Politics

Top official from Obama-backed black chamber faces criminal charges

A top official from the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc. – the Obama-backed, rival upstart to Harry Alford’s National Black Chamber of Commerce – has a checkered past and faces criminal charges from allegations he exploited a Hurricane Katrina victim.

According to Raleigh, N.C.-based WRAL, which broke the story, Brandon Trainer, who led the North Carolina Regional Black Chamber of Commerce and served as treasurer for the U.S. Black Chamber, skipped town in 2006 when he was charged with defrauding a Hurricane Katrina victim out of $1500.

Trainer also boasted of his Ivy League education at Harvard University, but records show he never even enrolled there as an undergraduate. He did attend classes in a career development program for one semester.

The revelations have left the North Carolina chamber in shambles, but Alford, head of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, said his group would step into the void.

“We knew this was going to happen. We have contacted people in Raleigh and will go down there and assist them in starting a bona fide chamber. We are actually going to Wilmington, N.C., next week to do the same (cleaning up his trail of ‘blood’). How does the White House feel about their little project now?” Alford said in an email.

Trainer was treasurer for the U.S. Black Chamber and on its board of directors. His biography page on the U.S. Black Chamber’s website has been taken down. Officials from the U.S. Black Chamber did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Trainer was charged in Missouri in 2006 for felony theft. He was accused of pretending to be a mortgage broker and taking $1500 from Claymiko Mays under false pretenses. After posting bond, Trainer skipped town. The charges are pending.

Years later, Trainer resurfaced in North Carolina and launched a black chamber of commerce there. But police uncovered his true identity after he was pulled over for speeding.

As reported by The Daily Caller, President Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, has backed the U.S. Black Chamber over Alford’s National Black Chamber of Commerce, bringing Ron Busby, the head of U.S. Black Chamber to the White House for bill signings and important speeches, and his staff even helping coin the new organization’s motto, “the national voice of the black business community.”

Meanwhile, the slights have left Alford – who voted for and donated to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign – fuming. He calls Obama’s move a calculated strategy to silence him.

“They’re afraid of me. They’re afraid of the Chamber. My work has a lot of credibility, and they’re afraid because I don’t dance to their music,” Alford said in an interview.

An associate of Alford’s went further. “Why is the White House doing this when it at least can be perceived as a way of kneecapping an African American with a long history in the business community?” the source asked.

Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Obama, implicitly denied to TheDC the White House favors one group over the other, saying its job is to reach out to groups of all kind.

“The White House Office of Public Engagement is the open front door of the White House for the American public. OPE holds numerous meetings and events with a variety of groups, organizations, and stakeholders to discuss a variety of pressing issues – including five meetings with representatives from the National Black Chamber of Commerce over the last two years,” Lewis said.