Targeting Nonprofits: The Tides Foundation this time — with real bullets

First on Fox. One of the impacts of last week’s media firestorm over Andrew Breitbart’s most recent smear involving doctored videos (the ACORN deception was the first) was to overshadow another important story with a Fox connection.   The shocking tale of an “anti-government” gunman determined to launch an assault on Bay Area nonprofit organizations was almost totally buried.

The Shirley Sherrod story was beginning its week-long domination of several news cycles — starting with the Breitbart smear trumpeted on Fox, followed by her cowardly firing by the Administration, and finally her total vindication by mid-week when the full video of her previously edited speech was released. Meanwhile, a political assault of another, more ominous kind, was thwarted outside Oakland, California.

San Francisco Examiner:

Byron Williams, 45, of Groveland, was apparently headed to kill people at two nonprofits in San Francisco when CHP officers made an enforcement stop of his Toyota Tundra at 11:57 p.m. Saturday on westbound Highway 580 near Harrison Street.

When the officers tried to contact Williams, a 12-minute-long gun battle ensued. Williams, armed with three guns, including a .308-caliber rifle that can penetrate ballistic body armor and vehicles, eventually surrendered and exited the vehicle…

Williams was pulled over on his way to San Francisco to shoot members the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and Tides, an organization that advocates progressive social change through philanthropy, police said Tuesday…

It’s not clear why those two organizations were targeted except that conservative media commentators often accuse them of having left-wing agendas.

San Francisco Chronicle:

A 45-year-old parolee, described by his mother as angry at left-wing politicians, opened fire on California Highway Patrol officers on an Oakland freeway early Sunday and was hit by return fire while wearing body armor, authorities said…

Williams watched the news on television and was upset by “the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items,” his mother said…

For those unfamiliar with the Tides Foundation, it’s a philanthropic organization that has provided funding to nonprofits engaged in economic and social justice work since 1976. The ACLU, of course, has for the last 90 years carried out its mission “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

Some obvious questions  arise: What “news” program was Williams watching that led him to conclude that the Tides Foundation had to be taken out in a hail of bullets? Why target the Tides Foundation? Where would he get such an idea to hit an organization little known outside the nonprofit sector?

The answer?  The odds are overwhelming that Williams had been watching the Fox News Channel.

According to research from Media Matters, since the premier of Glenn Beck’s show on January 2009, “Tides has been mentioned on 31 editions of Fox News programs, 29 of which were editions of  Beck’s show (the other two were on Sean Hannity’s program). In most of those references, Beck attacked Tides, often weaving the organization into his conspiracy theories. Two of those Beck mentions occurred during the week before Williams’ shootout.”

Only on Fox

“By contrast, since January 19, 2009, according to our Nexis search, Tides was not mentioned on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, or PBS. Not once. This search is not perfect — Nexis does not include, for example, MSNBC’s daytime coverage. But the contrast with Beck’s coverage is stark.

If only the late historian Richard Hofstader could see the latest, and easily one of the vilest, manifestations of what he called “the paranoid style in American politics.” It’s easy to see how a paranoid personality like Williams’, when exposed to Beck’s all-encompassing world-historical narrative, might feel that his world was being turned upside down, that he had no other choice than to kill the people he been identified to him on Fox as the ones responsible for his feelings of oppression.

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First Amendment still stands in NM, despite AG appeal

The Center for Civic Policy is disappointed that New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has chosen to appeal the recent decision by United States District Court Judge Judith Herrera in favor of New Mexico Youth Organized (NMYO) and the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP).

“It’s unfortunate Attorney General Gary King – the top attorney in the state – refuses to acknowledge that the First Amendment applies the same in New Mexico as it does in the other forty-nine states,” said Matt Brix, policy director for the Center for Civic Policy – which sponsors NMYO. “Attorney General King’s actions spell trouble for all New Mexicans who care about free speech.”

King’s decision will needlessly cost the taxpayers of New Mexico, said George Lujan, communications director for SWOP.

