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Obama’s Third-Party History
New documents shed new light on his ties to a leftist party in the 1990s.

Barack Obama campaigns for the Illinois state senate in the mid-1990s. (©Marc PoKempner, 1995)

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Stanley Kurtz

On the evening of January 11, 1996, while Mitt Romney was in the final years of his run as the head of Bain Capital, Barack Obama formally joined the New Party, which was deeply hostile to the mainstream of the Democratic party and even to American capitalism. In 2008, candidate Obama deceived the American public about his potentially damaging tie to this third party. The issue remains as fresh as today’s headlines, as Romney argues that Obama is trying to move the United States toward European-style social democracy, which was precisely the New Party’s goal.

In late October 2008, when I wrote here at National Review Online that Obama had been a member of the New Party, his campaign sharply denied it, calling my claim a “crackpot smear.” Fight the Smears, an official Obama-campaign website, staunchly maintained that “Barack has been a member of only one political party, the Democratic Party.” I rebutted this, but the debate was never taken up by the mainstream press.

Recently obtained evidence from the updated records of Illinois ACORN at the Wisconsin Historical Society now definitively establishes that Obama was a member of the New Party. He also signed a “contract” promising to publicly support and associate himself with the New Party while in office.

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Minutes of the meeting on January 11, 1996, of the New Party’s Chicago chapter read as follows:

Barack Obama, candidate for State Senate in the 13th Legislative District, gave a statement to the membership and answered questions. He signed the New Party “Candidate Contract” and requested an endorsement from the New Party. He also joined the New Party.

Consistent with this, a roster of the Chicago chapter of the New Party from early 1997 lists Obama as a member, with January 11, 1996, indicated as the date he joined.

Knowing that Obama disguised his New Party membership helps make sense of his questionable handling of the 2008 controversy over his ties to ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). During his third debate with John McCain, Obama said that the “only” involvement he’d had with ACORN was to represent the group in a lawsuit seeking to compel Illinois to implement the National Voter Registration Act, or motor-voter law. The records of Illinois ACORN and its associated union clearly contradict that assertion, as I show in my political biography of the president, Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism.

Why did Obama deny his ties to ACORN? The group was notorious in 2008 for thug tactics, fraudulent voter registrations, and its role in popularizing risky subprime lending. Admitting that he had helped to fund ACORN’s voter-registration efforts and train some of their organizers would doubtless have been an embarrassment but not likely a crippling blow to his campaign. So why not simply confess the tie and make light of it? The problem for Obama was ACORN’s political arm, the New Party.

The revelation in 2008 that Obama had joined an ACORN-controlled, leftist third party could have been damaging indeed, and coming clean about his broader work with ACORN might easily have exposed these New Party ties. Because the work of ACORN and the New Party often intersected with Obama’s other alliances, honesty about his ties to either could have laid bare the entire network of his leftist political partnerships.

Although Obama is ultimately responsible for deceiving the American people in 2008 about his political background, he got help from his old associates. Each of the two former political allies who helped him to deny his New Party membership during campaign ’08 was in a position to know better.

The Fight the Smears website quoted Carol Harwell, who managed Obama’s 1996 campaign for the Illinois senate: “Barack did not solicit or seek the New Party endorsement for state senator in 1995.” Drawing on her testimony, Fight the Smears conceded that the New Party did support Obama in 1996 but denied that Obama had ever joined, adding that “he was the only candidate on the ballot in his race and never solicited the endorsement.”

We’ve seen that this is false. Obama formally requested New Party endorsement, signed the candidate contract, and joined the party. Is it conceivable that Obama’s own campaign manager could have been unaware of this? The notion is implausible. And the documents make Harwell’s assertion more remarkable still.



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