Politics & Policy

The Benjamin Principle

What drives Jesse Jackson.

Once again, the Reverend Jesse Jackson has been caught worrying less about the empowerment of mainstream black Americans and much more about the enrichment of himself and the well-heeled financiers and attorneys who support him.

Jackson recently wrote General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt. The letter was dated March14, the day after GE floated a hefty $11 billion in bonds.

“What concerns me is the dearth of minority banks involved in any aspect of this deal,” Jackson wrote, as CNSnews.com first reported. He continued, “it is disappointing to think that GE, one of America’s most innovative and respected companies, doesn’t feel that any minority-owned firms have the capability to be part of what will probably be one of the largest bond offerings in 2002.” Jackson then suggests that GE hire minority-owned investment banks that happen to be “members of our Wall Street Project Trade Bureau.” These companies, conveniently enough, contribute to Rainbow/PUSH and Jackson’s other non-profits.

“This is all about hiring Jesse Jackson’s friends,” says Kenneth Timmerman, author of Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson, now fifth on the New York Times bestseller list. “This is a typical Jackson approach where he gives companies a list of his best supporters and basically asks them to hire one of his friends, and then he’ll go away.”

Timmerman, who quotes me in his book, points to Jackson’s initial opposition to AT&T’s 1999 merger with TCI. Jackson complained to the FCC that AT&T had a “questionable employment record” and a “poor level of customer service.” AT&T CEO C. Michael Armstrong got the hint. AT&T donated $425,000 to Jackson’s Citizenship Education Fund, prompting the Windy City preacher, for once, to clam up. AT&T also included Blaylock & Partners in an $8 billion bond deal. CEO Ron Blaylock, a Jackson associate, promptly gave CEF a $30,000 donation, making the circle of extortion complete.

Last May, Jackson attacked a Toyota ad that showed a black face with a small, gold SUV etched onto the model’s tooth. “The only thing missing is the watermelon,” Jackson snarled. He threatened a boycott, but reversed himself after Toyota agreed to a “diversity” plan to increase its minority-owned dealerships. One week later, Timmerman reports, Toyota told Goldman Sachs to include Blaylock and Williams Capital Group in a $300 million equity offering. Williams also has sponsored Jackson’s non-profit activities.

“In exchange for steering that business to his friends, Jesse wants 10 percent off the top,” stock broker and former Jackson ally Harold Doley Jr. said. “He has become a Civil Rights Entrepreneur.”

For his next trick, Jackson is encouraging O. J. Simpson’s savior, Johnnie Cochran, and other lawyers to sue corporations that benefited from slavery. As Cochran previously has said of this approach: “We’ve got to be ready to boycott these companies, hit ‘em in the pocketbook, whatever we got to do.” Patting down U.S. corporations for reparations will mean hefty attorneys fees for those who get in on the action. One suit, filed March 26, already seeks damages against Aetna, CSX railroad, and Fleet Boston for slave-related profits generated by their corporate predecessors or subsidiaries they purchased long after Emancipation.

These lawsuits, like reparations in general, stare into the rearview mirror of 19th-century black agony rather than through the 21st-century windshield of black achievement. Colin, Condoleezza, Denzel, Halle, and the 39 percent of blacks who now populate the suburbs, according to the 2000 Census, must not have heard Harvard professor Charles Ogletree say that “the legacy of slavery is alive and well.”

However, this litigation is as clever as it is wicked. While a federally financed reparations scheme only could become law after skirting hostile public opinion, an unfriendly Congress and a skeptical White House, these suits could be settled out of court by companies that do not want to fight them and thus appear “racist.”

All these commercial and legal maneuvers require considerable energy and brainpower. Imagine if half of that could be channeled into helping small black businesses thrive or little black kids read. Alas, regular black folks will have to wait while well-connected black financiers and attorneys continue to hustle Big Business. Their greed recalls rap singer Puff Daddy’s reference to $100 bills. For Jesse Jackson and his cronies, “It’s all about the Benjamins.”

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

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