08 August 2008

Of ACORN and organizers

Quite a few people have questioned exactly what a 'Community Organizer' actually *is* as one of the Presidential Candidates has said that was a job he sought to have earlier in his life.  So its time to do a bit of effects based analysis on this and look at what some of the problems 'Community Organizer' individuals and groups get into, beyond personal peccadilloes.  Starting with a most recent view is this article from JS Online by Larry Sandler presenting an article that originally appeared in the 07 AUG 2008 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Officials are reviewing some 200 to 300 fraudulent voter registration cards, Sue Edman, the commission’s executive director, said Wednesday.

And even though the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now caught the fraud and reported it before the cards were turned in, the incident revived a four-year-old partisan debate over the integrity of Wisconsin’s voter registration process, as political groups step up efforts to sign up voters for the Nov. 4 presidential election.

“One woman called us to complain because her husband has been dead for 10 years and a voter registration was submitted,” Edman said.

In about 12 cases, deputy registrars paid by ACORN were “making people up or registering people that were still in prison,” said Carolyn Castore, ACORN’s state political director.

Yes, this is the famous sort of work done in Chicago districts to allow the dead to 'vote early' and 'vote often' long past their expired date on rock 3 from the star Sol.  Beyond that it is inventing fictional individuals so that those who have lived have never been born before.  So we have a little ACORN problem in this one, although the 2004 election, as gone over in the article, saw 1,200 people registered who could not be confirmed as actually living at a specified address or even being a resident.

Now on the first round of scratching the surface, we head over to NYT, a properly beholden paper to its partisan interests, and find this story on 09 JUL 2008 by Stephanie Strom:

Two prominent national nonprofit groups are reeling from public disclosures that large sums of money were misappropriated in unrelated incidents by an employee and a former employee.

The groups, Acorn, one of the country’s largest community organizing groups, and the Points of Light Institute, which works to encourage civic activism and volunteering, have dealt with the problems in very different ways.

Acorn chose to treat the embezzlement of nearly $1 million eight years ago as an internal matter and did not even notify its board. After Points of Light noticed financial irregularities in early June, it took less than a month for management to alert federal prosecutors, although group officials say they have no clear idea yet what the financial impact may be.


“We thought it best at the time to protect the organization, as well as to get the funds back into the organization, to deal with it in-house,” said Maude Hurd, president of Acorn. “It was a judgment call at the time, and looking back, people can agree or disagree with it, but we did what we thought was right.”

The amount Dale Rathke embezzled, $948,607.50, was carried as a loan on the books of Citizens Consulting Inc., which provides bookkeeping, accounting and other financial management services to Acorn and many of its affiliated entities.


But the fact that most of the handful of people who did not disclose the fraud when they learned of it eight years ago still work for Acorn or its affiliates concerns many of the group’s financial supporters.

The Rathke brothers had, apparently, been in cahoots to embezzle money from ACORN for their own needs.  The reason this is an ACORN problem is that instead of seeking assistance in going after such large-scale criminal activity, they tried to hush it up going via an in-house arrangement to cover-up the fraud.  When I hear those on the political Left decry Big Business (et. al.) and things like Enron, and then hear a barely audible *peep* about problems in those groups that they generally support, I do have a problem, indeed.  Plus the EIGHT YEAR cover-up and protection scheme for those doing that work starts to look more and more like how the Catholic Church treated some of its priests who were accused of various forms of child molestation.  That is not just a happenstance or accident, that is a willful conspiracy to protect those who had done wrong and knowingly doing that.

The Points of Light group are to be commended for their ability to stop an individual who was profiting off of their name via on-line consumer fraud:

Officials at Points of Light began looking into complaints about a store the organization operated on eBay and by late June had discovered what its president and chief executive, Michelle Nunn, called “abnormalities” in the business practices of an independent contractor hired to run the store, which did a brisk business auctioning travel packages and items donated to the organization.

