New York (CNSNews.com) - The New York Stock Exchange and U.S. corporations are doing themselves no favors by supporting and sponsoring the Rev. Jesse Jackson's 6th annual Wall Street Project conference, a conservative group says.
"It never ceases to amaze me how the business community continues to feed the hand that bites them," said David Almasi, director of Project 21, a leadership network for conservative African-Americans that is critical of Jackson.
Jackson received corporate support last week, despite his strong opposition to President Bush's economic stimulus plan, which Wall Street supports.
"If Wall Street truly supports the Bush stimulus package, this is certainly no way to show it," Almasi said in an interview with CNSNews.com .
Wall Street generally favors President Bush's tax-cutting economic stimulus plan, while Jesse Jackson has denounced it as "economically polarizing."
"It's not good for our economy, it's more and more for fewer and fewer...it will not work" Jackson told CNSNews.com.
Jackson believes that the Bush economic plan will benefit only "those who want dividend breaks, those who want the right to have off-shore corporations to avoid paying taxes and get defense contracts. For them, [the plan] is more."
Jackson rang the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange last Wednesday morning and was feted at an invitation-only gala fund-raising reception on the floor of the stock exchange last Thursday. Jackson was in New York for his 2003 Wall Street Project, which ran from Jan 14-17. The event was billed as "Equity for All: Establishing the Economic Agenda for Growth."
New York Stock Exchange chairman Dick Grasso spoke at a Wall Street Project awards luncheon. Grasso declined to be interviewed while attending the event.
Almasi was incredulous, explaining, "The business community doesn't seem to know who its friends are."
Jackson's strategy of persuading U.S. corporations to spend more on minority hiring and outreach programs has prompted his critics to allege that Jackson engages in "corporate shakedowns."
"To celebrate Jackson validates his extortion policies that will eventually hurt American business and American consumers," Almasi said.
Corporate giants such as Citigroup, Coca Cola, AOL Time Warner, Freddie Mac, AT&T, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, IBM, Kodak, Boeing and the Daimler Chrysler Corporate Fund all sponsored the 2003 Wall Street Project.
Michael Granger, the managing director of Ark Capital Management, a private equity firm in Chicago, moderated one of the forums at the Wall Street Project and disagreed with Jackson's views regarding the Bush economic stimulus plan. "Getting rid of taxes on dividends is something long overdue," Granger told CNSNews.com.
Granger believes Wall Street continues to support Jackson's efforts despite economic policy differences because "people on Wall Street are probably bigger than that. I think they can recognize that not everyone is going to agree when it comes to the economy."
"Reverend Jackson has a different constituency than the people in Wall Street," he said.
When asked about Wall Street's differing views on economic policy, Jackson said, "We are all free to express our different points of view."
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who attended the conference, said the "relationship between Jackson and Wall Street is a very tenuous one. The fact that he rings the bell opening the market doesn't mean everything is okay or that their differences are diminished, not at all."
Conyers believes that Wall Street likes Bush's economic plan "because they are essentially conservative, they have no really great enthusiasm for social programs."
'Leveling the playing field'
Jackson was upbeat on Friday at the close of the conference, declaring the event a success.
"It was very successful in terms of turnout, more than 2,000 people. A real forum on leveling the playing field," Jackson said.
However, there were signs that the conference may not have been completely successful.
Former basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, did not show up for a heavily hyped workshop on the sports industry on Thursday. And Friday's closing luncheon was cancelled due to an apparent lack of attendees.
Jackson's organization offered no explanation for canceling the luncheon, but the events earlier in the day were very sparsely attended.
See Related Articles:
Administration Officials Call Jackson's Conference 'Wonderful,' 'Marvelous' (17 Jan. 2003)
Jesse Jackson: Wall Street Built On 'African Burial Ground' (16 Jan. 2003)
Bush Administration 'Duped' by Jesse Jackson Event (6 Jan. 2003)
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