Jamie Dimon has been described as “Obama’s favorite banker” by the New York Times. He’s ACORN’s favorite banker, too, and with good reason. Mr. Dimon is the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, which operates a charitable foundation that gave ACORN $1 million in 2007, along with a smaller grant to the ACORN Institute. Beyond the charitable grants, ACORN and its affiliates have long profited from their “partnerships” with the big banks, taking a cut of subprime loans marketed to low-income borrowers in poor neighborhoods.
However, JPMorgan Chase isn’t the only big offender here. According to Peter Flaherty — president of the National Legal and Policy Center, which is tracking corporate America’s underwriting of the Left — other big ACORN benefactors include such TARPalicious names as Bank of America and Citigroup. Taxpayers bail out the banks, the banks fund ACORN, and ACORN dispenses advice on human trafficking and tax evasion to aspiring pimps and hookers. Not America’s proudest moment.
Dimon, of course, is no white-shoe East Coast banker. He’s a Chicago Democrat, deeply plugged in to Obama’s machine — he was said to be Obama’s choice for secretary of the Treasury until advisers convinced the president to go with Tim Geithner — and so it’s no surprise to find his company shunting money ACORN’s way. And where there are Chicago Democrats and a whiff of corruption, can the name Daley be far away? Bill Daley, brother of Chicago mayor Richard Daley and son of Boss Daley, runs JPMorgan Chase’s charitable foundation and also is in charge of the bank’s “corporate social responsibility” office. While it would be unfair to visit the sins of the father
(and the brother
, and the rest of the Chicago machine) upon the son, Daley is not the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of “social responsibility.” Even leaving aside his family connections, Mr. Daley represents precisely the overlap of Wall Street, Democratic machine politics, and ACORN that ought to give sober observers pause.
The banks have been working to buy off ACORN, as Flaherty explains, because the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) gave politically savvy rabble-rousers the power to put the bankers over a barrel. “The banks needed somebody to market and administer loan programs in these formerly redlined areas,” Flaherty says. “So ACORN says, ‘Here we are,’ and they go from being critics to being business partners. That’s the most lucrative part, but there also have been direct grants to ACORN and its various affiliates.”
Besides JPMorgan Chase’s largesse, those direct grants include at least $3.6 million from Bank of America, which also donated thousands of dollars’ worth of stock to Project Vote, an ACORN affiliate. The Capital Research Center documented these donations to ACORN Housing, another node in the ACORN system:
JP Morgan Chase Foundation: $5,007,500 and $300,000 to separate state-level ACORN units
Bank of America Charitable Foundation: $1,405,000
US Bancorp Foundation: $285,000 and $470,000 to ACORN Housing of Illinois
PNC Foundation: $95,000
Wachovia Foundation: $5,000
Provident Bank Foundation: $5,000
Most of the money moves beneath the radar. Direct gifts from corporations to nonprofits do not have to be disclosed by the donors, and the recipients only have to disclose them to the IRS. And direct donations are not the only means that companies have to fund ACORN: Local community-development grants and other low-key programs frequently are administered with an eye on politics.
Given the size and complexity of ACORN’s operations, tracking them all is a daunting task. Flaherty’s organization will be trying to put proposals before the banks’ shareholders at this year’s annual meetings, either to cut ties with ACORN or to voluntarily disclose donations of the sort that the group has relied upon. “ACORN has the leverage of the CRA,” he says. “So it’s kind of a natural that ACORN targeted the banks long before they targeted the taxpayer.” But in 2009, the banks are the taxpayer, to no trivial extent. The purple pimp hat is on us.
– Kevin Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review.