The travel auctions were stopped immediately, Ms. Nunn said, and the store was shut down a short time later. Points of Light also posted a statement on its Web site last weekend about the problems and contacted the United States Attorney’s Office in Washington, as well as people who had bought the travel packages.

Two people who have been involved in the internal investigation at Points of Light, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is incomplete, said it appeared that Maria Herrmann, a former Points of Light fund-raiser who was hired as an independent contractor to manage the eBay store operation, may have been auctioning off bogus trip packages.

There is a word for organizations that come clean of their own accord and seek help in dealing with problems that may be criminal in extent and could ruin the name of their organization:  ETHICAL.  That is using the internal conception of the organization to ensure that those who would seek to abuse it cannot do so and that it adheres to its fundamental principles and obligations to act in a legal manner.

A bit more on the ACORN embezzlement part of this, from the 13 JUL 2008 edition of the NY Post:

The New York Times reports that Dale Rathke - whose brother started the group back in 1970 as a vehicle to help low-income people "take back what's rightfully theirs" - embezzled nearly $1 million from ACORN back in 1999 and 2000.

Yes, that's right, the FOUNDER of ACORN and his brother are the ones involved in this scheme - not low level operatives or individuals just out to 'cook the books' to get some nice juices from them.  The NY Post then goes on to cite that this is in no way the first, only, or particular time that ACORN has had problems:

Back in the '80s and '90s, ACORN's tactics included trespassing, illegal seizure of private property, physical harassment, intimidation and outright extortion.

For example, in 1985, ACORN illegally seized 25 abandoned buildings owned by New York City and installed squatters as residents. A weak-kneed City Hall eventually gave the group title to the buildings - proving that crime can pay.

Amazingly, a large chunk of ACORN's budget is provided by taxpayers.

Much of the rest comes from gullible foundations and groups like the United Federation of Teachers - which has partnered up with ACORN in efforts to kill Mayor Bloomberg's school reform.

Yes, dear hearts, YOU are paying much of the way for this organization, that sees fit to do these things.

Dipping back a bit to 2006, the WSJ OpinionJournal has an article on 08 NOV 2006 from John Fund looking at ACORN, yet again:

The Democratic oak has grown, in part, from Acorn, a feisty, union-backed activist group. The organization says on its Web site that it "registered over 540,000 low-income and minority voters" and deployed over 4,000 get-out-the-vote workers for yesterday's elections. But after years of scandal involving its election efforts and misuse of government grants, Acorn is finally coming under scrutiny, with four of its Kansas City, Mo., workers under indictment for submitting false voter registrations. (As of this writing, all are at large.) Other states--including Pennsylvania and Maryland--are also conducting probes. Notes the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City: "This national investigation is very much ongoing."

Founded by union organizer Wade Rathke in 1970, Acorn boasts an annual budget of some $40 million and operates everything from "social justice" radio stations to an affordable-housing arm. Still run after 36 years by Mr. Rathke as "chief organizer," it is best known for its campaigns against Wal-Mart, and for leading initiatives in six states to raise the minimum wage.

One of those states is Missouri. St. Louis election officials were so inundated with bogus Acorn-generated voter registrants that they mailed a letter to 5,000 registrants, requesting the recipients to contact them. Fewer than 40 responded. Mr. Rathke attacked the officials as "slop buckets" and claimed they had "broken the law in trying to discourage new voters illegally."

City officials scoff at that. They say it's up to Acorn to explain why over 1,000 addresses listed on its registrations don't exist. "We met twice with Acorn before their drive, but our requests completely fell by the wayside," says Democrat Matt Potter, the city's deputy elections director. His election clerks were already putting in 13-hour work days and "dumping this on them isn't fair." In the past, several Democrats, including Mayor Francis Slay, have complained about bloated voter rolls leading to stolen votes.

