Al Sharpton, shakedown artist extraordinaire, never has lacked energy in advancing the profile of his New York-based nonprofit, National Action Network (NAN). Thanks to corporations and unions, he isn’t lacking cash either. Last week, during April 13-16, NAN held its annual convention at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel in Manhattan. The fundraising event, featuring speeches by Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, plus nearly 30 panel discussions, gave attendees what they came for: a mix of black grievance politics and socialist economics. If Sharpton’s corporate donors ever take time off from Celebrating Diversity, they might reconsider this odd partnership.
For a first-hand lesson in the timidity of corporate America, look no further than Intel Corp. This January, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker announced it would set aside $300 million by 2020 for hiring, training and promoting “underrepresented” racial minorities and women. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich revealed the plan at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas only weeks after he and other top company officials had met privately with Jesse Jackson. The announcement was a triumph for Jackson’s Silicon Valley shakedown campaign. “It’s a huge first step,” he declared, urging other tech firms to follow suit. Given the acquiescence of eBay, Google and Facebook to Jackson at shareholder meetings last May, it is no surprise those companies are doing just that.
Al Sharpton turned 60 last Friday. That's a psychological landmark in any man's life. But if the New York-based civil rights activist, preacher, politician and media star is feeling blue, he can console himself with the reported $1 million in pledges from corporate and other donors to his nonprofit National Action Network (NAN). The celebration kicked off on Wednesday with a NAN-sponsored two-day education summit at New York University. On October 1, Sharpton held a celebration at Manhattan's Four Seasons restaurant. The crème of New York Democratic Party politics were in attendance, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Rep. Charles Rangel and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. From the world of black arts and entertainment, Aretha Franklin and Spike Lee were present.
In the sixth year of the presidency of an African-American, long after Jesse Jackson, Sr. should be seen as relevant to anything, some of the largest companies in California's Silicon Valley are resuscitating his career as tribute artist. Jackson once again is resorting to his anachronistic but apparently still effective tactic of issuing an ultimatum for "diversity," giving a company a choice: 1) orient hiring, marketing and other activities to favor nonwhites; or 2) get ready for a boycott, picketing, a lawsuit or other bad publicity. Though it has been a number of years since he has pulled this off, this May he gave information technology industry titans the full Jesse treatment - and on their own turf. At shareholder meetings of eBay, Google and Facebook, Jackson issued aggressive calls to hire blacks and other "people of color," especially for top positions.
Union activism at retail chain stores has come to blur the line between persuasion and harassment. But one retailer — Walmart — is pushing back, underscoring its failed campaign to appease left-wing activist groups. There is a certain irony here. Walmart for years has been capitulating to the demands of anti-business activists, a tendency documented in an NLPC Special Report published in 2006 titled, Wal-Mart Embraces Controversial Causes: Bid to Appease Liberal Interest Groups Will Likely Fail, Hurt Business. Yet last Friday the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer filed suit in Florida state court against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), and certain allied nonprofit groups and individuals.
Obtaining mortgage aid by claiming "discrimination" has become a high art. The problem is that someone always has to pay. Just ask Wells Fargo & Co. On July 12, the San Francisco-based bank, the nation's largest mortgage originator, agreed to spend $175 million to settle accusations by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that for several years it steered black and Hispanic homebuyers toward high-cost loans, so it could charge excessive interest and fees. The agreement, in which Wells Fargo admitted no wrongdoing, ostensibly will defray borrower losses and expand homeownership opportunities in lower-income areas.
Whatever else might be said of Reverend Al Sharpton, when he throws a party, he does it in style. The 14th annual conference of his New York-based nonprofit National Action Network (NAN) last month in Washington, D.C. during April 11-14 was no exception. Once more, corporations and to a lesser extent unions paid most of the tab for a well-choreographed event that featured dozens of speakers and panelists eager to affirm the aggressive black identity politics of their host. The plenary address by Attorney General Eric Holder, followed by a panel on legal issues, amounted to a group manifesto for the arrest of George Zimmerman for the highly-publicized killing - evidence points toward self-defense - of a black Florida teen, Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, to the delight of virtually all attendees, was arrested that day on a state second-degree murder charge.
It took about 500 days of negotiation. But on Thursday, February 9, attorneys general representing nearly all 50 states made the announcement: Five banks will pay a combined $25 billion over three years in civil penalties and loan write-downs for having serviced mortgage foreclosure paperwork over the previous four years without proper review. The settlement, say supporters, will compensate homeowners for prior predatory lending practices, reform the banking industry and give the economy a boost. But the context of the case suggests an ulterior motive: socializing the housing market. This by no means is the first such attempt during the Obama years. And the true cost of this shakedown, the largest of its kind since the 1998 tobacco industry settlement, may be far higher than $25 billion.
Greenpeace, which has campaigned against technology companies for nearly two years over their coal-burning electricity use at “cloud computing” data centers, has convinced one – Facebook – to promise to use renewable energy at facilities they build in the future.
As "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations have gone national, observers are taking note of the prominent role of labor unions in this anti-business crusade. The rote denunciations of "corporate greed" at these events could have been lifted from almost any AFL-CIO convention speech. That doesn't necessarily mean, of course, that union organizers are putting words in protestors' mouths. Yet it does strongly suggest that organized labor and street radicals recognize each other as natural allies.