The Discerning Texan

All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke
Monday, September 08, 2008

UPDATED COVER UP?? - U. of Illinois Officials tipped off Obama contact on Annenberg Records, asked if they had "Concerns"

This is absolute dynamite; however, expect NOT to see it in the Mainstream Media unless YOU raise a stink about it...

A few samplings from some terrific research and use of the Freedom of Information Act:
The President of the University of Illinois, B. Joseph White, and the University Counsel of the University of Illinois, Thomas Bearrows, contacted Kenneth C. Rolling, the former Executive Director of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) and a professional colleague of Barack Obama for many years, prior to the release of CAC records to the public late last month and offered Rolling an opportunity to recommend to the University which records of the CAC held at the University's Chicago campus (UIC) should be restricted from public access.

In response to Rollings' detailed request to prevent public access to certain CAC records Bearrows replied "as promised, we will carefully consider the concerns that you identify..."

The request is described in documents released by the University last week pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by a third year law student in Chicago. The law student who initiated the FOIA request provided Global Labor with the documents.


The University has previously indicated that it obtained the CAC records in 2002 from the CAC when the CAC ceased operations. A letter from Rolling to the University dated October 24, 2001 indicates the interest of the CAC in depositing the records there. A university would normally negotiate the transfer of legal rights to the documents including the preparation of a "deed of gift" to be executed by the donor and the University that fully and finally defines the terms of the gift.

The completion of a deed of gift ordinarily enables the University to process the records, including the preparation of a finding aid, and make them available to researchers without concern about future claims to the materials. Thus it is highly unusual for a university to expend the time and resources processing the materials much less take the risk of agreeing to allow a researcher access to the material prior to the negotiation of a deed of gift.

University Closes Its Doors in Face of Conservative Researcher

Such a finding aid was made available last month to Stanley Kurtz of the National Review Online after Kurtz asked for and was granted permission to review the 947 folders of CAC documents. However, the University then abruptly reversed themselves and denied Kurtz, a Harvard-trained social anthropologist, access just as he was leaving his home in Washington, D.C. for Chicago. The University then issued public statements indicating that although the CAC records had been fully processed for access by researchers and a finding aid had been prepared and made available, that the University lacked a “formal ownership agreement” from the donor.

It was after Kurtz was prevented from reviewing the records in mid-August and before the University finally released at least some of the CAC records to the public on August 26 that President White and Bearrows were in contact with Rolling.


The documents released by the University do not shed any light on the possible role of Ayers in the records flap. It would not have been unusual for a library to consult with an academic like Ayers who had such an intimate role in the life of the entity whose documents are being prepared for public review.

The CAC was originally housed in the same building as the department where Ayers taught, as was the Small Schools Workshop founded by Ayers and headed by Ayers long-time comrade from his days in the anti-war group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), out of which emerged the more violent entity, Weather Underground. Klonsky did not join the Weather Underground but instead founded a maoist sect. The Workshop was among the first grant recipients of the CAC, awarded $175,000 in 1995.

However, after the initial processing of the documents was complete and a finding aid prepared, further contact with anyone associated with the donor is highly unusual.

Thus, among the questions that remains to be answered are whether any library or University official notified Ayers of the interest of Kurtz in the CAC documents, whether Ayers asked the University to block Kurtz' access to the documents, whether Ayers advised University officials including President White on the issue and whether Ayers was in contact with Rolling during the discussions about which records should be changed from available for public review to restricted from public view.

Rolling emails indicate opportunity to limit records access

The two emails authored by Rolling and released by the University make no mention of the absence of a deed of gift. Instead, Rolling only indicates that he hopes the University will allow him physical access to the records prior to their release to the public and “recommends” that certain records that he describes be kept confidential. There is no indication whether his request was agreed to by the University.
(Hmmm... let me guess...)
Kurtz wrote in the National Review Online that according to the detailed 60 page "finding aid" provided to him by the University four files containing auditors' reports out of 947 listed on the aid "are marked, in bold type 'THESE FILES ARE RESTRICTED VIA ANNENBERG CHALLENGE until further notice." A fifth folder, containing records of eight CAC Board of Directors meeting in 1995, when CAC was first set up, had a notation nearby with the word, 'Consent'."

Ordinarily financial statements and board minutes of non-profit corporations are available to the public for review. In fact, I was provided two audit reports of the CAC by Brown University as well as minutes of the board of directors, although not the minutes from 1995. However, the fact that the finding aid indicates that some of the CAC records were designated "restricted" indicates that the terms and conditions related to the gift were, in fact, agreed to prior to the acceptance of the records by the University.

However, Rolling wrote in his email to Bearrows that he was concerned that additional records should now be restricted from public access. He wrote:

"After reviewing what I believe to be the catalogue/listing of Chicago Annenberg Challenge files, I make the following recommendations. I make these recommendations without being allowed to see the actual contents of the folds. Folder #848 -- titled "Executive Director Search Committee" -- there may be items relating to personnel, possible personnel to be hired, etc. that should be held confidential, and restricted for public access.

"The contents of Folders 876-884 that relate to the research of the Consortium on Chicago School Research should be reviewed at least by UIC Professor Mark Smylie (who was the PI -- Principal Investigator -- of the Chicago Annenberg Research Project), to make sure no materials there violate the confidentiality agreement on research subjects, etc. that was signed by the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and the Consortium on Chicago School Research. We followed strict confidentiality agreements established by the universities involved in carrying out the research project. I don't know if there are memos, documents, etc. in those folders that break the confidentiality agreements related to university research. Those folders should be scrutinized by people who know the confidentiality agreements.

"Folders 909-912 that are highlighted on my copy of the listing as '...Are Restricted via Annenberg Challenge...' could be re-considered for those restrictions when I can review them. I'm not sure what the contents of those folders really are and whether they need to remain restricted. But I need to review them before making that determination. I'm not able to recommend contents of all the grant files for restriction without reviewing them."

The ambit of confidentiality of records of a non profit corporation is quite narrow. Ordinarily the entire record of the activity of a non profit entity is made available for public review. While there may be confidential information collected in a research project such as the one the Professor Smylie directed, that information would be held by Smylie not by the CAC. Thus, the Rolling request appears to provide the University with an argument for engaging in a longer review of the documents in question which would delay their availability to the public but which would not likely turn up any private data or information.

Thus, it appears that in the wake of learning about the interest of Kurtz, a well-known conservative author, in the CAC records from University officials, President White and University Counsel Bearrows contacted Rolling unilaterally, made him aware of Kurtz’ interest in the materials and offered him the opportunity to recommend to the University not only which of the records it would make public but to expand the number of restricted files originally given to the University.
This is Watergate-level explosive; will it see the light of day?

UPDATE: More from Tom McGuire, Rick Moran, and Jim Hoft. Maybe someone will notice this story, after all...
DiscerningTexan, 9/08/2008 02:34:00 PM |