Opinion: School seals records on Obama’s service with radical Ayers

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These annoying journalists are at it again, trying to poke around into papers in the background of candidates’ lives. This time it involves freshman Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, his friend and former radical activist William Ayers and the University of Illinois.

The university has refused to release records related to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s past service for a nonprofit educational project that put him in contact with activist Ayers, a 1960s-era radical who helped found an organization advocating violence for political change.

Ayers is now an education professor at the school.

The university’s Chicago campus maintains that the donor of the records that document the work of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge has not officially handed over ownership rights and, therefore, the school cannot open the documents to public inspection.


The university says it is ‘aggressively pursuing’ an agreement with the donor, and as soon as an agreement is reached, the collection will be made public.

The university has not identified the donor and not indicated if the opening would occur before the Nov. 4 presidential election.

The Obama campaign says the senator does not have control over these records or the ability to release them, adding that it has made many documents related to Obama’s life available to the public and that ‘we are pleased the university is pursuing an agreement that would make these records publicly available.’

The conservative National Review this week posted an article online saying the institution had initially deemed the records open to inspection, but the university subsequently reversed its position. Tuesday, the university said that there had been a misunderstanding.

Ayers is an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In his youth, he co-founded the Weatherman organization, later known as the Weather Underground organization, which espoused violence in the pursuit of political change.

Obama has acknowledged knowing Ayers but says he can’t be held responsible for everything every friend did in his or her life. Our colleague Mark Silva has more on this unfolding story over at the Swamp.


-- Andrew Malcolm