Van Jones – the Oakland social- and environmental-justice activist and author who went to Washington last year as President Barack Obama’s “green jobs czar,” only to be let go in the face of conservative criticism – has joined a White House-friendly think tank in a similar capacity.
Jones, 41, rejoins the Center for American Progress as a senior fellow to lead its new Green Opportunity Initiative.
“We are thrilled that Van Jones is joining us to spearhead a ‘green opportunity’ agenda to develop the policies and strategies that will ensure the clean-energy future brings not just climate stability and energy security, but also broadly shared economic prosperity,” Kate Gordon, CAP’s Vice President for Energy Policy, said in a news release today.
Jones will work with CAP’s existing Energy Opportunity team to develop an agenda for expanding investment, innovation, and opportunity through clean energy and environmental restoration – especially for low-income and minority communities. That’s exactly what he was doing as founder of Oakland-based Green For All, as author of the 2008 New York Times bestseller “The Green Collar Economy;” and then from March through September 2009 as special advisor for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
CAP President and CEO John Podesta called Jones “a pioneer in the effort to promote a clean, sustainable economy that works for all Americans. I’m proud that he’s coming back to CAP to focus on creating economic opportunity in distressed communities through the Green Opportunity Initiative and that he will be giving voice to those issues once again.”
Jones resigned his White House post after conservatives targeted him for past political activities including his 1990s association with a Marxist group and a public comment disparaging congressional Republicans.
In his first interview since his resignation, Jones told the Washington Post he has no “bitterness or anger” about what transpired last year. “The good thing about being an American is you’re free to think whatever you want, and you’re also free to change your mind. That’s my story. . . . God willing, I’ve got 10 or 20 years, 30 years, three decades more work to do. And it’s my hope and belief that people will judge me based on that work.”
And in a column today on the Huffington Post, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Benjamin Jealous – a former Alameda resident – wrote he’s proud to be presenting Jones with the NAACP President’s Award at the organization’s 41st Image Awards this Friday.
“Far from the divisive caricature painted by some cable news outlets, Van has been one of America’s most effective and inspiring bridge-builders,” Jealous wrote. “He has successfully brought together labor leaders, business executives, civil rights champions, students and environmentalists to find creative solutions to the ecological and economic crises.”
The Center for American Progress was launched in 2003 and has been supported since with funding from a pair of East Bay billionaire banking moguls. Herb and Marion Sandler made their fortune by building Oakland-based Golden West Financial Corp. — parent company of World Savings Bank — into one of the nation’s largest savings and loans, before selling it to Wachovia Bank in 2006 for $24.2 billion.
The think tank has had close ties to the Obama Administration from the get-go. Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, went on leave from CAP for a while to serve as one of three co-chairs of Obama’s transition team. Several CAP fellows and trustees were appointed to Obama Administration posts, and CAP consistently has helped shape the message on Obama Administration initiatives including health care reform, economic stimulus and national security.
UPDATE @ 11:07 A.M.: Looks as if Jones also has been appointed distinguished visiting fellow in the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.