National People’s Action
When activists swarm the private residence of a bank employee when their target isn’t at home — but his children reportedly are — they might be from a union-supported left-wing agitation group calling itself “National People’s Action.” The Chicago-based, union-associated, and George Soros-funded organization is somewhat notorious for radical, over-the-line campaigning tactics that resort to demonstrations in residential neighborhoods designed to intimidate employees of financial services firms. The group — which rebranded itself from “National Training and Information Center” — has also been implicated in illegal corrupt lobbying using federal grant fundsand saw a former Executive Director go to jail.
In 2010, National People’s Action agitators with the support of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) swarmed the suburban Washington, D.C. home of Greg Baer, a lawyer for Bank of America. Nina Easton, Mr. Baer’s neighbor and a writer for Fortune magazine, reported that Baer’s son— the only person who was home during the NPA-backed trespass (a photograph taken by Easton clearly shows agitators, some wearing National People’s Action-branded t-shirts, on the property) — barricaded himself into a bathroom.
Easton reported that the assault on Baer’s house was to be only the beginning — NPA and SEIU’s 14 school buses-full of agitators moved on to intimidate JP Morgan executive Peter Scher. Easton compared NPA’s tactics to those of animal liberation extremists, a group which has resorted to violence and terrorism to intimidate their opponents, noting that “a more apt description of [NPA’s] assemblage would be ‘mob.’”
National People’s Action was founded in the 1970s by left-wing activist Gale Cincotta and a minister as a “community organizing” agitation group named the “National Training and Information Center.” NPA’s tactic of raiding and intimidating law-abiding private citizens on personal property goes back to the group’s founding: In 1982, then-Housing Secretary Jack Kemp agreed to meet with NPA under duress, as the group had threatened to disrupt a reception in honor of his daughters’ imminent weddings.
Cincotta (who died in 2001) was in many respects the prototypic mid-20th century radical. Quoted by left-wing magazine Mother Jones saying, “You can’t win […] by being nice,” the writer noted that her tactical model could be summarized, “If the enemies don’t want to negotiate, their whole lives become the battleground.” Church services would not be off limits, the report indicated.
Cincotta’s associate, Shel Trapp, also expressed an extraordinarily militant view of radical left politics. Saying he wanted the group to be “a bulldog on the leg,” of targets, Trapp created squads to all-but-stalk NPA’s opponents. Trapp told the Chicago Tribune:
“We couldn’t break this guy,” Trapp says. “We went to his church. We went to his house. We went to his parents’ house.”
Finally, out of desperation, members of the squad took shifts secretly following him everywhere.
Trapp also implied that a squad impersonated the police after catching an opponent in a morally compromising situation.
NPA agitators reportedly chant slogans that are extremely militant. Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin reports that NPA’s anthem chant goes:
Who’s on your hit list, NPA?
Who’s on your hit list for today?
Take no prisoner, take no names.
Kick ’em in the [ass] when they play their games.
But Cincotta, Trapp, and NPA may be responsible for more than intimidation tactics: Cincotta and her allies claimed credit as the intellectual parents of the Community Reinvestment Act, legislation that attempted to remedy past housing discrimination (in part) by requiring banks to lower lending standards in underserved communities. Some economists have blamed a considerable portion of the crisis in the mortgage market that led to the 2008 financial collapse on the government’s application of CRA.
In recent years, NPA has been heavily involved in protests against banks and other financial services firms. However, the group is also a general supporter of left-wing interests, ideologies, and politics: The group has been linked with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, union protests against budgetary reforms in Wisconsin, and national immigration reform agitation.
NPA has deep ties to the abortive “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations in New York. The group reportedly trained 50,000-100,000 demonstrators nationwide to participate in the 24/7 protests in public spaces across the country. The current Executive Director of NPA was a chief mastermind behind the Occupy Wall Street movement in NYC.
In 2013, NPA created an affiliated “social welfare” 501(c)(4) group National People’s Action Campaign. As an IRS-designated (c)(4) organization, the group participates in electoral politics, supporting Democratic candidates most notably in Kansas and Minnesota. Reports indicated that NPA was involved in meetings to found the left-wing “Democracy Initiative” along with several labor unions including the SEIU, environmentalist groups like the League of Conservation Voters, and left-wing groups such as the Center for American Progress and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
National People’s Action and its affiliated 501(c)(4) “National People’s Action Campaign” is heavily funded by the professional Left, receiving considerable funds from both labor unions and left-wing foundations. Indeed, it is even bankrolled by the international left: The Atlantic Philanthropies, a Bermuda-based consortium of nonprofit groups deeply involved in anonymously funding the American left, recently gave NPA $400,000.
