- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

With America's attention focused on the terrible demise of energy giant Enron, Jesse Jackson couldn't resist muscling his way into the spotlight. As one CNN interviewer put it delicately to Mr. Jackson, "Reverend, once again we find you at the center of the storm."

In this storm, Mr. Jackson says that Enron employees are "victims of corporate greed and stealing and government negligence." He has publicly accused the government in general and the Bush administration in particular of being "neutralized by campaign contributions" and has called on the government to "bail out the workers" that were "betrayed" by the "unholy alliance" between Enron and the government.

Enron unraveled because of secret partnerships and shady accounting that obscured the energy trader's dramatic weaknesses and conjured up a deceptive sense of strength and credibility for the company's public image. This had the dual effect of providing employees and investors with a false sense of security.

Yet Enron has nothing on Mr. Jackson when it comes to questionable relationships, dubious accounting practices and public relations gamesmanship. To the extent that Enron acted in bad faith, Mr. Jackson has many questions to answer in his own right. Just as Enron meticulously concocted the image of a dynamic profit center, examples abound of Mr. Jackson using his public relations stature as a "civil rights leader" to acquire benefits for himself, family members and friends. And like Enron, he did so at the expense of others.

Recently, a supporter of Mr. Jackson's broke silence and publicly accused the Rainbow/PUSH leader of "stiffing the poor," and orchestrating an elaborate web of exploitation, racketeering and corporate shakedowns. Mr. Jackson's onetime supporter, Harold Doley, is the first black American to have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Because he was attracted to Mr. Jackson's professed efforts of economically empowering minorities in the business world, Mr. Doley signed on to Mr. Jackson's Wall Street Project. He soon found out that Mr. Jackson was more concerned with empowering himself. Mr. Doley now says that the Wall Street Project founder was engaging in a "kind of RICO operation, both criminal and civil. It was racketeering."

Last year, the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) zeroed-in on Mr. Jackson's highly questionable bookkeeping and business relationships with a formal IRS complaint concerning Mr. Jackson's Citizenship Education Fund, the organization that oversees his Wall Street Project. Mr. Jackson viciously attacked the NLPC, but then conceded significant errors in his tax filings by submitting amended returns. Unfortunately, his revised numbers leave more questions unresolved.

The biggest question is just who benefits from Mr. Jackson's activism. Last year, Mr. Jackson threatened to boycott Toyota following an advertising campaign some derided as stereotypical of minorities. Mr. Jackson upped the ante by accusing Toyota of poor minority representation in the company. Toyota, at first, denied Mr. Jackson's allegations. But, over time and under considerable pressure, Toyota adjusted its statements and eventually embraced Mr. Jackson. Citing progress in negotiations, Mr. Jackson announced a delay to the planned boycott, and the money trail began.

One week after Mr. Jackson's announcement, Toyota's finance division sold $300 million in medium-term notes, a portion of which went to two of Mr. Jackson's biggest financial supporters on Wall Street. And in the fall, Toyota announced the hiring of its promised "minority" consulting firm for public relations. The firm hired was Chicago-based Burrell Communications, owned by Thomas Burrell, a longtime Jackson friend and financial supporter. Toyota was also an active supporter and contributor to Mr. Jackson's recent 2002 Wall Street Project conference.

Toyota is but one of many, many victims. The evidence of Mr. Jackson's success can be seen in the numbers themselves. In 1996, Rainbow/PUSH had a gross income of $695,000 and by the year 2000, it grossed $17 million. However, rumors are now surfacing that Mr. Jackson's money tree is not producing as much fruit as before and that he has been forced to lay off many staffers. All of this raises serious and considerable questions that Mr. Jackson should address with the same candor that he has called upon Enron to demonstrate.

Mr. Jackson is an ordained minister. Yet he seems unaware of the Gospel's admonition: "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Mr. Jackson should take these words to heart before making judgments about Enron.

Brian Tubbs is a senior policy analyst with the Washington-based National Legal and Policy Center.

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