The new head of the U.S. pardon office is not only deeply tied to former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers – as WND exclusively reported Wednesday – but also to Ayers’ wife, Bernardine Dohrn, a co-founder with him of the domestic terrorist group.
The Justice Department announced Wednesday that Deborah Leff, currently a senior adviser to Attorney General Eric Holder, will take over the Office of the Pardon Attorney, where she will oversee vetting federal inmate applicants for presidential grants of clemency.
Leff served in the 1990s as president of the Joyce Foundation, an education reform and anti-gun activist group. Obama served on the Joyce Foundation board from 1994 to 2002. He was named to the board by Leff.
WND found that in 1996, Leff appeared with Dohrn, once the FBI’s most wanted woman, as a panelist at a gun violence discussion sponsored by the American Bar Association in Chicago.
“Guns, Schools and Children: Implications of Zero Tolerance” was the title of the event. Dohrn at the time was director of the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University’s legal clinic. She is still a law professor at the university.
Together with Ayers, Dohrn was a senior member of the Weather Underground, where she helped draft the group’s “Declaration of a State of War” against the U.S. government.
In naming Leff to her new position earlier this week, the Justice Department announced six new guidelines for presidential pardon that will drastically broaden the number of those eligible among the prison population of nonviolent offenders.
The new guidelines will make it easier to pardon offenders convicted of long drug offenses under laws that were stricter at the time of conviction.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole told reporters the new guidelines will focus on shortening sentences for those imprisoned under previous rules that saw little disparity between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine.
In 2010, Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which lowered the amount of crack and powdered cocaine that would violate federal law from a 100:1 weight ratio to 18:1 while eliminating a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of crack cocaine.
Major news media reports yesterday covered the new pardon guidelines as well as the appointment of Leff to her new position. However, entirely unreported was Leff’s previous relationships with Ayers and Obama as well as her anti-gun activism.
While Leff served as Joyce’s president, the nonprofit provided critical start-up capital to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, or CAC, an education reform group founded by Ayers.
Obama worked closely with Ayers at the CAC and was appointed in 1995 as chairman of the organization’s board.
Obama would later cite his CAC position as evidence of his qualification for public office.
Leff told the New York Times in 2008 that she was the one who first suggested Obama as Annenberg Challenge board chairman.
Obama worked closely with Ayers
Working at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge in 1995, Obama had a close relationship with Ayers, according to the CAC’s own archived records. The records also show Obama’s and Ayers’ foundation granted money to radical leftist activist causes.
News reports, archived records, interviews and Ayers’ own curriculum vitae document that Ayers was the founder of the CAC, which billed itself as a school-reform organization. Ayers also served as co-chairman of the Chicago School Reform Collaborative, one of the two operational arms of the CAC, from its formation in 1995 until 2000.
In response to a query by National Review Online writer Stanley Kurtz, the Obama 2008 presidential campaign issued a statement claiming Ayers was not involved with Obama’s “recruitment” to the CAC board. The statement said Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham, who served as presidents of other foundations, recruited Obama.
But Kurtz reviewed the CAC archives at the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago, which houses CAC board meeting minutes and other documentation from the education foundation. He found that along with Leff and Graham, Ayers was in a working group of five people who assembled the initial board of the CAC, which hired Obama.
“Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval,” Kurtz wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.
Indeed, several articles in 1994 and 1995 in the Chicago Tribune detailed Ayers’ extensive work to secure the original grant for the CAC from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg, as well as Ayers’ molding of the CAC guidelines. It would have been unusual for Ayers not to have been involved in the selection of Obama.
Kurtz reported that the CAC archives demonstrated Obama and Ayers worked as a team to further the foundation’s agenda. Obama was in charge of fiscal matters, while Ayers’ position was more concerned with shaping educational policy.
The documents showed Ayers served as an ex-officio member of the board that Obama chaired through the CAC’s first year. Ayers also served on the board’s governance committee with Obama and worked with him to craft CAC bylaws, according to the documents.
Ayers made presentations to board meetings chaired by Obama. Ayers also spoke for the Chicago School Reform Collaborative before Obama’s board, while Obama periodically spoke for the board at meetings of the collaborative, the CAC documents reviewed by Kurtz show.
According to the documents, the CAC granted money to far-left causes, such as the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which, WND previously reported, had done work on behalf of Obama’s presidential campaign.
WND broke the story that while Obama chaired the board of the CAC, more than $600,000 was granted to an organization founded by Ayers and run by Mike Klonsky, a former top communist activist. Klonsky was leader of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party, which was effectively recognized by China as the all-but-official U.S. Maoist party.
Confirms Kurtz: “Instead of funding schools directly, [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.”
In 1995, the year Ayers founded the CAC, he gave an interview for author Ron Chepesiuk’s book “Sixties Radicals” in which Ayers stated, “I’m a radical, leftist, small ‘c’ communist.”
Kurtz notes that in his book “Teaching Toward Freedom,” Ayers states his goal is to “teach against oppression,” which Kurtz noted Ayers defines as “against America’s history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.”
The CAC, however, was not Obama’s only working relationship with the unrepentant terrorist, Ayers.
In a widely circulated article, WND first reported Obama served on the board of the Woods Fund, a liberal Chicago nonprofit, alongside Ayers from 1999 to Dec. 11, 2002, according to the Fund’s website. Tax filings show Obama received compensation of $6,000 per year for his service in 1999 and 2000.
The two appeared together as speakers at several public events, including a 1997 University of Chicago panel titled “Should a child ever be called a ‘super predator?’” and another panel for the University of Illinois in April 2002 titled “Intellectuals: Who needs them?”
Ayers has written about his involvement with the Weather Underground’s bombings of the New York City Police headquarters in 1970, the Capitol in 1971 and the Pentagon in 1972.
“I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough,” Ayers told the New York Times in an interview released Sept. 11, 2001.
“Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the Pentagon,” Ayers wrote in his memoirs, titled “Fugitive Days.” He continued with a disclaimer that he didn’t personally set the bombs but that his group set the explosives and planned the attack.
With additional research by Brenda J. Elliott.