by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Former civil rights figure and ex-Atlanta mayor Andrew Young took part in a perfectly legal “foreign aid” scheme that might have used taxpayer money to start a private equity fund, but instead unraveled amid allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Let's hope it's the final act in Andy's career as a corporate whore.
Shameless Son Andy Young's “Foreign Aid” Scam Evaporates Amid Charges of Malfeasance, Insider Dealing
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Andrew Young was a member of Dr. Martin Luther King's team from the early 1960s till his 1968 assassination. He went on to stints in Congress, as UN ambassador, and two terms as mayor of Atlanta, and after that co-founded GoodWorks International, an “international business consulting firm specializing in Africa and the Caribbean. In plain language, an “international business consultant” is a high priced lobbyist, fixer, go-between and percentage-shaver for multinational capital.
Young's first big client was Nike. Amid mounting public outrage over labor practices in its global sweatshop empire, Young “toured” some of Nike's Asian factories and produced a glowing whitewash report depicting hapy and contented Nike workers sitting on porches strumming guitars. Young went on to lobby for a number of African governments including Nigeria's notorious kleptocracy under Obansanjo, and partnerships that included actors like Barrick Gold, a multinational mining corporation with operations deep in some of the ravaged and depopulated zones of the Congo, where seven milllion Africans have perished since 1996.
As successful practicioners in the nexus of corruption and parasitic rent-seeking that passes for business on the African continent, Andy Young and his partners were beneficiaries of a multimillion dollar grant from USAID the United States Agency for International Development. The so-called “foreign aid” money was used to fund a contraption called the Southern Africa Enterprise Development Fund or SAEDF, under the leadership of Andy Young and his longtime partner Carlton Masters. In theory, SAEDF was supposed to leverage that foreign aid money to create jobs and new businesses enterprises in Southern Africa. In fact, it didn't create many jobs, or attract many investors, but it did spend a lot of its cash doing “business” with some of the governments and firms who were clients of Andy and Carlton, and managing to pay GoodWorks employees and associates outsize fees for services.
Ultimately, SAEDF failed to attract enough big investors to put their money alongside its grant. If SAEDF had been “successful” in attracting corporate and private investors, the federal government was ready to privatize it, allowing the board of SAEDF to turn the whole kaboodle into a private equity fund, the kind of contraption that made Mitt Romney a near-billionaire. For Andy and his crew, this would have truly been a happy ending. But it won't happen now. The federal government seems about to pull the plug on SAEDF, and those with claims on its resources, including some of the GoodWorks cronies Andy hooked them up with, are fighting for their share of what's left.
All in all, the New York Times article by Barry Meier and Ron Nixon makes Andy and Carlton's business practices sound pretty sleazy. But the fact is, the universe of US “foreign aid” is a sea of slime in which Andy and Carlton were at best middle-sized eels. Carlton Masters verifies this, claiming that lots of other players received much bigger gobs amounts of taxpayer money to play with than he and Andy did, and a longer time to pull it all together.
A large portion of, perhaps all of the millions SAEDF got from the US government will go to satisfy SAEDF's creditors, including those whose dealings were shady, according to USAID, and the businesses with claims on SAEDF. There's no criminal liability, so no one will even see the inside of a criminal courtroom. As Andy's business partner infers, this is all business as usual.
Andy Young is in his eighties now, and has stepped down from SAEDF, and probably from GoodWorks as well, but the arc of his career is instructive. He started out as a close associate of Dr. King. When the doors swung wide to admit more black faces to the elite ranks of government and business, Andy Young rushed in, claiming a seat in Congress and UN Ambassadorship. As mayor of Atlanta, Young's economic development plan consisted of bringing the 1996 Olympics to the city, necessitating the bulldozing of several entire black neighborhoods in the center of town, exacerbating the city's already wide wealth gap between its white and black residents and kicking urban gentrification into high gear.
Young cynically rented his image as a civil rights figure to those in power to accomplish their objectives, and made a successful career out of it. He was a pioneer of today's black misleadership class. It took a black figure at Atlanta's helm with the kind of civil rights cred that Andy possessed to push this neoliberal agenda through. His government “service” complete in the 1990s, Andy did the same thing white former ambassadors and congress creatures do ---- he became a lobbyist, corporate fixer and occasional pundit. It makes you wonder what Barack Obama will do after completing his second term.
Corrupt scholars like Peniel Joseph like to claim that the work of Malcolm X, Kwame Toure and Dr. King led directly and inevitably to figures like Andy Young and Barack Obama. It's a lazy, false and specious claim.
First of all, the claim is lazy because history is dynamic, and outcomes are conditional on an infinite number of factors. The only smart people who want you to believe any different are those with a big stake in portraying the present lineup of powers that be as inevitable. Secondly, the careers of Young, Obama and the entire black misleadership class stem NOT from the work of Malcolm, Toure or King, but from the tactics used to cut that movement short. It wasn't so much COINTELPRO and police repression that killed the movement of the sixties and provided the guarantee that so far, nothing like that era's insurgency has reared its head, it was government and business affirmative action, the advent of a small number of black faces in high places. That's the common root that Andy Young, Carlton Masters and Barack Obama have --- not the Freedom Movement, but the establishment's strategy to cut it off, to neutralize it, to ensure that it doesn't happen again.
The good news is that Andy Young is over 80 years old now, and due for a rest. Let's hope he goes somewhere and sits down, before he can do any more damage. The bad news is that our black misleadership class has lots more where he came from.
Bruce Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him through this site's contact page or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.