Update: Still No Movement on Ayers-Obama Annenberg Papers

August 21st, 2008 2:27 PM

In my post on Tuesday, I wrote about Stanley Kurtz's efforts to access the Annenberg Challenge files housed at the University of Illinois-Chicago. These files documented an educational initiative started by Bill Ayers and chaired by Barack Obama.

At that point, only AP writer Pete Yost had written anything about the story. Additionally, U of I rep Bill Burton issued a press release. Since that time, there has been no movement from the university and coverage by the MSM has been minimal, though it is finally beginning to pick up. To wit, as reported in a blog post at the Chicago Tribune, Chicago mayor, Richard Daley, declined to intervene in the matter by pressing U of I to release the documents to Kurtz, saying, 

People keep trying to align himself [sic] with Barack Obama. It's really unfortunate. They're friends. So what? People do make mistakes in the past. You move on. This is a new century, a new time. He reflects back and he’s been making a strong contribution to our community.

According to Daley, we should move on and accept that any past relationship between Obama and Ayers was entirely innocuous, on his (Daley's) say so. Right.

Apart from the blog post at the Chicago Tribune, MSM coverage of the matter has been minimal. The Boston Globe included it in their campaign notebook under the title "Kerry, Romney will speak when the Democrats meet." The five sentences they devote to the matter simply report what was already known from Yost's AP article. The Swamp, the Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau blog, is similarly limited in its reporting.

My email to U of I spokesperson, Bill Burton, asking for further comment on the matter, netted me a copy and paste of the original official press release. Burton read the same release on an AM talk radio show that was recorded by National Review Online. After concluding his official statement, Burton said, when asked if Bill Ayers was the donor, "not to my knowledge."

Missing, in this equation, is the legion of MSM reporters aggressively pursuing access to this material the way they would if John McCain were the one with official and personal ties to a former terrorist like Bill Ayers.

Fortunately, Kurtz is not entirely alone in his pursuit of the truth. Santa Clara law professor, Steve Diamond, has done his own research on the matter. Though he did not have access to the key documents housed at the U of I, he did survey the material related to the national Annenberg Challenge

Several months ago I was able to obtain certain key records of the Challenge - including board minutes, annual and semi-annual reports and financial records - from Brown University's Annenberg Institute. Brown housed the national Annenberg Challenge program that was set up in 1993 by a gift of $500 million from Walter Annenberg.

Diamond's entire blog merits attention, but look specifically at his listing of the key documents, his original examination of the Ayers-Obama relationship, and an in depth look at what he has taken to calling "Annenberg Gate."

For what it's worth, the Obama campaign insists they "are pleased the university is pursuing an agreement that would make these records publicly available." But Obama hasn't exactly exerted any public pressure on the anonymous donor--a person whose identity he likely knows.

The concerns surrounding this story remain: Will the donor grant the university ownership such that the university can then grant access to Kurtz and others? Will the agreement come in enough time such that the findings are known before the election? Will those documents remain unaltered and entirely intact? And finally, will the MSM ever jump on Kurtz's bandwagon (there's plenty of room) and add a little investigative clout?

Finally, today, MSM blogs at the WSJ, NYT, Boston Herald, AOL, and LAT have chimed in with minor updates and the Chicago Tribune has another piece on Daley's resistence. But still, not the level of attention we've all seen devoted to rooting out the secrets of high profile Republicans.When coverage migrates from newspapers's affiliated blogs to the front page, we'll know coverage is starting to balance out. Hopefully at that point U of I and its anonymous donor will feel enough heat that they will actually release the documents.

Of course, a public and private call for the release of the documents by Barack Obama wouldn't hurt either.