On Sunday morning, The Blaze posted a story about the “return” of ACORN on the world-wide scene.  While reading through some of the background material on that story, I noticed something significant.

ACORN founder Wade Rathke has been busy mocking the story that broke on The Blaze earlier this week about a multi-front plot to target JP Morgan Chase in an attempt to crash the stock market.  We’ll look at his criticisms in a second.  No need to bury the lede here. Rathke seems to answer the question we’ve been asking all week — does bank plotter Stephen Lerner still work for SEIU?  Rathke says Lerner is still very much on the SEIU payroll:

Lerner has not been “fired” by SEIU as they report.  He was placed on paid leave last fall to think through his contribution to the union, but was certainly present at the recent international executive board meeting.

This is important for several reasons — not the least of which is that this ties the plot to destroy the American economy much more closely within the ranks of the organization that time and time again President Obama has declared to be most important to him strategically and politically.

If you are not familiar with our original report — click here.

From the beginning, we have speculated about Lerner’s work status.  We knew early on that a blog critical of SEIU had reported on the “apparent firing” of Lerner last fall.  But we also knew that Lerner was introduced at the Left Forum conference as “SEIU.”  And we soon learned that Lerner had an active voicemail account on his phone line at SEIU.  Glenn Beck speculated numerous times on radio and TV about Lerner’s work status and noted that repeated calls to SEIU had not been returned.

I’d wondered all along what it would really take to get fired from SEIU.  Is there a union of workers at the union?  Maybe Lerner filed a grievance!

Rathke’s post not only claims that Lerner is on “paid leave,” he affirms Lerner’s status as a revered strategist in the labor movement:

Lerner has written a number of well circulated papers over the last year expanding on his analysis of the impact of the recession and the need to frame larger campaigns around accountability of banks and the financial system for working Americans.  He is an avowed advocate of developing campaigns to finally bring them to account.

Rathke seems to find a logical contradiction in our connections between some of Lerner’s key assertions:

While labeling Lerner an ex-SEIU official who was signaling that unions and community organizations were “dead,” also reported hook-line-and-sinker that in May, according to Lerner, there would be days of rage in ten cities around JP Morgan Chase signally the beginning of the anti-banking jihad.  Hmmm.  An ex-official issuing the call to “dead” troops to storm the barricades?  Does something not add up here?

Does it add up? He doesn’t really deal with a counter argument to Lerner’s contention about unions and community organizations being “dead,” but it seems to me that a desperate official, dealing with desperate forces, backed by astounding fiscal resources, might be able to reasonably storm a barricade or two.

While Lerner’s articulation of a well-orchestrated plot to bring down the stock market may sound a little hyperbolic, Rathke is intent on convincing us that Lerner is actually known for his reasoned understatement:

I’ve known and worked with Lerner for decades and his long experience with union lawyers and what used to be called “corporate campaigns,” has made him one of the more careful commentators on his work that I know.  The rest of us are verifiable flap jawed loose lips compared to Steve!


Lerner, meantime, has given his first comments about our story.  He talked to MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan on his podcast.  On Saturday we posted a side-by-side comparison of Lerner’s current comments compared with the comments in our original report:

Blaze assistant editor Meredith Jessup prepared this text summary of the Ratigan podcast:

Is SEIU’s Stephen Lerner a terrorist… or a hero?

This is the question MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan pondered Thursday when he invited the controversial labor organizer onto his radio broadcast to defend his plans to purposefully crash the United States economy.

As we reported this week, Lerner — a hero among progressives — was caught on tape discussing a planned “mortgage strike” against the country’s largest banking institutions, specifically including JP Morgan Chase. In a recording uncovered from a leftist conference last weekend in New York, Lerner describes how homeowners “strategically defaulting” on home loans would force banks to negotiate in a redistribution of wealth scheme with far-reaching economic consequences.

Conservative radio host Glenn Beck labeled Lerner’s plan “economic terrorism” and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the potential threat.

