Along with his newly reported donations to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos has another previously undisclosed connection to another prominent politician: President Obama.
From 1997 to 2000, Obama and Stephanopoulos were part of a small group at Harvard University that met for three years purportedly to promote involvement with U.S. community institutions.
Scores of individuals with ties to Obama also participated, including several activists who were later appointed to Obama administration positions. Other participants were instrumental in promoting Obama’s early political career.
Stephanopoulos has not addressed his participation with Obama in the Harvard project. Yet, since Obama took office in 2009, the ABC News personality has had numerous exclusive sit-down interviews with the president.
Stephanopoulos, the chief anchor and chief political correspondent for ABC News, co-anchors ABC’s “Good Morning America” and hosts the Sunday morning show “This Week.”
Prior to joining ABC News, Stephanopoulos was a senior political adviser to the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign of Bill Clinton and later served as Clinton’s White House communications director for two years.
On Thursday, he recused himself from moderating an upcoming Republican debate after admitting to Politico that he donated $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation. His admission came after an inquiry by the Washington Free Beacon.
Stephanopoulos acknowledged making a trio of $25,000 contributions to the Clintons’ non-profit, in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Stephanopoulos said his contributions were meant to help AIDS victims while conceding he should have disclosed the donations to his employer and his audience.
“I made charitable donations to the foundation in support of the work they’re doing on global AIDS prevention and deforestation, causes I care about deeply,” he said. “I thought that my contributions were a matter of public record.
“However, in hindsight, I should have taken the extra step of personally disclosing my donations to my employer and to the viewers on air during the recent news stories about the foundation. I apologize.”
The ABC News anchor did not previously disclose the donations despite reporting numerous stories and conducting interviews on the Clintons.
As an undisclosed Clinton Foundation donor, Stephanopoulos conducted an interview an April 26 with Peter Schweizer regarding his recently released book on the foundation, “Clinton Cash.”
As the Washington Times reported, in the interview with Schweizer, Stephanopoulos made unilateral statements in support of the Clinton Foundation.
“As you know, the Clinton campaign says you haven’t produced a shred of evidence that there was any official action as secretary that supported the interest of donors,” Stephanopoulos.
“We’ve done investigative work here at ABC News, found no proof of any kind of direct action. And an independent government ethics expert at the Sunlight Foundation, Bill Allison, wrote this: ‘There’s no smoking gun. No evidence that the changed policy is based on donations to the foundation. No smoking gun.’ Is there a smoking gun?”
Schweizer reacted to the disclosure of Stephanopoulos’ donations to the Clinton Foundation.
“Really quite stunned by this, a massive breach of ethical standards. He fairly noted my four months working as a speech writer for George W. Bush. But he didn’t disclose this?” according to Bloomberg News.
Rubbed elbows with Obama
An overlooked detail of Stephanopoulos’ work history is his participation alongside Obama in Harvard’s Saguaro Seminars, a long-term research project aimed at significantly increasing Americans’ connectedness to one another and to community institutions. WND first reported on the connection in 2012.
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.
The concept of the Saguaro Seminars started 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’).”
Participants in the Saguaro Seminars included a number of people who have either been instrumental in promoting Obama’s agenda or have used their positions of influence on his behalf.
In 1992, Obama served on the founding board of Public Allies, an organization dedicated to training a cadre of community organizers. Public Allies co-founders Vanessa Kirsch and Katrina Browne, at Obama’s suggestion, interviewed his wife, Michelle Obama, to head a new Chicago office. Michelle Obama served as Public Allies’ executive director from spring 1993 until fall 1996.
Obama left the Public Allies board when Michelle was hired, although he served on the Public Allies national board in 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 Weatherman domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, was 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 chair of the FCC, who serves as senior counsel at Chicago’s 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 Rev. Jim Wallis, publisher of Sojourners magazine.
In 2009, Obama appointed Wallis 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.
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, 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.
Wilson was a member of the National Advisory Council of the Social Democrats USA. Like the DSA, the SD/USA is a member of the Socialist International, the world’s largest socialist group.
Obama’s favorite correspondent?
Stephanopoulos, meanwhile, has conducted a number of exclusive interviews with Obama.
In May 2007, 13 weeks after Obama announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois, Stephanopoulos conducted Obama’s first Sunday morning interview.
On Jan. 27, 2008, a second interview centered on Obama’s primary win in South Carolina.
Also that year, Stephanopoulos hosted a presidential debate during which he asked Obama about his ties to Ayers.
On Jan. 10, 2010, Obama gave Stephanopoulos an exclusive retrospective on his first year in office. In his second interview of the year with Stephanopoulos, on April 9 on “Good Morning America,” after he had signed the START treaty, Obama slammed Sarah Palin after Stephanopoulos set up a question for Obama to tee off.
Politico reported in January 2009 that Stephanopoulos, “has daily strategy and message chats with former Clinton administration alumni: Rahm Emanuel – Obama’s White House chief of staff – and CNN pundits Paul Begala and James Carville.”