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Working Families Party: Agendas, Activities, and Alliances

By Richard Poe
Discover The Networks
2005

The Working Families Party (WFP) is a front group for the radical cult ACORN. It functions as a political party in New York State and Connecticut, promoting ACORN-friendly candidates. Unlike conventional political parties, WFP charges its members dues – about $60 per year – a policy characteristic of ACORN and its affiliates.

According to the party’s Web site, WFP is a coalition founded by ACORN, the Communications Workers of America, and the United Automobile Workers. However, ACORN clearly dominates the coalition. New York ACORN leader Steven Kest was the moving force in forming the party. WFP headquarters  is located at the same address as ACORN’s national office, at 88 Third Avenue in Brooklyn.

“The [Working Families Party] was created in 1998 to help push the Democratic Party toward the left,” noted the Associated Press on March 28, 2000. In pursuit of this goal, WFP runs radical candidates in state and local elections. Generally, WFP candidates conceal their extremism beneath a veneer of populist rhetoric, promoting bread-and-butter issues designed to appeal to union workers and other blue-collar voters, Republican and Democrat alike.

The Working Families Party benefits from a quirk of New York State election law, which allows parties to “cross-endorse” candidates of other parties. Thus when Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate in 2000, she ran both on the Democratic Party ticket and on the Working Families Party ticket. Of the 3.4 million popular votes Hillary received from New Yorkers, the Working Families Party delivered 103,000.

The power to grant or deny its endorsement – and the votes that go with it – gives WFP leverage over mainstream candidates. New York politicians, from Republican governor George Pataki to Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer, go out of their way to court WFP’s favor and to avoid offending the fledgling party.

“Candidates know that when they’re on our line, they’re committed to certain things,” explains Bertha Lewis, who moonlights as WFP co-chair and New York ACORN executive director. Speaking days before Hillary won her Senate seat in 2000, Lewis noted, "Hillary knows that if she wins, we're going to be knockin' on her door. She won't be able to hide." (quoted in The Village Voice, November 1-7, 2000)

On occasion, WFP will endorse Republican candidates who support them on specific issues. However, its candidates are overwhelmingly Democratic. Indeed, shortly after WFP’s launch in 1998, party co-founder Bob Master – who is also New York political director of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) – told the Albany Times Union, “We’re very clear that we are not abandoning the Democratic Party.”  Rather, the Working Families Party is attempting to move the Democrats “toward the progressive end of the spectrum,” as another WFP organizer put it.

The strategy appears to be working. For instance, in a special May 1999 Rockland County election for an open State Senate seat, the WFP teamed up with Greens and Democrats to give a three-way endorsement to leftwing Democrat  Ken Zebrowski. WFP brought in five percent of Zebrowski’s total votes, prompting Rockland county Democratic chairman Paul Adler to comment that a Green-WFP-Democrat coalition, “could help push the Democrats back to the left.”

On March 12, 2003, the New York City Council passed a resolution opposing US plans to invade Iraq. “We are sending a message to the president today, at least I am… that you can no longer use 9/11 as an excuse for war...,” declared Brooklyn Democrat and former Black Panther Charles Barron. Councilwoman Yvette Clark added, “If we’re looking for a fight, let’s fight poverty, let’s fight firehouse foreclosures, let’s fight racism and sexism.”

Foreign news services had a field day with New York’s anti-war resolution. “The 31-17 vote in the city hardest hit by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks came after… 100,000 to 350,000 people turned out in the city last month for one of the nation's largest anti-war demonstrations,” noted China’s Xinhua News Agency. “Local councils in more than 100 U.S. municipalities large and small have passed similar resolutions,” exulted Germany’s Deutsche Presse-Agentur. “The City Councilors believe that declaring war on another nation was not the way to solve the crisis,” reported Channel NewsAsia. “New York says no,” proclaimed the Liverpool Daily Echo in England. “The resolution backed war only if `other options for achieving UN compliance calling for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction have failed.’”

Of course, many New Yorkers opposed the resolution. Or rather, they would have opposed it had they known about it. To this day, most New Yorkers are unaware that their elected representatives  ever issued such an anti-war statement. Local media downplayed the event to the point of invisibility.

Almost alone among her media colleagues, New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser accused the City Council of “disgracing the memory of nearly 3,000 souls who perished in the World Trade Center.” Peyser lamented the blow to US troop morale in Iraq, where GIs had named a base in Kuwait City “Camp  New York” in honor of the city’s sacrifice. Regarding the 31 city councilors who had voted for the resolution, Peyser wrote, “To say these people make me sick would be an insult to disease… For shame.”

Several council members publicly denounced the resolution, including Democrat Peter Vallone, Jr. of Queens, who said, “Just blocks from the Ground Zero, we debate… the financial costs of a war. What is the cost of 3,000 lives? In the next attack, when we lose 10,000 people, will that justify the cost?  New York City was attacked by terrorists. Saddam Hussein supports terrorists. He is a terrorist.” In the same vein, Staten Island Republican Andrew Lanza told his fellow council members, “...I suggest that you take a walk down the street and take a long, hard look at that gaping hole in the ground, at that gaping hole in our lives...”