“I interviewed Lerner, to get his side of the story — his first interview since being attacked by Beck,” Ratigan wrote Friday. “Lerner talked about the mortgage strike idea, the big banks, the Tea Party and Glenn Beck’s attack, and being accused of terrorism.”

Here are some highlights — bold emphases mine (click here for .mp3 audio):

—In opposing his plan, Lerner claims both Beck and tea partiers are “shilling for Wall Street.”

I mean, their kneejerk response seems to be to defend the super elite, and I don’t how you have an economy that functions. I think it’s up to 40% of corporate profits are generated by the casino on Wall Street, and unless you somehow reduce the power of Wall Street, or their economic or power, I don’t know how we have a productive economy where there’s a future for our kids and where things work if everything’s based – it’s ironic, I think it’s Warren Buffett who referred to derivatives as financial weapons of mass destruction. These are the guys that destroyed the economy. And I think the thing that is really sticking in people’s goat more and more is they’re now using the disaster that they created to say we should get rid of the minor laws that were passed to try to contain their behavior. It’s like they haven’t learned a lesson – actually, I take that back. They did learn a lesson. They learned that they could crash the economy, get bailed out, and then become even bigger and more powerful. That’s the lesson they learned, and that’s what they’re going to do unless we have a plan to reduce their power.

—According to Lerner, an organized mortgage strike specifically designed to crash the market is “exactly how business[es] operate”:

It really shows that something is off when people talking about doing something that’s completely legal that mirrors exactly how business operate that people start throwing out words like terrorism and trying to intimidate people into not speaking. The only thing I can figure on this, you know you started off by talking about how much money the banks have and their influence and their relationship with government is that there is a whole set of people that just seem to say I have to defend the banks and Wall St. no matter what happens. It’s an attempt to sort of scare people and scare regular people and scare homeowners and scare people who are trying to figure out how to put their economic lives back together, to scare them out of standing up. I don’t think it would work but it’s really a disappointment that people go into that kind of sensationalism instead of saying let’s really fix the problem here and keep people in their homes and get the economy working and lets really say we need to address Too Big to Fail instead of trying to intimidate folks that think the economy is a mess because of the banks.

—Ratigan and Lerner use the recent bank bailouts — an act opposed by the majority of Americans — as justification to attack the banking industry:

[Lerner] is the former director of the SEIU’s Banking and Finance Campaign. He created the website WheresTheNote.com, and has been so insane as to suggest that the banks themselves who have been funded with your tax money, who have collected 100 cents on the dollar and in no-strings-attached bank bailout that the Tea Party purports to object to from a few years ago, and yet continued to collect mortgage payments in full from folks whose houses frequently are worth far less than the mortgage that exists.

—Lerner says his plans for mass mortgage strike just makes good business sense and homeowners should be able to walk away from their mortgage responsibilities:

Well, I would say it’s not even organizing. It’s an early discussion of saying, “What if a bunch of people all agreed to say to the banks –”. Maybe what people would say is, “We’re going to put our money escrow, even.” But we’re saying we want you to negotiate with us on principle, and we think a lot of us are all going to say at the same time, “Listen, we’re going to sign up, we’re going to say, “You should negotiate with us.” And when we get enough people who are signed on to saying the banks should negotiate, we’d say, “Well now we’ve evened the score a little bit. You’re the biggest, richest guys in the world, but a lot of us have signed up and said we’re ready to potentially walk away. Why don’t you negotiate on reducing the principle?” So what we’re talking about is people making a commitment to each other saying if enough other people agree to it, we’ll demand the banks negotiate and then if they’re not willing to negotiate, then people can take appropriate action and walk away if that’s what makes sense.

