely resembles the Weatherman logo with its semi-circle rainbow and lightning bolt.  This logo is tattooed on Ayers’s neck and also appeared on the dust jacket of his book Fugitive Days.  The Weatherman logo resembles the lightning bolt in a circle logo of the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists (1935 to 1940). 
What are we to think of this intimate 20-year relationship between the President of the United States and terrorists who declared war on “AmeriKKKa”, bombed the Pentagon, and cheered when the Manson clan slaughtered Sharon Tate? What are we to make of the deeply intertwined lives and careers of Barack and Michelle Obama with a nefarious couple who continue to advocate Marxian destruction of private property and the middle class? And what are we to think of a President who blatantly lied about the extent of these relationships in order to deceive American voters, with the help of a complicit media?
Based on what we’ve seen in previous chapters, and what we will see in chapters to come, we should think the worst.
We’ve been had.
(If you are interested in reading the entire book that this chapter was excerpted from, please click on this link to "We've Been Had". Clink on this link to visit James R. Keena's We've Been Had Facebook page.)
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