In addition to the Atlantic funding, NPA is heavily backed by left-wing foundations in the United States. In recent years, National People’s Action has received $1.2 million from multibillionaire financier and “Man who broke the Bank of England” George Soros’s Foundation to Promote Open Society, and other substantial grants greater than $100,000 from the ARCA Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.
NPA, especially through the 501(c)(4) National People’s Action Campaign — which holds an annual “Festival of Joyous Rebellion” — receives considerable funding from labor unions. National Nurses United and the Communications Workers of America gave NPA Campaign a combined $125,000 in their 2013-14 fiscal years; the AFL-CIO chipped $5,000 in to NPA proper. National Nurses United also granted NPA Campaign $80,000 in 2012-13.
National People’s Action has drawn considerable scrutiny for its hyper-aggressive tactics. Unlike most anti-corporate campaigns (whether union-led or activist group-led), which tend to stick to the confines of public places or places of business, NPA actions are explicitly targeted at residential neighborhoods.
In addition to the SEIU-assisted demonstrations against the Bank of America attorney, NPA has a website attacking senior staff of numerous short-term loan companies. Each attack profile prominently shows a geo-located Google Maps image of the staff member’s home.
NPA’s history indicates the group has no compunction to trespassing at its targets’ homes. In addition to Easton’s report on the Baer demonstrations, NPA actions also invaded the private residences of prominent Republican politicians. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach had his home swarmed by NPA protesters. In 2004, NPA reportedly banged on the windows of then-presidential adviser Karl Rove’s D.C. residence and sought to protest at the home of then-Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, instead picketing the home of a bystander. (Chao had moved.) In 1999, then-Senator Phil Gramm’s home was aggressively picketed. NPA obviously uses these highly personal and threatening attacks as pure intimidation in order to get what they want.
Federal Grant Maladministration
Before re-branding as “National People’s Action,” the National Training and Information Center administered $3.1 million in grants from the Department of Justice over 2000-2003. An Inspector General’s report questioned NTIC’s expenditures, finding the group engaged in prohibited lobbying. The IG report stated:
However, evidence in the grantee’s files and statements by NTIC staff revealed that the majority of subgrantees were instead selected based upon their connection to influential lawmakers. Moreover, while a major element of the grant was to provide training to the subgrantees and significant funds were spent for training conferences, considerable portions of these sessions were dedicated to conducting congressional lobbying visits and training subgrantees on how to conduct successful lobbying activities.
Then-NTIC Executive Director Joseph W. Mariano pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges related to the illegal lobbying scheme and was sentenced to five months’ incarceration and two years’ supervised release including five months’ home confinement. According to Mariano’s stipulations in his guilty plea:
[…] the defendant JOSEPH W. MARIANO [sic] knowingly and intentionally misapplied property worth at least $21,969.72 under the control of the NTIC, by converting these funds which were designated for specific grant related purposes and thereafter using those funds to pay expenses related to efforts to lobby members of the United States Congress in order to obtain additional funding for the NTIC.
NTIC itself settled a False Claims Act case with the Department of Justice, agreeing to pay the government $550,000 in connection with NTIC allegedly using $207,000 in federal funds to lobby Congress.
Until 2009, NTIC/NPA continued to receive government grants, according to the organization’s tax returns. It has not reported receiving a government grant since then through 2012, the last year for which records are publicly available.
Known Funders of National People’s Action and Related Groups Since 2009
(List is not comprehensive)
- Foundation to Promote Open Society (George Soros) — $1.2 million
- ARCA Foundation — $741,240
- Ford Foundation — $650,000
- The Atlantic Philanthropies — $400,000
- Charles Stewart Mott Foundation — $325,000
- WK Kellogg Foundation — $300,000
- Public Welfare Foundation — $210,000
- Marguerite Casey Foundation — $200,000
- New World Foundation — $182,500
- National Nurses United — $180,000
- Woods Fund of Chicago — $125,000
- Akonadi Foundation — $50,000
- Communications Workers of America—$25,000
- Barbara Streisand Foundation — $17,500
- AFL-CIO — $10,000