Written by Tom Fitton
Hold on to your hat. Because the video we just obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will knock it off.
The video, which we obtained pursuant to a May 18, 2012, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, reveals a compulsory “Cultural Sensitivity Training” program sponsored and administered by the USDA. Owing to the controversial nature of the material, the video received a ton of press interest, including a featured spot on last night’s Fox News Channel Program The O’Reilly Factor. As a national audience saw last night on O’Reilly’s program:
As I said, shocking. And expensive.
These sensitivity training sessions are described on the video as “a huge expense” by diversity awareness trainer and self-described “citizen of the world” Samuel Betances. The diversity event, held on USDA premises, is apparently part of what USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack described in a memo sent to all agency employees as “new era of Civil Rights” and “a broader effort towards cultural transformation at USDA.”
This movement inside the USDA took place following the controversial July 2010 firing of employee Shirley Sherrod in a reaction to certain racial comments by Ms. Sherrod at a meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on March 27, 2010.
American taxpayers have paid dearly for Sherrod’s firing. In 2011 and 2012, the USDA paid Betances and his firm nearly $200,000 for their part in the “cultural transformation” program.
Of course, information regarding the program was not supposed to see the light of day. USDA Training Administrator, Vincent Loran, in an October 10, 2011, email previously revealed by Judicial Watch, asked Betances for a copy of a training video vowing to keep it secret. “It will not be used for or show [sic] in any way shape or form,” Loran promised. (In other bizarre correspondence, Loran professes his love for Betances and called him “father.”)
Now we know why. Judicial Watch was able to obtain the video and here are some of the highlights:
When you watch the video, I think you’ll agree that the psychological conditioning techniques employed by the speaker on these videos are Orwellian. And how disturbing that a leftist like Betances has been given a platform inside the USDA.
Betances is a Harvard grad who describes himself as a “biracial, bicultural and bilingual citizen of the world.” Betances’ biography states that he is a “great motivator who rose out of the bowels of inner city poverty, stigma of minority group status, violence, welfare and illiteracy in two languages.”)
As reported by Fox News in October, 2012, Judicial Watch first broke the news of the USDA compulsory sensitivity training program based upon information it obtained in response to a FOIA request. That request was prompted by a tip provided to the organization by a USDA whistleblower.
And, as far as the USDA’s wasteful and irresponsible government initiatives are concerned, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
In addition to diversity training, the USDA’s “diversity overhaul” includes public education campaigns; the settlement of class action lawsuits for minority populations, such as Native American and Hispanic farmers; gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual diversity programs;and streamlined systems for the processing of civil rights complaints and “special events.”
For example, check out this April 2011 issue of the USDA’s Cultural Transformation Newsletter. It describes a USDA event called a “Taste of Culture” where 300 USDA employees were treated to a “tasty celebration” of dishes from around the world, salsa dancing lessons from training administrator Vincent Loran, and a rap music performance by another USDA employee about his feelings on human differences.
Can someone please explain how any of this helps USDA employees to better serve the American taxpayer? The obvious answer is they don’t. In fact, the video further confirms that politically-correct “mandatory” diversity training programs are a waste of taxpayer money – and offensive. This is government-sponsored brainwashing. If we’re looking for government programs to cut in this age of out-of-control government debt, “Cultural Transformation” is a good place to begin.
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste…And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” This is what former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said in a Wall Street Journal forum before leaving the Obama administration.
And while Emanuel may be hundreds of miles away from Washington, DC, running the corrupt city of Chicago, the Obama administration continues to follow his creed. Case in point: the Obama administration’s shameless and aggressive exploitation of the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy.
As The Associated Press pointed out, after Sandy Hook, Obama proposed 23 “executive actions” related to gun regulation – none of which, we are told, require congressional action. As I’ve said in this space previously, this is the “new normal” in the Obama administration. President Obama decided in 2011 to bypass Congress and implement his policies by executive fiat. Obama calls it his “We Can’t Wait” initiative.
In this case, the president has tapped Vice President Biden to lead his gun control initiative. And since much of what was discussed between Biden and gun control activists took place behind closed doors, Judicial Watch once again stepped up to force transparency on this process by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)request to pry loose records related to the vice president’s meetings. (We have yet to receive a response.)
But it is important to point out that President Obama is not the only politician who “can’t wait” to scrap the Second Amendment. This is a fight that is ongoing in thousands of municipalities nationwide. None bigger than New York City.
At the same time we filed our FOIA regarding the Biden meetings, Judicial Watch also filed a separate New York Freedom of Information Law request with Mayor Bloomberg’s office, seeking the mayor’s communications with an organization called Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG). Bloomberg is a founding member of the group, which advocates for strict gun control laws.
The mayor’s office has yet to respond to our request, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we were forced to go to court to get these records. But this delayed response hasn’t stopped JW from pressing forward with its investigation. And here is a little bit about what JW investigators have discovered about the controversial Bloomberg operation:
Mayors Against Illegal Guns has spent at least $840,000 on federal lobbying efforts since 2007, including $210,000 in 2010 and $200,000 in both 2011 and 2012. The specific issues important to MAIG include expanding the background check system and fighting the Tiahart amendments (which require the destruction of records of passed background checks and limit the use of background check information by law enforcement for other purposes).
Since 2009, MAIG’s sole lobbying firm has been The Raben Group, founded and led by former Clinton Assistant Attorney General Robert Raben.
Moreover, in addition to its explicit lobbying efforts on the policy positions noted above, MAIG has also undertaken a more surreptitious campaign to advance its anti-gun agenda. Through the United Against Illegal Guns Support Fund, MAIG has paid for regional coordinators to be employed in mayors’ offices throughout the country, including Minneapolis, Columbus, Lewiston, Reading, Seattle, and Utica.
In 2010 (the last year for which the group’s IRS Form 990 is available), MAIG provided grants totaling more than $371,000 to fund these positions. Importantly, however, the positions are not cost-neutral for the municipalities in which coordinators are installed, meaning taxpayers must foot the bill for the rest.
For example, according to a Memorandum of Understanding between MAIG and the City of Columbus uncovered by Judicial Watch:
This funding includes a matching requirement. The recipient of the award funds will be required to pay for all fringe benefits provided to the Regional Coordinator, and any salary paid to the Regional Coordinator in excess of $60,000. The award recipient will also be required to provide appropriate office space and any additional funds necessary beyond the $15,000 in travel support from UAIGSF. The award recipient shall direct the Coordinator to attend national Mayors Against Illegal Guns meetings and events on a regular basis.
And how is MAIG putting these taxpayer dollars to use?
Duties for the Columbus position include recruiting “25 new mayors in the region into the coalition” during the grant year. A separate Memorandum of Understanding between MAIG and the city of Orlando, also uncovered by Judicial Watch, outlines much loftier recruiting goals:
Now these agreements stipulate that, “no portion of the grant may be used to support lobbying activities.” However, that seems to be a distinction without difference, as the requirements for the position include:
So what does all of this mean?
President Obama may be the ring leader in the attack on the Second Amendment, but he has thousands of foot soldiers in cities across America to do the gritty work of pushing the gun control agenda city by city. As these records show, municipalities are essentially responsible for paying part of the cost of recruiting new cities to join MAIG’s campaign and forde facto anti-gun lobbying efforts. Judicial Watch is now analyzing the ethical and legal implications of this secretive campaign.
Stay tuned as the battle over the Second Amendment is just beginning. And your Judicial Watch is once again advocating for transparency and the rule of law.
Until next week
Tom Fitton, President
Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law. Through its educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation's public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people.
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