“The Attorney General’s actions also spell trouble for all New Mexico taxpayers who are concerned about the waste of literally hundreds of thousands of additional dollars on irresponsible and pointless litigation,” said Lujan.

In her decision two weeks ago, Judge Herrera carefully explained why criticism of elected officials is not something that government can regulate, except in the narrow circumstance when the criticism occurs near an election and is accompanied by a plea to vote for or against a candidate.

It is dismaying that Attorney General King has chosen to ignore Judge Herrera’s decisive ruling on First Amendment rights and will instead subject taxpayers to more expensive and unnecessary litigation.

More thoughts on Charter Task Force

Sitting through a two-hour meeting is not usually my idea of fun. But I have to say that attending the highly-charged City Charter Revision Task Force meeting on April 23 was pretty fascinating.

Charter Task Force meetings are usually sparsely attended, but this one was packed. In the audience were representatives of at least a dozen non-profit organizations who showed up to speak in opposition to a proposed amendment that would severely affect their public education and advocacy work by forcing them to register as measure finance committees – the city’s equivalent of political committees.

The move at the city level was similar to a failed effort during the recent state legislative session that sought to force nonprofits to register as political committees.

Both city and state measures are widely considered to be retaliation against several nonprofits, including the Center for Civic Policy, for communications sent out last year to educate the public about the voting records of elected officials.  Some of the elected officials later lost their reelection bids.

So much was said, starting with the long line of advocates who spoke passionately about how the proposed amendment would negatively affect their organization’s mission and bottom line, not to mention limit their own free speech.

Then came a report from the city attorneys, who said the amendment was redundant and unnecessary.

Finally, the charter task force members got to speak.  Developer Chuck Gara said he spearheaded the amendment in the name of election transparency, not as an attack on non-profits.

A visibly frustrated Gara said he had called on the city attorneys several times to write an amendment that would allow him to keep “a couple of bad apples” from ruining “the whole bushel.” At the same time, Gara said, he had no desire to censor nonprofits or hamper their missions.

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City Charter Task Force: What the Journal Won’t Tell You

coaI had the honor of serving on Albuquerque’s City Charter Revision Task Force, along with 13 other dedicated individuals. Our group ranged across the political spectrum with diverse interests and was most professionally chaired by former State District Court Judge Wendy York.

Based on the Albuquerque Journal’s story and editorial this week, you’d think all we did over the past eight months, consisting of 17 full Task Force meetings and numerous subcommittee meetings, was argue over the issue of nonprofits – the topic with which the Journal is so clearly obsessed.

Amazingly, the Journal failed to mention – in both its news story and its editorial – that the Task Force actually killed the proposed nonprofit amendment to the City Charter sponsored by Chuck Gara for lack of support and because of gaping holes in its application and constitutionality.

That’s right. Gara’s amendment was withdrawn. Only after the amendment’s withdrawal did the Task Force cast a symbolic vote to request the City Council look at the nonprofit issue, just as the Council will consider the tens, if not hundreds of governance issues, when it takes up the Charter next month.  But if the Journal is your only news source, you could hardly be blamed for believing that the Task Force’s sole accomplishment over these past eight months was sending this nonprofit issue up to the Council for “action” — even though the amendment was killed.

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A Transforming Force — Enlace Communtario

Maria Eugenia Leon -- a promotora at Enlace Comunitario

Maria Eugenia Leon -- a promotora at Enlace Comunitario

Successful social programs don’t always take a whole lot of money.

Sometimes they just take a bit of thought and a whole lot of heart.

Consider the promotora program at Enlace Comunitario, an Albuquerque-based nonprofit that provides services and counseling to those in the city’s Spanish-speaking immigrant community who are victims of domestic violence.

The promotora (literally, promoter) concept has its roots in the culture of Central and South America, where trusted members of communities are trained to work as health paraprofessionals among their own people, identifying health programs and guiding people toward healthier lifestyles.

Increasingly, governments and agencies in the United States are using the promotora model of health education as a lower-cost, culturally-sensitive way to improve health and overall quality of life in migrant communities all across the country.

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