For the most part, however, such voices of reason were smothered in a blanket of media silence.

Clearly the City Council no longer spoke for ordinary New Yorkers. An invading force had taken the city government by stealth. That force was the radical cult ACORN, operating under cover of one of its many front groups, The Working Families Party. ACORN’s invasion of New York City began in 1982, when organizer Francine Streich arrived in Brooklyn, setting up shop in the Reverend David Dyson’s Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church – a hotbed of inner-city activism. At that time, illegal squatters were moving en masse into the thousands of vacant buildings which the city had siezed for delinquent taxes during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. Streich decided that squatters’ rights “was  the obvious issue.”

She promptly led a sit-in at the office of Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden, demanding that the city turn over vacant buildings to the poor. When the sit-in failed, ACORN protesters occupied 25 city-owned buildings in Brooklyn. Police raided the buildings in August 1985, arresting eleven people, including leftwing State Senator Thomas J. Bartosiewicz, a Democrat, whom police accused of striking an officer.

ACORN had lost a battle, but ultimately won the war. In subsequent negotiations, the city turned over 58 buildings to the ACORN squatters, who had now organized themselves into a so-called “collective.”  Dubbed the Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY), ACORN’s “housing collective” was appointed to run the buildings and received $2.7 million in city loans for renovation. The city also awarded the “collective”  title to the land on which the buildings stood.

In effect, ACORN’s housing collective had assumed the role of landlord, at a time when New York real estate was the hottest business in town. Unlike other landlords, however, the collective enjoyed government protection against the uncertainties of the marketplace. No matter how high the market rose, ACORN’s tenants were forbidden by law to sell their apartments at a profit. If they decided to sell, they had to sell back to the collective, at cost. The collective could thus amass renovated apartments at a fraction of their market rate. As for the tenants, they could never hope to do more than break even on their investment of time, money and labor. They were poor when they moved in, and poor when they moved out. Meanwhile, ACORN and its “housing collectives” just kept getting richer. Small wonder that Bronx housing activist Rafael Bueno later plastered his homestead with posters calling ACORN, “Bloodsuckers of the Poor.”

Encouraged by its success, ACORN took its housing war citywide, imbuing squatters with a militancy reminiscent of ACORN’s Sixties-era predecessor, the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO).  In Harlem, Brooklyn, the Bronx, the East Village and Manhattan’s Lower East Side, ACORN-led squatters clashed with police in a 15-year stand-off, in which squatters armed with bottle rockets and other projectiles barricaded their buildings against police in riot gear backed by bulldozers and armored personnel carriers. Nearly every confrontation ended in victory for ACORN. In cities across the country, ACORN activists employed similar tactics, bullying local governments into doing business with its ever-expanding network of “housing collectives.”

By the late 1990s, ACORN had sunk its tentacles deep into New York City’s housing, school and social services bureaucracies. Now it was ready to make an even bigger power play. New York State would become a testing ground for an innovative strategy, whereby ACORN would seek political power directly through the ballot box. Led by New York ACORN director Steven Kest, a coalition of unions and ACORN activists launched the Working Families Party in June 1998. In order to gain “permanent”  status on the New York State ballot, a political party must win 50,000 votes. WFP accomplished this by cross-endorsing City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone, a popular Queens Democrat who ran for governor in the November 3, 1998 election (and father of the above-mentioned Peter Vallone, Jr.). The elder Vallone lost, but his moderate Democrat politics – utterly incompatible with ACORN’s doctrine of militant class struggle – helped lure 51,325 unwitting New Yorkers into voting on the WFP line.

In the November 6, 2000 election, WFP cross-endorsed Al Gore and Hillary Clinton. WFP won 80,000 votes for Al Gore and 103,000 votes for Hillary.

During the campaign, Hillary spoke at numerous WFP events, most memorably at the party’s debut convention, held March 26-27, 2000 at the Desmond Hotel in Albany – an event which the Communist newspaper People’s Weekly World approvingly called, “a turning point in New York politics.”  Before an audience packed with card-carrying members from WFP union affiliates SEIU, AFSCME, CWA, UAW, UNITE and many more, leftwing Texas activist Jim Hightower drew applause with such lines as, "They say Wall Street is whizzing. Well, yeah, it's whizzing on you and me. Let's call it exactly what it is - it's class war." After receiving WFP’s endorsement, Hillary vowed to wage a “people’s grassroots campaign.”

“[T]here have been few candidates in history more supportive of our issues than Al Gore and Hillary Clinton,” proclaimed WFP campaign literature.

Following the convention, Hillary’s rival Rudolph Giuliani commented, "That nomination [by WFP] makes our point about Mrs. Clinton being a candidate of the far left. She was trying to create this image of being this 'New Democrat,' this more conservative Democrat. That party is about as far left as it gets right now in the political ideology of the state."

ACORN canvassers fanned out across the state for Hillary, embarking on a massive get-out-the-vote drive rife with the sort of voting and registration irregularities for which ACORN has become justly notorious.

In a 1993 referendum, New Yorkers voted to restrict local elected officials to two consecutive terms. The new term limits came due in November 2001, when a majority of City Council members were forced to step down. This was the moment for which the Working Families Party had been waiting. The City Council was up for grabs.

