Jackson is likely to be most remembered for his efforts to expand minority representation and investment in major companies and encourage the growth of minority-owned businesses. Despite his years of protest politics, this is probably his most important public action.
For instance, in 2001 Jackson joined with AOL Time Warner, Turner Broadcasting, Coca-Cola and others to launch i-DealFlow, a program to link minority businesses to investors. Last year, Jackson convinced Freddie Mac to purchase up to $1 million in mortgage loans made to minority families.
Some of these efforts may deserve praise, but its Jacksons hard-nosed tactics that earn him notoriety. Critics say Jackson has a knack for inserting himself in the middle of high-dollar business deals that benefit his friends, family and organizations.
Jackson is unapologetic. He told the Los Angeles Times that he is simply trying to ensure minorities "access to capital," the fourth and final goal of the civil rights movement after ending slavery, securing voting rights and desegregation.
"This is as legitimate a phase of our struggle as the phase to end segregation was," Jackson has said.
The key to Jacksons recent success in influencing corporations and soliciting their donations is his Wall Street Project. Begun in 1997, it shames Fortune 500 companies into complying with Jacksons demands for more minority hiring and contracting with minority-owned businesses. Companies have decided that its better to give in to Jackson. To do otherwise could mean a boycott and nasty public relations battle.
This simple strategy has worked so well that Jackson has moved it beyond Wall Street. He has established the LaSalle Street Project to pressure Chicago-area businesses, the Ninth Street Project in Cleveland, the Wall Street Project West in Los Angeles and the Silicon Valley Project in San Jose. All these programs operate under the auspices of the tax-exempt Citizenship Education Fund, which collects large tax-deductible donations from companies that Jackson threatens or assists.
Jacksons in-your-face methods are often unfriendly to business, earning him a lot of resentment and more than a few outspoken critics. His Rainbow PUSH Coalition owned stock in more than 250 major corporations as of 1999, giving him access to stockholder meetings so "we can go and picket as shareholders instead of sharecroppers," he told USA Today.
Cypress Semiconductors chief T.J. Rodgers calls Jacksons strategy a "shakedown." Rodgers has been publicly outspoken against Jackson since his company was accused of racist hiring policies, despite the companys diverse workforce. Rodgers says Jackson gives business leaders a simple way to "repent" cough up money to avoid being labeled racist.
Indeed, when Rodgers rebuffed Jacksons hard-ball tactics and publicly defended the diversity of Silicon Valleys workforce, Jackson announced, "We can now officially describe Cypress Semiconductor as a white-supremacist hate group."
But theres more to Jacksons corporate efforts than bullying and bringing in donations. In some instances, Jackson, his family, friends and donors seem to have benefited personally from the transactions he brokered:
When Jackson announced i-DealFlow during his Wall Street Project conference in New York, he was flanked by businessmen. They included Percy Sutton, chairman emeritus and founder of Inner City Broadcasting Company. Although ICBC was not identified as a partner in i-DealFlow, Sutton was present ostensibly to represent the minority-owned businesses requiring greater access to investors. But Sutton is also a Jackson friend and a member of the Citizenship Education Fund board.
Increased investment in Suttons ICBC benefits Jackson personally; Jackson and his wife, Jacqueline, have a significant stake in the company. They have invested in ICBC since prior to Jacksons 1988 presidential campaign and held shares worth between $850,000 and $1.2 million in March, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Jackson has helped ICBC in other ways. Last year, President Bill Clinton chose Jackson to lead a trade mission to Africa. Sutton participated and plugged the African Continental Telecommunications Ltd. (ACTEL). Sutton told a congressional committee that he and ICBC have invested $16 million in ACTEL.
In 2000 , Jackson pushed the Raytheon Company, a $19.8 billion manufacturer of electronic systems for missiles, satellites and air traffic control systems, to select several minority-owned firms to manage its pension-fund assets. One of the managers was NCM Capital Management Group, a North Carolina company with assets of $6.8 billion. NCM chief Maceo Sloan was chairman of Jacksons Wall Street Project at the time.
