Pro-gun control YouTube ad funded by group with close ties to Obama

Patrick Howley | Political Reporter

A new video depicting California teenagers voicing their support for increased gun control measures — currently playing as an advertisement on YouTube videos — was funded and produced by an organization with close ties to the Obama White House and liberal billionaire George Soros. The organization has long advocated for President Obama’s domestic policies and retains a lobbying and consulting firm involved in the passage of Obamacare to serve as its “presence in Washington.”

The California Endowment, a private foundation that was created by a deal between Blue Cross of California and the state of California in 1996 when Blue Cross of California became a for-profit corporation, launched the video “California Teens Demand a Plan to End Violence” as part of its pro-Obamacare campaign, “Health Happens Here.”

The Obama administration is currently working on strict new gun control legislation in the aftermath of the Newton, Connecticut elementary school shooting.

The California Endowment’s video depicts facial close-ups of predominately Latino and African-American teenagers from the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights invoking the Newtown school shooting tragedy and urging people to “demand a plan,” similar to a December video in which Hollywood celebrities, including Conan O’Brien, did the same for a Michael Bloomberg-backed organization.

“Every day fourteen kids are murdered,” according to the teenagers in the video.

“Catorce,” said a Latino teenager depicted in the video.

The California Endowment, which gives out approximately 5 percent of its worth annually, is exempt from federal income taxes under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) . “Federal tax law prohibits The California Endowment, a private foundation, from conducting or supporting, with limited exceptions, any lobbying activity,” according to the group’s website.

“We don’t take a position on legislation,” California Endowment executive staffer Daniel Zingale told the Daily Caller. Zingale also claimed that the Endowment works with people on both sides of the political aisle.

Nevertheless, the Endowment has partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama on multiple health initiatives and has funded strong advocacy measures on behalf of Obamacare, the creation of which the Endowment was involved in through its work with a powerful Washington lobbying group.

First Lady Michelle Obama held an announcement ceremony at the White House in 2011 to launch the California FreshWorks Fund, a “$200 million public-private partnership loan fund” described as a “project of The California Endowment and an all-star team of partners,” including JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America. The loan fund aims to make underserved communities “healthier by working directly with grocers on developing new and improved places to buy nutritious food.”

Michelle Obama and California Endowment president and CEO Dr. Robert K. Ross launched another project, the Building Healthy Communities Initiative, together at an event in San Diego in April 2010.

“The California Endowment has dedicated almost all of its grant-making over the next 10 years, starting with $100 million this year, to the Building Healthy Communities Initiative,” according to a California Endowment press release.

“The Building Healthy Communities initiative is based on a simple idea – that healthy children come from healthy environments…The Building Healthy Communities initiative is all about giving people the tools they need to make healthy choices for themselves and their families,” Mrs. Obama said at the event.

California Endowment Board Chair Tessie Guillermo said, “First Lady Michelle Obama’s leadership on the critical health issue of childhood obesity is making a difference in the lives of children here in California and in the future cost of health care in this state.”

“The California Endowment supports policy and advocacy organizations to initiate and implement efforts to inform key policymakers” on child obesity, according to a January 2012 Endowment press release praising Michelle Obama’s work with Wal-Mart on a healthy food initiative.

The California Endowment has also worked to increase food stamp enrollment – a stated goal of the Obama administration – and to help in the allocation of stimulus money.

In December 2008, following Barack Obama’s election, the California Endowment launched an $8 million grant-making strategy “[t]o increase outreach and enrollment services for public benefit programs, including SNAP (Food Stamp Program),” and “[t]o help struggling communities hardest hit by the economic downturn access federal stimulus dollars,” among other goals.

The California Endowment has been a strong supporter of the Obamacare law.

Additionally, The California Endowment — cited as a “BuzzFeed partner” — published a December listicle on Buzzfeed subtitled, “Here are some surprising ways the new health care law can help you turn over a new leaf in 2013.” The nine-part listicle credits Obamacare for enabling “better local care,” among other rousing endorsements.

The California Endowment Twitter page promoted the Buzzfeed listicle with a Tweet stating, “More ways the health care law moves us fwd in ’13,” echoing Obama’s 2012 campaign slogan, “Forward.”

The California Endowment hired the powerful Washington, D.C. lobbying and consulting firm The Raben Group, headed by former Clinton administration attorney general Robert Raben, which also represents New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition also posted the Endowment’s “Demand a Plan” video to YouTube.

The Raben Group suggests that it helped influence the Obamacare law for the benefit of the Endowment’s interests.

“The California Endowment selected The Raben Group to serve as its presence in Washington.  Our goal was to help raise the profile of the Endowment and its grantees so that they could more effectively inform policy debates in the health and wellness arenas,” according to The Raben Group’s website.

“Our team helped the Endowment and its grantees provide research, data, expertise and experience to policymakers in Congress and the Obama Administration.  This positioning has afforded the Endowment the opportunity to inform the health care reform debate and help shape the contours of First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to curb childhood obesity within a generation,” according to The Raben Group’s website.

“The final health reform bill made significant progress in two areas of particular interest to the Endowment:  disease prevention and care for children,” the site reads.

California Endowment CEO Ross appeared on a panel on black male achievement with progressive billionaire and major Obama supporter George Soros. The panel was hosted by Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

“Mr. Soros, what I want to say to you is the leadership of the Open Society Foundation, where I never would have believed that a major philanthropy would put robust, serious, significant investment in the future of young men of color…I just want to say that you and your board at Open Society Foundations did that, sir, and there are now more than 16 foundations around the country that are investing significantly in this population of young men, so that is a big round of applause for Open Society Foundations,” Ross told Soros, prompting the audience to applaud.

Ross made clear during his remarks at the event that The California Endowment is pleased when its advocacy efforts result in the passage of progressive legislation.

Ross described the Endowment’s funding for an advocacy strategy to combat zero-tolerance disciplinary policies in California’s schools.

“In less than eighteen months, those people had eight bills on the governor’s desk designed to reduce or eliminate school discipline and school pushout issues. He signed five of them last week,” Ross said to applause. “That was an effort led by young men and young women of color in the state of California, mostly teenagers.”

“Particularly California, I think, is an opportunity to bring about radical change in policy,” Soros said during the panel.

The California Endowment partnered with Open Society Foundations in 2012 in funding the initial launch of the Leadership and Sustainability Institute for Black Male Achievement (LSI).

“Joining the Open Society Foundations in funding the LSI are The Skillman Foundation, The California Endowment, Knight Foundation, and the The Heinz Endowments, with an investment of over $1 million,” according to a September 2012 Open Society Foundations press release.

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