Orson Aguilar and family

A small Berkeley non-profit, the Greenlining Institute, has become the most recent target for the right-wing smear machine.

Greenlining, based on University Avenue, describes its mission as: “to empower communities of color and other disadvantaged groups through multi-ethnic economic and leadership development, civil rights, and anti-redlining activities”. Its recent publications include studies on debit card overdraft fees, diversity on bank boards, and the impact of foreclosure on people of color. Its executive director, Orson Aguilar, took over from the retired co-founders, Robert Gnaizda and John Gamboa.

I suspect most Berkeleyans would think that’s a worthy agenda, but apparently Greenlining’s efforts in support of the Community Reinvestment Act, which happens to have been the law of the land for 33 years, sends conservatives into paroxysms of rage.

Last month, the conservative Examiner newspaper, backed by Philip Anschutz, targeted Greenlining in a five-part series, accusing the institute of “political extortion”. Bill Berkowitz on the progressive website Buzz Flash details the political agenda behind the series. The series was produced by the right-wing think tank Pacific Research Institute and its propaganda arm, CalWatchDog.

Supporters of Greenlining fear that the same build-up of misinformation and ill-informed polemic that crippled ACORN could hurt the small Berkeley organization.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...