But even more than that, what we’re really talking about is encouraging people to make a good business decision because more and more business writers and other people have written, and they’ve written time and time again, that if a business was in the situation of most homeowners, they would walk away. And so what – we’re saying two things. One, we want the banks to negotiate and we want to fix it. But second, we’re saying people should be rational about their financial life. And as you said, the amount of money that people wasting on a home that they’re not going to be able to stay in because they’re stuck in a bad mortgage versus that it may be a good business decision to say, “I’m leaving and I’m going to rent an apartment.” So we’re trying to do two things: help people make a good financial decision for themselves; and second, do it in a way that’s together that maybe we can start fixing the housing problem. And I’d take it a step farther; I don’t know how we fix the economy unless we stabilize the housing market. And we’re not going to stabilize the housing market if we don’t write down principle.

—Ratigan slams free-market capitalism as “false rhetoric” and outlines five key areas of “madness” that need overhaul — energy, health care, international trade, military and banks:

We see this over and over and over again, whether it’s in American finance, American healthcare, American energy, American trading, meaning with China and elsewhere, or the military. An unholy alliance forms between those who make the most money from that business, whether it’s the bank or the energy company or whoever, and the politicians who they fund. In the process, ironically, these people, like Glenn Beck and others, hide behind the false rhetoric of the free market while desperately trying to avoid paying the actual consequences of living in a free market, let alone being forced to exhibit the adaptability and innovative spirit required of all of us at this point in time, so that we can adapt to the marketplace, a marketplace in which energy is actually very expensive, a marketplace in which lending can be made very cheap, were it not controlled by the special interests that run it. Same could be said for healthcare.

So the more we can all focus our attention on the unholy alliance in this country that exists between business and state, reward the businesses and encourage the businesses that compete for your dollars through good service and real value, and punish the politicians who cater to the weak and pathetic in the business world who cannot adapt or innovate and so use their dollars to try to legislatively manipulate the environment so that they can survive only to come back out barking and claiming free markets. The sooner we can put an end of the madness that is the trillion dollar problems that plague this country of energy, healthcare, the multi-national trading pirates, military, and the bank system. Those five problems, all in the trillions. You deal with those, and suddenly your million and billion dollar problems seem much more approachable.

Lerner insists it was the banking industry which “crashed the economy” and is keeping it from recovering:

I think a lot of people have been stunned, not just that the banks crashed the economy, not just that they got rich doing it, but how at this moment after we bailed them out, they’re using the very crisis that they created to continue squeezing regular Americans. And it’s just maddening I think to a lot of us to see them really holding the country hostage saying, “Well, if you don’t give us tax breaks, we’ll move our jobs abroad; if you don’t do what we want, then we’re going to continue to put the screws to you.” So we started – we keep thinking about these guys got trillions in bailouts, they got a new and better deal, and the whole country is stuck in recession because they won’t write down principle so folks can stay in their homes and we can fix the mortgage market. They have cities trapped in exotic things like interest-rate swaps so public services that cuts, they can create excess interest in it. It’s really the big bang’s Wall Street that is stopping the economy from recovering.

Ratigan asks Lerner — Isn’t what you’re doing technically illegal?

RATIGAN: The one thing that strikes me that you could run into in trying to organize a larger group of people around this, is very explicit banking law, unique law that applies explicitly only to banks that effectively makes it illegal to do any form of organizing or work that could directly result, for instance, in a run on the banks. And is there not a risk that a large collection of mortgage holders refusing to pay could run a foul of that law?

LERNER: It would be a terrific irony because since nobody’s been prosecuted in the massive run of the banks and all the hedge funds and all the deals where people bet against and tripled down on different bets, it would sure be ironic if people interpreted homeowners exerting their right to be causing a run on the bank; that’s not the goal at all. In fact, but going backwards, I think it would be great if people investigated and prosecuted for all the things the banks did that most normal people would consider a form of the run on the bank. I’m not worried about that because what we’re talking about is perfectly legal, it’s perfectly lawful.

In the end, Rathke is not worried about Lerner and his future as a legendary labor organizer:

The right wingers need to leave Lerner alone rather than erecting yet another statute in their wax gallery of threats to America.  Knowing Stephen, he’s having a hearty laugh at all of this.

Wade Rathke’s Startling Admission: ‘Economic Terrorism’ Engineer Stephen Lerner Is Still on SEIU Payroll