Ex-Obama employer gets Kenyan contract

By Steve Peacock

A no-bid contract to assess a $48 million Kenyan youth program has been awarded to the University of Chicago, where President Barack Obama taught constitutional law for 12 years.

This discovery coincides with the federal embezzlement indictment of Quinshaunta R. Golden, former key aide to Eric E. Whitaker, the one-time U. of C. Medical Center executive vice president and former colleague of Michelle Obama.

Whitaker is “one of President Barack Obama’s closest friends,” according to the Chicago Tribune. He is not a target of the federal investigation, and has pledged his full cooperation, according to the Tribune.

Jeri Wright, daughter of the radical Rev. Jeremiah Wright, also got scooped up in the federal grant-corruption probe, which altogether netted more than a dozen Chicago area government officials and lower-level bureaucrats. Obama for some 20 years followed Wright at the black-liberation theology United Christ Church of Christ in Chicago.

The university’s National Opinion Research Center, or NORC – which is not involved in the investigation – will receive $650,000 to assess the Yes Youth Can!, or YYC, project in Kenya, according to contracting documents that WND discovered via routine database research.

YYC’s aim is to empower Kenyan youth “as envisioned in the 2010 constitution,” according to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s program page.

The endeavor has created youth-led local, regional, and national parliaments known as “bunges.” USAID says these groups help “provide a structure and a forum for young women and men to mobilize and take action to improve their own lives and those of their neighbors.”

In addition to helping 18-35 year-old Kenyans “develop new leadership skills,” the program hopes to “revive the true spirit of harambee,” which the agency describes as “a Kenyan tradition of community self-help events.”

USAID launched in the endeavor in 2011, and has awarded contracts to multiple vendors assigned to different segments of Kenya.

U. of C.’s NORC is now tasked with a Round Two assessment of YYC’s impact thus far. USAID’s rationale for the sole-source, non-competitive contract is that NORC already conducted an initial “baseline assessment of the program in a separate $700,000 activity.”

This “politically sensitive and critical effort” simply would be hampered by soliciting competitive proposals, a process that “would impair the [U.S.] Mission’s ability to complete and conduct an impact evaluation prior to the project’s end,” according to a USAID/Kenya Justification and Approval document.

Unrelated to the NORC contract or to Yes Youth Can!, Golden was indicted for bribery, theft and fraud for allegedly embezzling “about $433,000 in state health department funds,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Golden at the time of the alleged embezzlement was serving as Whitaker’s chief of staff at the Illinois public health department. She is accused of stealing money related to “grants set aside for breast and prostate cancer programs, and for HIV/AIDS awareness and emergency preparedness,” Crains’ Chicago Business reported.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, Democrat from Illinois, is Golden’s uncle. He is not a target of the investigation.

At least one political career, however, has perished as a result of the federal task force’s investigation. According to the Tribune, former Illinois Democrat Rep. Connie Howard last month pleaded guilty to a scheme that diverted “as much as $28,000 from a scholarship fund she created to benefit needy students.”

Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s daughter Jeri allegedly assisted Country Club Hills police Chief Regina Evans “convert paychecks from Evans’ nonprofit to Evans’ personal use rather than using it for the intended purpose of training minority and female workers in the building trades,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

She pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges, according to the Tribune report.

A U. of C. web page, “Chicago and the presidency,” says “President Barack Obama, senior lecturer in the law school for 12 years, has personal, family, intellectual and professional links to the university, as do many of his top advisers.”

Obama taught at the institution’s School of Law from 1992 to 2004.

A sidebar emphasizes that the “Obama administration has strong university roots.”

Obama Senior Adviser Valerie B. Jarrett once served as chairman of U. of C.’s Medical Center Board of Trustees.

Former Obama cabinet member Austan Goolsbee, whom pundit Sean Hannity on national TV once told “You must be on drugs! You can’t be serious” when Goolsbee defended Obama’s economic policies, in 2001 returned to teach at U. of C.’s Booth School of Business.

As WND columnist David Limbaugh recently noted, Goolsbee “once virtually admitted that Obama should only be associated with his economic record if and when we begin to see sustained positive results.”

Goolsbee is former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and served as chief economist of the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Former Senior Obama adviser and campaign strategist David Axelrod, a U. of C. alumnus, last year returned to the university to lead its Institute of Politics. Earlier this year he also joined NBC and MSNBC as a senior political analyst.

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