Politics

Top official from Obama-backed group jumps bail again, disappears

Jonathan Strong Contributor

Rather than face his newly revealed checkered past, a top official from the Obama-backed black chamber of commerce has apparently fled town.

Brandon Trainer, formerly the treasurer for the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc. – the Obama-backed rival upstart to Harry Alford’s National Black Chamber of Commerce – failed to appear in court Wednesday morning and cannot be found by colleagues in Raleigh, North Carolina, according to Kim Burke, a leader of the regional black chamber of commerce there.

A private investigator hired to track down Trainer found the furniture in his house had already been removed, Burke said. Trainer faces criminal charges in Missouri for allegedly defrauding a Hurricane Katrina victim out of $1,500. He also lied about graduating from Harvard, which he never even attended as an undergraduate.

Burke said the regional black chamber is scrambling to pick up the pieces left in Trainer’s wake. “Right now everyone is getting hit by the shock and awe of it,” she said. “We still don’t know where the money is.”

Burke blames the U.S. Black Chamber for allowing Trainer to associate with it, which she relied on in trusting him. Officials at the group did not return a phone call.

As reported by The Daily Caller, President Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, has backed the U.S. Black Chamber, bringing its president, Ron Busby, 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.”

The catch is: there is already an organization in D.C. called the National Black Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1992 and headed by Alford.

Alford launched a self-described “war” on Obama over the slight, blasting him in an interview with TheDC and calling him a “Marxist” on the radio.

“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 told TheDC.

Obama “is anti-business…it’s starting to look Marxist to me,” Alford said on the Laura Ingraham show, adding that he voted for Obama “because he was black. And that is a lesson that I will take to my grave.”

But after Trainer’s checkered past was revealed by a WRAL story and reported by TheDC, the White House may be seeking a truce.

Alford said in an interview Wednesday officials at the Obama White House contacted him, asking for a meeting.

“They want to talk,” Alford said, adding that the meeting could result in a “peace offering.”

Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis previously told TheDC that the president wasn’t favoring Alford or Busby, simply trying to reach out to all groups.

“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.

In comparison, though, Busby has been to the White House 23 times, according to visitor logs.

Obama’s team was “excited” when the U.S. Black Chamber formed, Busby recalled. “From their perspective, they were looking for an organization that wasn’t politically biased.”

The U.S. Black Chamber, Inc., Busby said, has worked in “disseminating” the Obama administration’s message on how health care reform will impact businesses and, on that issue, pushed to eliminate a burdensome tax reporting requirement that Congress and Obama just repealed.
For Alford, a particularly stinging part of Obama’s favor of Busby is that the U.S. Black Chamber is barely off the ground.

For instance, the group does not have its own office yet, instead sharing space with Women In Public Policy, a group representing women-owned businesses.

There’s also a deeper issue of how a supporter like him could find himself on the skids for what Alford considers a few honest policy disagreements.

“I’m in pretty good company,” Alford said, “he treats Jesse Jackson like the plague. He treats Tavis Smiley like the plague. Cornel West is now an enemy. He doesn’t listen.”

Recalling the first time he met Obama personally, Alford said the president kept a cool demeanor. “It’s forced. It’s like talking to a college professor you don’t know. ‘Hi. Bye. See you later.’

“I would have one-on-ones with George W. Bush. After Katrina, George W. Bush asked me, ‘what do you think?’ I said, ‘I think you’re doing a lousy job, but you can turn it around.’ Bush said ‘give me three weeks.’ And he did it,” Alford said.

The revelations over Trainer’s checkered past have deepened Alford’s concern about the U.S. Black Chamber.

“We knew this was going to happen,” Alford told TheDC recently. “How does the White House feel about their little project now?

Alford said Wednesday he’s “thinking about putting up a reward for information that leads to [Trainer’s] arrest.”