So bad that even the party they are trying to *help* complains about them?  Or at least the party that hosts candidates they support, at any rate.  Now doing a whirl through the voter registration fraud area, there is this piece by Eric Shawn and Becky Diamond at FOXNews.com on 02 MAY 2008 about the goings-on in Washinton State in 2006:

The Supreme Court ruling earlier this week that allows states to require voters to produce photo I.D.s is drawing criticism from voter registration groups, including one that was busted for election fraud in 2006.

ACORN is trying to register one million new voters this year and brands the decision, “One more strike against the basic right to vote … that further disenfranchises people of color and low income Americans.”

But if photo I.D. requirements had been the law in Washington state, the voter fraud scandal involving ACORN in 2006 would never have happened. According to Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed, the incident “was the worst case of election fraud in our state’s history. It was an outrage.”

Two years ago ACORN submitted just over 1,800 new voter registration forms, but there was a problem. The names were made up — all but six of the 1,800 submissions were fakes. Reed said he was appalled.

There is nothing more fundamental to a democratic republic and to a citizen of the United States than participating in selecting your public officials. For people to undermine that and try to perpetuate fraud on the system is an outrage,” he said.

The ACORN workers told state investigators that they went to the Seattle public library, sat at a table and filled out the voter registration forms. They made up names, addresses, and Social Security numbers and in some cases plucked names from the phone book. One worker said it was a lot of hard work making up all those names and another said he would sit at home, smoke marijuana and fill out the forms.

Yes, it is hard work to undermine a democracy, isn't it?  Having to sit out there and make up information and names, or just sit at home doing so.  Mind you, those they 'plucked' from the phone book were doing something known as 'identity theft' for fraudulent purposes.  We get on the credit card companies about that... but that is *only* money, now, isn't it?  Not something like the fundamental understanding of a citizenry to have a say in their government or NOT if they so choose.  To utilize those means to create fraudulent or utilize stolen identities to undermine a representative democracy in a republic?

ACORN would pay a measly fine of $25,000 in a settlement.

ACORN would also face investigation for voter registration fraud in Dauphin County, PA (source: Canada Free Press article of 21 JUL 2008 by Matthew Vadum).  I mean it has to say something when someone puts up a map to keep track of this stuff at RottenAcorn.

On that 'community activist' side of things, one would think that ACORN would actually try to represent the communities it is helping, no?  There are times when that is not the case, and one of the most egregious is that of the citing for the new Mets Stadium as recounted by Neil deMause at HERE magazine in JUL 2000 (H/t: Norman Oder at Atlantic Yards Report).  This has to do with the citing of the Mets Stadium in Brooklyn's Prospect Park during the Guliani Administration, and how the fields at the Parade Grounds, used by local families to hold child and youth sporting events, were to be utilized for the new stadium complex.  Local groups did organize, like the American Youth Soccer League and the actual community had coalesced to help stop the plan from going forward at the only meeting that would be held on it, and the Community Board chairman establishes that it is the City of New York that will benefit from the Mets after the taxpayers foot the bill for funding much of the stadium.  The Youth Baseball League also joined in to admonish the Administration on this as the local Brooklyn Bonnies, who had been playing for 50 years for the community had gotten no recognition on their needs which pre-exists that of the Mets.  And now comes ACORN:

Across the Brooklyn Bridge they pour: hundreds if not thousands of them, tramping across the wooden walkway from Brooklyn to their destination at City Hall on the far shore. It's hard to get a good count, because at least half the marchers aren't tall enough to appear on grownups' radar -- dozens upon dozens of girls and boys, many dressed in soccer uniforms, carrying signs reading "Save Our Fields!" and "Field of Schemes!"