In 2000, New York activist Rev. Al Sharpton called for a boycott against Burger Kings New York City restaurants, claiming the company was lacking in minority-owned franchises. The ploy was classic Jesse Jackson, but he wasnt flattered. Jackson stepped in and defended Burger King, arguing a boycott was "premature" and would hurt the minority-owned franchises that already existed. Sharpton countered that Burger King had been funding Jacksons nonprofits for almost two decades. The company put its total donations at $500,000, but Jackson said it was $125,000, according to The New Republic.
In 1999, AT&T reportedly donated $425,000 to the Citizenship Education Fund. Minority-owned Blaylock & Partners donated $30,000 to CEF that same year. Both gifts came after Jackson withdrew his opposition to the merger of AT&T and TCI. To appease Jackson, the companies hired Blaylock & Partners to manage an $8 million bond offering and named Blaylock co-manager of a $450 million bond offering last year. The other lead manager of last years offering was Utendahl Capital Partners L.P., which has donated "tens of thousands" to CEF, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Jackson also has close ties to AT&T management. Rev. David Jefferson, vice president of AT&T Broadband, is a leader of CEFs 1,000 Churches Connected project to improve economic literacy among black church members.
In 1999, Utendahl Capital Partners L.P. was named co-manager of Pepsi Bottling Groups $2.3 billion initial public offering. This was after Jackson pressured PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico to involve a minority-owned bank. PepsiCo contributed $50,000 to Jacksons New York conference in January 2001.
In 1999, Jackson negotiated a settlement between Boeing and 13,000 employees claiming racial discrimination. Later, 1,700 of the employees complained the settlement was too beneficial to Boeing. But soon afterward, Boeing reportedly donated $50,000 to the Citizenship Education Fund, the first of several gifts. Boeing also contracted with minority investment banks, some of them reportedly donors to Jacksons nonprofits, to manage Boeings pension funds. Last year, Boeing named a full-time employee to serve as a liaison to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
In 1998, Jackson publicly criticized a proposed merger of telecommunications companies SBC and Ameritech, calling the marriage "antithetical to basic democratic values." The next year, Jackson publicly praised the merger after SBC and Ameritech reportedly gave $500,000 to the Citizenship Education Fund and Ameritech sold part of its cellular business to Georgetown Partners, which had no telecommunications experience but was owned by Jackson friend Chester Davenport. Davenport was named chairman of the new spinoff company.
GTE, which purchased most of Ameritechs cellular business, and Bell Atlantic later reportedly donated $1 million to Jacksons groups. In 1999, after Jackson publicly endorsed the GTE and Bell Atlantic merger into Verizon, the new company reportedly pledged $300,000 to Jacksons groups through 2002.
In 1998, Jackson publicly supported a merger between Citibank and Travelers, whose CEO Sandy Weill has become a major backer of the Wall Street Project. That year, Citicorp gave $50,000 and Travelers gave $100,000 to CEF.
In 1998, years after Jackson led a boycott of Anheuser-Busch products to protest hiring and promotion practices, Jacksons son Yusef was introduced to August Busch IV by Jacksons friend Ron Burkle the wealthy California businessman who last year hired Jacksons mistress Karin Stanford after she left CEF. Yusef and his brother Jonathan were awarded Chicagos largest Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship that same year. The sons reportedly paid for the assets, equipment and two buildings with a $6.7 million bank loan. Anheuser-Busch had spent $10.5 million in 1991 for the land and one of the buildings purchased by the Jacksons.
In 1997, Viacom and two buyers of ten Viacom radio stations donated $2 million to create an Education and Advocacy Fund to end the Rainbow PUSH Coalitions opposition to the sale. The Fund was intended to encourage minority-owned broadcasting. Because Federal Communications Commission rules prohibit companies from buying off opponents of license transfers, Rainbow PUSH was not eligible to benefit from the Fund. So fund administrator Warner Session, a Washington attorney and lobbyist, awarded $680,000 to the Citizenship Education Fund for two conferences.