Politics
U.S. President Barack Obama reacts as he is introduced to speak by Christian Champagne, 18, from Chicago at the unveiling of Obama U.S. President Barack Obama reacts as he is introduced to speak by Christian Champagne, 18, from Chicago at the unveiling of Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative at the White House in Washington February 27, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  

Chicago’s ‘Brothers’ Keeper’ scam not linked to Obama’s ‘Brother’s Keeper’ plan

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The daughter of President Barack Obama’s Chicago pastor helped steal $30,000 from a program intended to help train young African Americans for skilled jobs.

The Chicago program, titled “We Are Our Brother’s Keepers” shares a similar name and purpose with Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program, which Obama announced Feb. 27 at at a White House press conference.

The administration is “committed to creating more pathways to success… We’re committed to building on what works [and] we call it ‘My Brother’s Keeper,’” Obama said at the White House.

Back in Chicago, the Illinois “Brothers’ Keepers” program was started by Regina Evans, a former police chief in Illinois’ Country Club Hills, according to The Chicago Tribune.

The state provided her with a $1.25 million grant to train 40 people for bricklaying and electrician jobs, at an average cost of $31,250 per person.

Little training was provided, and much of the $1.25 million grant was stolen by Evans, who used Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s daughter, Jeri Wright, to launder $30,000 in stolen funds.

Rev. Wright was Obama’s long-term pastor in Chicago, and conducted the marriage ceremony for Obama and his wife, Michelle Robinson. Wright’s sermons periodically included diatribes against the U.S., often mixed in with black liberation theology. In 2008, Obama distanced himself from Wright when some media outlets began reporting the details of his sermons.

As part of the corruption scheme, Rev. Wright’s daughter pocketed up to $11,000 before passing the remainder of the $30,000 back to the former police chief.

“I didn’t do anything,” said Wright, following her conviction after a two-hour jury deliberation in Springfield, Ill.,  on Mar. 7.  She said she would “definitely” appeal the verdict, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Wright’s lawyer blamed her conviction on testimony from Evans, who has pled guilty on corruption charges. Evans used some of the training money to fund a trip to Las Vegas, to remodel her house and to buy vehicles for her husband’s business.

Her husband ran a security firm in Illinois. He too has pled guilty.

Obama’s “Brother’s Keeper” program is not related to Evans’ “Brothers’ Keeper” program.

“What we’re talking about here today with ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ is a more focused effort on boys and young men of color who are having a particularly tough time,” Obama said Feb. 27. “Faith leaders will need to help our young men develop the values and ethical framework that is the foundation for a good and productive life.”

Obama used his speech to dismiss conservatives’ arguments that big government undermines the ability of families to prepare the next generation of Americans for adult self-government, honest work and a realistic understanding of government’s limits.

“So often, the issues facing boys and young men of color get caught up in long-running ideological arguments about… the role of government, [but] the urgency of the situation requires us to move past some of those old arguments and focus on getting something done and focusing on what works,” Obama declared.

“Today, I’m pleased to announce that some of the most forward-looking foundations in America are looking to invest at least $200 million over the next five years,” he said. “None of this is going to be easy. This is not a one-year proposition. It’s not a two-year proposition.”

It is not not clear if Wright will be sentenced to jail for one year, for two years or for longer.

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