Letters signed by Barack Obama 25 years ago and obtained by The Daily Caller, show the future president approaching Chicago’s then-mayor Harold Washington in 1987 about a community organizing project whose advisory board would include his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright; the controversial leftist Catholic priest Father Michael Pfleger; and the brother of Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers.
When Obama later ran for president, he sought to distance himself from Rev. Wright, although the letters obtained by TheDC indicate a working relationship between the two men on a political level when the future president was just 26 years old.
They hint at a young Obama, before he entered Harvard Law School, growing in stature as a power broker among Chicago’s radical left and building an early example of a coalition that would grow in political power across the city. (RELATED: Read the documents)
Obama, then the executive director of the Developing Communities Project, pushed Washington — Chicago’s first black mayor — for a meeting with his informal advisory group to discuss an endorsement of the community organizing project.
That advisory council included Illinois State Sen. Emil Jones, who would later become president of the Illinois Senate and allegedly accuse Hillary Clinton of being an “Uncle Tom,” during Obama’s 2008 presidential primary campaign against her.
Also on the list was the Commercial Club of Chicago’s John Ayers, brother to Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers.
Left-wing Catholic priest Father Michael Pfleger, who would later attract attention for his associations with Louis Farrakhan and other anti-Semitic Palestinian partisans, was included as well. Pfleger took Wright under his wing in March 2008 after Obama, amid campaign controversy, publicly tried to distance himself from his pastor.
“Developing Communities Project (DCP) has brought together churches, blocks clubs and civic organizations to address some of the most pressing issues of the Far South Side – unemployment and low educational achievement among our youth,” Obama wrote to Mayor Washington on May 4, 1987.
After “discussions with a wide range of actors in the field of education, … we have drafted the enclosed proposal for a Career Education Network,” Obama announced.”
The effort was an early example of the sort of community organizing that helped Obama build his power base in Chicago’s liberal political machine. More than a decade later, that base would produce what Obama came to describe as a “majority coalition” voting bloc of the “working poor” and welfare recipients, organized by groups like Obama’s to put liberals in office. (RELATED: Full audio of 1998 ‘redistribution’ speech shows Obama saw welfare recipients as “majority coalition”)
“We are not seeking any city funding for our program,” Obama wrote the mayor in the 1987 letter. “[H]owever, we do seek your whole-hearted support and endorsement of our initiative. We should therefore respectfully ask that within the next three or four weeks you agree to meet briefly with a small delegation of DCP leaders and the attached list of advisory committee members to discuss our proposal and your possible support for it.”
In a followup letter to Washington’s assistant three days later, Obama again laid out his plans and attached the list of his invited advisory council.
Obama founded DCP with community organizer Jerry Kellman, who was trained under “Rules for Radicals” author Saul Alinsky.
“Kellman was a veteran protester of the ’60s — he once joked that he majored in protesting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before transferring to the progressive Reed College — and wanted to use the ‘social justice’ teachings of the radical Catholic left to co-opt the Church for his Alinskyite project,” Breitbart.com reported in April.
Despite a working relationship that had, by then, lasted more than two decades, Obama openly denounced Wright during an April 29, 2008, press conference in Winston-Salem, N.C. and said he didn’t properly “vet” the pastor.
“During the course of me attending that church, I had not heard those kinds of statements being made or those kinds of views being promoted,” Obama said, referring to racially charged and anti-American rhetoric. “And I did not vet my pastor before I decided to run for the presidency. I was a member of the church.”
“He was never my ‘spiritual mentor,’” Obama added in that press conference. “He was — he was my pastor.”
“And so to some extent, how, you know, the press characterized in the past that relationship, I think, wasn’t accurate. But he was somebody who was my pastor, and married Michelle and I, and baptized my children, and prayed with us at — when we announced this race. And so, you know, so I’m disappointed.”
In an op-ed published by The Huffington Post, Obama wrote that Wright “has never been my political advisor; he’s been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.”
In March 2008 Obama told then-MSNBC host Keith Olbermann that he and Wright had “a relationship — he’s like an uncle who has talked to me, not about political things and not about social views, as much as about faith and God and family.”
But as Obama’s letters to Mayor Harold Washington’s office show, Obama trusted Wright enough politically to include him in what may have been his earliest social justice coalition-building exercise.
Charles C. Johnson contributed reporting to this story.