Monday, April 21, 2008

The Woods Fund of Chicago Under Siege

        The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported on April 17 that The Woods Fund of Chicago, the private foundation on whose board Senator Barack Obama served with Professor William C. Ayers (a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and who was a member of the Weather Underground, an anti-Vietnam war group that set bombs to protest the war), reports that it is under siege by journalists.  The journalists are digging into the relationship of Senator Obama and Professor Ayres whose service overlapped on the foundation's board of directors from 1998 to 2001. This increased interest comes on the hills of the Democratic Presidential debate on Wednesday, April 16th, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The private foundation's mission is to alleviate poverty.  A staff member states in the story that the onslaught comes at a difficult time for the foundation because its president is ill and cannot return the flood of phone calls.  Below is an excerpt of the story:

The Woods Fund of Chicago has been thrust into the middle of the latest controversy in the heated Democratic primary battle between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.

As a result, the staff at the private foundation is now attempting to handle a swarm of attention from journalists, which is centered on a longtime Woods Fund board member and his relationship with Mr. Obama, who had been a member of the Fund’s board from 1998 to 2001.

The controversy stems from an exchange during Wednesday’s nationally televised debate in Philadelphia, where Mr. Obama was questioned about his relationship with William C. Ayers, a Woods Fund board member who had been part of the Vietnam-era Weather Underground.

The Weather Underground used terroristic methods, such as setting bombs, to protest the war. Mr. Ayers had later written that he did not regret setting the bombs.

During Wednesday’s debate, Mr. Obama was questioned about his ties to Mr. Ayers through the Woods Fund — a private foundation with more than $58-million in assets that works to alleviate poverty.

. . .

George Stephanopoulos, one of the ABC News moderators of the debate, asked Mr. Obama about his relationship with Mr. Ayers.

“An early organizing meeting for your state senate campaign was held at his house, and your campaign has said you are friendly,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said. “Can you explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won’t be a problem?”

Ms. Clinton then brought up the fact that both men had been members of the Woods Fund board — a connection Mr. Obama said is not relevant to his White House aspirations.

“President Clinton pardoned or commuted the sentences of two members of the Weather Underground, which I think is a slightly more significant act than me serving on a board with somebody for actions that he did 40 years ago,” Mr. Obama said.

The exchange prompted a flood of calls today to the Woods Fund’s office, said a spokeswoman, who explained that the calls were coming at a particularly bad time for the organization.

See the Article for the Full Story.

         The Weather Underground group is the subject of a documentary made by the Free History Project, and produced in association with KQED Public Television/San Francisco and ITVS.  The Free History Project evolved into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2001 as a result of its work on The Weather Underground documentary.  According to the organization's website, its mission is to advance knowledge of media, history and humanities based-subjects, through independent documentary film and education.  The Documentary is currently a PBS Club Program Favorite.  See link for more information - PBS.


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