A Washington Post columnist to which Media Matters reportedly pushed its content has a previously undisclosed connection to President Obama – the two were part of a small group at Harvard University that met for three years purportedly to promote involvement with U.S. community institutions.

Participants at the research project, which took place between 1997 and 2000, included scores of individuals with ties to Obama, including several activists who were later appointed to positions in the Obama administration. Other participants were instrumental in promoting Obama’s political career.

As part of an in-depth investigative series into the embattled Media Matters for America progressive group, the Daily Caller earlier this week quoted a former Media Matters staffer as saying, “We’ve pushed stories to Eugene Robinson and E.J. Dionne [at the Washington Post]. Brian Stelter at the New York Times was helpful.”

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Yesterday, Jacob Laksin, managing editor of Frontpage Magazine, noted apparent consistencies between Dionne’s statements and Media Matters messaging.

In March 2007, Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert charged Republicans and Fox News were waging “a smear campaign against NPR.”

FrontPage Magazine noted that several months later, Dionne reprised the charge of a Fox News “smear campaign against NPR” during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Dionne further denounced Fox News as a “Republican propaganda network,” echoing the charge of Media Matters founder David Brock, who famously claimed the network was part of a “Republican noise machine.”

Dionne writes two highly liberal political columns a week for the Washington Post.

In one April 1999 piece titled “A World Safe For Socialism,” he issued an ode to the socialist ideology.

Reporting on a Democratic Leadership Council forum attended by President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok and Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema, Dionne wrote they “represent anything but old-style state socialism. All subscribe to versions of the ‘Third Way’ approach to politics that Blair and Clinton have been marketing and that the DLC was celebrating.”

Dionne praised the “Third Way,” saying it “gave liberals and, yes, socialists presentable new clothes to wear. The Third Wayers’ real challenge comes now that they hold power in so many places.”

The “Third Way” is an economic philosophy that calls for business and government to join hands as “partners,” while recognizing that government intervention could not always correct the limitations of markets.

“Third Way” is an ideology first promoted as an alternative to free markets by Mikhail Gorbachev after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The “Third Way” of governing would be neither capitalist nor communist, but something in between.

In his 1998 State of the Union Address, President Clinton outlined the “Third Way”: “We have moved past the sterile debate between those who say government is the enemy and those who say government is the answer. My fellow Americans, we have found a Third Way.”

Discover the Networks criticized the theory: “In short, Big Business would own the economy (as under capitalism), while Big Government would run it (as under socialism). Corporations would be persuaded to comply with government directives through subsidies, tax breaks, customized legislation and other special privileges.”

Harvard media project

Dionne was part of a small group at Harvard University that met for three years purportedly to promote involvement with U.S. community institutions. The group was called the Saguaro Seminars, a long-term research project aimed at significantly increasing Americans’ connectedness to one another and to community institutions.

The Sagauro project and its relationship with Obama was exposed in the recently released book “Red Army: The Radical Network that must be defeated to save America,” by reporters Aaron Klein and Brenda J. Elliott.

On Wednesday, WND reported another Saguaro project member is ABC News host George Stephanopoulos.

Saguaro’s signature effort was the 1997-2000 dialogue “on how we can increasingly build bonds of civic trust among Americans and their communities.” The dialogue resulted in a study published in 2000 recommending Americans participate more with community groups.

In “Red Army,” Klein and Elliott detail how the idea for the Saguaro Seminars begins with author Robert D. Putnam, who is attributed with charting the “decline of civil engagement in the USA over the last 30 years or so.”

In a January 2001 review of “Bowling Alone,” David Moberg explains at In These Times, a socialist-style magazine, that Putnam defines social capital as connections among individuals and “‘community’ adapted to a large-scale capitalist society.”

Social capital, Moberg explains, is “more abundant in small communities than in big cities, but networks that constitute social capital develop in churches, unions, PTAs, neighborhood clubs, fraternal organizations and even bowling leagues (which have declined in the United States, thus ‘bowling alone’).”

