Tags: PUSH | Comes | Shove: | Jesse | Jackson's | Empire | Crumbles

PUSH Comes to Shove: Jesse Jackson's Empire Crumbles

Monday, 14 January 2002 12:00 AM

Dogged by a loss of political clout, personal scandal and concerns by some Wall Street professionals that Jackson has come across as "anti-American" after the Sept. 11 attacks, the activist's influence is diminishing in the business and civil rights community.

Jackson's empire has shrunk from more than 100 employees at the beginning of 2001 to fewer than 50 this year, according to one of Jackson's former business associates, who asked not to be identified.

Nizam Arain, spokesman for Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH coalition in Chicago, confirmed the wave of recent layoffs. "I know that that's been going on. I can't confirm the numbers," Arain told CNSNews.com.

When asked who might be able to give an accurate accounting of Jackson's employee base, Arain said, "At this point, I don't think that anyone short of Rev. Jackson himself would be prepared to give you an authoritative comment on that."

Jackson was not available for comment, however.

The latest round of employee downsizing at Jackson's three principle organizations – Rainbow/PUSH, Wall Street Project and Citizenship Education Fund – happened in December, shortly after Jackson's star-studded birthday party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, an event hosted by Barbra Streisand.

According to sources close to Jackson, the fund-raiser did not meet expectations, and Jackson laid off an additional 17 employees in December. "He's basically washed up," said a Wall Street banker who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing repercussions from Jackson.

"His money is drying up. The Wall Street Project is tanking. He is reeling," the banker said.

One reason for the decline of Jackson's enterprises is that after the 2000 election, Jackson lost many of his Washington allies, according to a former Jackson associate.

The associate told CNSNews.com that Jackson "lost his cover" in 2001 with the departure of former President Bill Clinton and other Clinton administration officials. "He doesn't have Janet Reno to block any federal investigations anymore," the associate explained.

David Wallace, a Christian minister who attended Chicago Theological Seminary with Jackson in the 1960s, was not surprised Jackson is in financial difficulty.

Wallace, one of the founding members of Rainbow/PUSH in the 1970s, said he last saw Jackson at his Chicago office last October and he was not upbeat, saying Jackson "did comment to me that 'this year has been a rough year.'"

Adding to Jackson's woes is this week's 5th Annual Wall Street Project Conference in New York City, which is not being greeted with much enthusiasm at the New York Stock Exchange, according to Jackson's former associate.

The program is designed to promote minority participation in corporate America, with this year's conference being held from today through Friday.

According to Jackson's former associate, the NYSE contributes $400,000 annually to the Wall Street Project, which features a fundraiser on the floor of the stock exchange.

The stock exchange pays all the expenses of the event, including the tab for drinks and live music, featuring rapper Sean Combs and Jackson's daughter, singer Santita Jackson.

But sources say Jackson has angered some executives on Wall Street with his comments about the U.S. government's response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Members of the New York Stock Exchange are appalled and can't understand why [Exchange Chairman] Dick Grasso is kowtowing to someone they view as anti-American," said the Wall Street banker.

Jackson has decried the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan and called Attorney General John Ashcroft a terrorist "suspect [because] he threatens democracy."

Jackson has also claimed, "Too many have been intimidated by flag wearing and flag waving."

He shared the stage with then Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell at the Black World Conference in Atlanta last November when Campbell said to a receptive audience, "While the rest of the country waves the flag of Americana, we understand we are not part of that."

Raising additional questions about Jackson's patriotism are passages in the soon-to-be released book "Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson," by Kenneth Timmerman.

The book examines 30 years of Jackson's political activities, and Timmerman reports that Jackson has displayed an aversion to the American flag.

At a rally in Chicago just four days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Timmerman said, Jackson was less than patriotic.

"When the entire country is in a state of grief and patriotic resurgence, he wasn't flying [the flag] at his home. It wasn't on his car, it wasn't on his lapel, it wasn't on stage behind him," Timmerman told CNSNews.com . "In front of the cameras, there wasn't a flag visible in the whole place. There was no sense of expression of either mourning or grief or even of sympathy for the victims of September 11th."

According to Jackson's former business associate, Jackson's stance on the war on terrorism has made Wall Street jittery prior to next week's conference.

"Jackson is going to go in and talk about not waving the flag? In all of America you can't exceed the patriotism that exists on the trading floors and in the New York Stock Exchange. The terrorist attacks happened in their neighborhood," the former Jackson associate said.

"Having him host an event on Wall Street amounts to money from the stock exchange being used to subsidize sedition."

Timmerman's book details Jackson's financial empire and reaches unflattering conclusions. "There are no benefits that accrue [for corporations] in being part of Jackson's efforts," Timmerman said.

Referring to next week's Wall Street Project, Timmerman said, "This is the fifth year he has done this project, which has no other purpose but to shakedown major Wall Street corporations," a sentiment that has been shared by others in the business arena.

"The fact that corporations are making major contributions to Jackson, raises fiduciary questions about their responsibility to their shareholders," Timmerman added.

Jackson's longtime friend David Wallace stopped short of labeling Jackson's dealings a "shakedown" but did question why his friend of more than 30 years has not been more closely scrutinized. "I think it is interesting that he has not been audited by the IRS," said Wallace. "Jesse is not above the law."

Author and former 1960s radical David Horowitz has also criticized Jackson's business tactics.

"It's basically cry racism and shake the money tree," Horowitz told CNSNews.com.

Horowitz, author of the book "Hating Whitey," a critique of the civil rights establishment, called Jackson's fundraising methods "unarmed robbery."

A spokesman for Jackson's Wall Street Project was unavailable for comment, but spokeswoman Keiana Peyton of Rainbow/PUSH earlier told CNSNews.com that she suspected political opponents of Jackson want to undermine his legacy.

"Because he has been extremely vocal and an instrumental voice on several civil rights and social justice issues, perhaps they are looking for means to discredit him, " said Peyton.

According to Peyton, Jackson's political efforts have "opened the market and evened the playing field for persons who have historically been locked out of this access to business and capital."

Financial woes and suspicions among some in corporate America are not the only problems dogging Jackson.

As a longtime liberal advocate, Jackson has earned his political detractors. But his influence among those he seeks to represent is also in decline.

Jackson has been considered by many to be the nation's pre-eminent spokesman for black America, but his sway has been waning in recent years, in part because of personal scandal.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, seeking to replace Jackson as America's top black leader, recently told columnist George Will that Jackson's extramarital affair with an employee, which produced a child, ended Jackson's unlimited access to black churches.

Wallace agreed, noting that Jackson's actions were "an embarrassment to his congregation.

"The extramarital affair and baby forfeited Jackson's moral leadership," Wallace said. "That is not the behavior of a Christian minister."

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Dogged by a loss of political clout, personal scandal and concerns by some Wall Street professionals that Jackson has come across as anti-American after the Sept. 11 attacks, the activist's influence is diminishing in the business and civil rights community. Jackson's...
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Monday, 14 January 2002 12:00 AM
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