In the electoral coup that followed, thirty-eight new members took their seats in the City Council, giving the newcomers a veto-proof majority. As Steven Malanga notes in the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, “Almost a third of the winners ran with endorsements from the extremist Working Families Party… More than 60 percent of the new councilmen had backgrounds in government, social services, or community activism…” The newcomers included Hillary’s 2000 campaign manager Bill de Blasio and Al Gore’s New York campaign manager Eric Gioia.

They also included racial incendiaries such as Charles Barron, a former Black Panther from Brooklyn. Barron lost no time arousing controversy when he declared, at an August 18, 2002 rally for slave reparations in Washington DC, "I want to go up to the closest white person and say, 'You can't understand this, it's a black thing,' and then slap him, just for my mental health."

The New York City Council’s ACORN-led coalition has set to work turning the Big Apple into a socialist mini-state. It has pressed for a slew of laws tightening the Council’s grip over city government and stripping the mayor of executive power. Its platform calls for a rollback of Giuliani’s welfare reforms; a crackdown on New York City police, including a ban on “racial and ethnic profiling” and the appointment of a politicized Civilian Review Board newly empowered to prosecute police officers. If ACORN and its allies get their way, not only will the City Council raise corporate taxes, increase regulation and empower unions with a battery of new rights, but corporations will be forbidden by law to escape ACORN’s persecution through relocation. No corporation will be permitted to leave New York without an “exit visa” issued by the City Council.

In view of its radical agenda, the City Council’s March 12, 2003 resolution condemning the invasion of Iraq came as no surprise – at least not to anyone who had been paying attention.

In the 2004 election cycle, a new and unsettling force entered New York politics: billionaire kingmaker George Soros. A long-time resident of New York – Soros maintains an estate in Katonah (Westchester County); a beach house in Southampton (Suffolk County, Long Island); and a luxury condominum on Manhattan’s Upper East Side – Soros and his two eldest sons waded aggressively into state and local politics in 2004. The Working Families Party has cooperated closely with Soros in his intrigues.

Among the victors in New York’s 2004 election who pocketed Soros money are Central New York Democrat David Valesky, who received the legal maximum of $8,500 from George Soros and $8,500 from Soros’ son Jonathan; Bronx/Westchester Democrat Jeff Klein who accepted  $8,500 from George Soros’s eldest son Robert; Bronx Democrat José Serrano, who pocketed $8,500 from George Soros and $8,500 from Robert’s wife Melissa Schiff Soros; and the New York Senate Democratic  Campaign Committee, which received a $100,000 from Mr. and Mrs. Robert Soros.

The most significant – and controversial – of New York’s up-and-coming Soros courtiers is Democrat David Soares, now district attorney of Albany county. Soares’ jurisdiction encompasses the state capital, empowering him to press criminal charges at will against any and all members of the New York State government, from the governor on down – or to withhold such charges, at his discretion. In an environment as rife with corruption as Albany, Soares is now a man to be feared.

It bodes ill for New York that the new “Sheriff of Albany” – as The New York Sun dubbed Soares – owes his promotion to corrupt and illegal financing by George Soros and the Working Families Party.

The Soros-funded Drug Policy Alliance – a drug legalization lobby through which Soros often funnels political contributions – gave $81,500 to the Soares campaign. Instead of donating the money directly, however, the Drug Policy Alliance laundered Soros’ contribution through the Working Families Party – an illegal act. New York State law bars one party from funding another party’s candidate. In this case, however, authorities have shown no interest in disciplining either Soros or the Working Families Party. Perhaps state election officials fear getting on the wrong side of the new Sheriff of Albany.

"Never before, at least in my experience in New York State, has such a conscious, orchestrated, two-tiered scheme to evade the contribution limits of the election law ever been devised, let alone successfully executed," charges James Featherstonhaugh, an attorney for the Paul Clyne campaign, which Soares defeated.

Incumbent Democrat Clyne has sued the Soares campaign for election law violations, but his legal challenge is expected to sink into the bureaucratic  quicksand that swallows up most Albany scandals.

Why the sudden interest in state and local politics on the part of leftist activists such as Soros and ACORN? An article by Jim Holt which appeared in The New York Times Magazine for November 11, 2004 lamented the Democrats’ waning power in Washington, and called on leftists to take a new look at states’ rights. “The more conservatives succeed in reducing the the size and scope of the federal government, the more fiscal freedom the blue states will have to pursue their own idea of a just society,” writes Holt.

Taking a page from Governor George Wallace, who defied the federal government’s orders to segregate Alabama schools in 1963, the left appears to be seeking secure perches in state houses and county seats across the nation, from which it can safely thumb its nose at the federal government. Such a strategy would enable leftists to radicalize America from the bottom up, siezing power city by city, county by county and state by state, in a relentless, political ground war.

ACORN and its Working Families Party are leading the way in this new movement. WFP expanded into Connecticut in 2004, and promises that it will soon set up shop in all ten states where “fusion voting” – that is, cross-endorsement of candidates by multiple parties – is still legal. Those states include Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont.



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