“[At Saguaro Seminars] we find a number of people who have either been instrumental in promoting Obama’s agenda or have used their positions of influence on his behalf,” write Klein and Elliott.

In 1992, Obama served on the founding board of Public Allies, an organization dedicated to training a cadre of community organizers. Public Allies cofounders Vanessa Kirsch and Katrina Browne, at Obama’s suggestion, interviewed his wife, Michelle Obama, to head a new Chicago office. Michelle Obama served as executive director from spring 1993 until fall 1996.

Barack Obama left the Public Allies board when Michelle was hired, although he served on the Public Allies national board from 1997, when both he and Vanessa Kirsch participated in the Saguaro Seminars.

A second Saguaro Seminar member close to Obama is Rev. Bliss W. Browne. In December 1995, Browne’s United Imagination Network, also called Imagine Chicago, a collective of five elementary schools and one high school, was one of the first 35 school networks and their partners to receive school improvement funds from the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, or CAC.

The CAC was founded by former Weather Underground domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, who served as the group’s director. With Ayers, Obama served as president of the CAC board of directors from 1995 to 1999. He continued as a member of the board until 2002.

Also at the Saguaro Seminars with Obama and Stephanopoulos was Martha Minow, then-dean of Harvard Law School.

Minow is the daughter of Newton Minow, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who serves as senior counsel at the Chicago firm Sidley Austin. It was Martha Minow who reportedly recommended Sidley hire Obama for a summer job in 1989, after his first year of law school.

Martha Minow told Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown in late August 2008, “So we were in the midst of one of our intensive discussions about civic engagement. … And after one of these ranging discussions, across the political sectors, he (Obama) did this tour de force summary. We just said, ‘When are you running for president?’ It became a joke. We started to nickname him ‘governor.'”

Obama named another fellow Saguaro Seminar member, Xavier de Souza Briggs, in January 2009 to serve as associate director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Briggs served as a team leader on the Obama-Biden transition team for the Department of Health and Human Services, Federal Housing Finance Board, and Interagency Council on Homelessness Review.

Also at Saguaro Seminars with Obama and Stephanopoulos was the Rev. Jim Wallis, publisher of Sojourners magazine.

Obama appointed Wallis as to his Advisory Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where Wallis served a one-year term.

Obama and Wallis became close at the Saguaro Seminars, Eli Saslow wrote in January 2009 in the Washington Post. Wallis told Saslow: “We hit it off. We had very similar ideas about how faith could contribute to public life. He wanted that to be a major part of his career going forward.”

Wallis is a socialist activist who has championed communist causes and previously labeled the U.S. “the great captor and destroyer of human life.”

The Associated Baptist Press described Wallis as a “politically progressive evangelical and longtime advocate for the poor.” The Huffington Post identified him as a “Christian author and social-justice advocate.”

Wallis began his activism as a protester and then later Michigan leader of the Students for a Democratic Society, the 1960s anti-war group from which Ayers’ Weather Underground domestic terrorist organization splintered.

Sojourners’ official “statement of faith” urges readers to “refuse to accept [capitalist] structures and assumptions that normalize poverty and segregate the world by class.”

Discover the Networks notes how Sojourners originally formed a socialist commune in Washington, D.C., where members shared finances and launched anti-capitalist activism.

Saguaro Seminar member William Julius Wilson, meanwhile, also has ties to Obama.

“Red Army” relates that Wilson participated in the Feb. 25, 1996, town hall meeting on “Economic Insecurity” at the Ida Noyes Hall at the University of Chicago. The meeting, titled “Employment and Survival in Urban America,” was sponsored by the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), University of Chicago DSA Youth Section and University Democrats.

Panelists for the meeting included both Wilson and Obama, who was then running for the 13th Illinois Senate District seat.

Wilson was a member of the National Advisory Council of the Social Democrats USA (SD/USA). Like the DSA, the SD/USA is a member of the Socialist International, the world’s largest socialist group.

Previous stories:

Media Matters tied to MoveOn.org, ACORN

Did Media Matters fund marketing of Obamacare?

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