The march, on the last sunny Sunday of November, has been organized by the hastily organized Save the Parade Grounds Coalition, a bunch of soccer moms (and dads, and siblings) and community residents who were less than thrilled to hear that their neighborhood park was about to become the resting place of a 4,500-seat baseball stadium. Leading the effort: the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, universally known by its acronym ACORN. (The organization began its life in Little Rock, and the "A" once stood for "Arkansas"; there's still a fair amount of confusion over the name, as when one Brooklyn newspaper cited them in print as "ACORN (find out what it means).") Matters of interest for ACORN range from welfare policy to school reform; since the previous fall, the group has been sparring with the city over the future of the Parade Grounds, in a continuing battle that has rarely emerged beyond the pages of the local community weeklies.

Spearheading ACORN's push has been Bertha Lewis, the group's lead organizer. Lewis is the sort of person who was born to chair meetings. Put her in a room with a dozen other people she's never met, and you can bet that within 10 minutes, she'll be drawing up an agenda and assigning tasks for the demonstration next Tuesday.

Practically the first words out of her mouth when contacted about Giuliani's plan for a Parade Grounds ballpark are: "We're gonna sue the bastard."

Well, that is bravado, yes, but an effective tactic?  ACORN then comes to head up this community as the next part shows:

To that end, when the first planning meeting is called following the Borough Hall hearing, a lawyer is present to update the assembled on the legal niceties of telling the mayor where to stick his ballpark plan. The listeners gathered around the conference table at ACORN's downtown Brooklyn office include AYSO parents like Mimi Parker (the woman with the clipboard from the soccer game) and neighbors of the Parade Grounds. George Dames, from the North Flatbush Youth and Community Coalition, co-chairs the meeting with Lewis.

A lawsuit is mentioned, but the talk around the conference table soon turns to a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall. Someone wants a Sunday march, because she'll be out of town on the nearest Saturday. Another voice insists that turnout will be diminished on a Sunday morning since people will still be at church. (Baffled looks from the residents of white liberal Park Slope in attendance.) "We need a name," someone else says. Minutes later, the Save the Parade Grounds Coalition is born.

What the City of New York is looking to do is pull an 'eminent domain', but this would be a case of taking public land and handing it over to private interests.  Much of that had already been happening, but nothing on the scale of the stadium complex.  The lawyers would tie things in knots, meetings would drag on through the winter:

Behind the scenes, however, plans are in motion. There had been rumblings of discontent at earlier Save the Parade Grounds Coalition meetings -- seemingly esoteric debates about how to compile a list of demands, and whether the phrase "No ballpark!" should be included. The behind-the-scenes tension breaks through one day after a court hearing.

In the hallway outside Judge Hutcherson's courtroom, George Dames and Bertha Lewis are engaged in a tremendous shouting match. Lewis, it seems, has met with EDC representatives at the ACORN offices on a Saturday afternoon with only a handful of other coalition members present; Dames charges that Lewis intentionally went ahead with the meeting without consulting the rest of the group. Lewis swears that she has no intention of cutting a deal behind anyone's back; she wants only to listen to what the city had to offer. Nothing will be decided, she promises, without the full approval of the entire coalition.

Three weeks later, a call arrives from Bertha Lewis. There's a press conference scheduled for the next day. A settlement has been reached.

In what follows ACORN would toe the City Administration's line about the Mets being a 'blessing in disguise' and that it was promised that local activities would be held by the Mets.  But all was not to be well at the news conference:

One of the speakers, meanwhile, hasn't gotten with the program. "I am not happy with this agreement," she says, as the cameras whir in silence. "What about the children who aren't part of the organized leagues? Will they be able to get permits?" Lewis and a bunch of other ACORN members surround her afterwards, arguing heatedly atop a frozen, lumpy infield as reporters watch some kids kick around a soccer ball.

Once her ACORN antagonists have departed, the woman, Annie Williams, speaks freely of her qualms about the settlement. She is president of the Woodruff Block Association, a neighborhood group whose district stretches out to the west of the Parade Grounds, a long fly ball from the proposed ballpark.

In her judgment, the city has struck a deal with the wrong people. "You meet with AYSO, which is organized. You meet with the Bonnies. A lot of parents over here can't afford to put their children in these leagues. Especially when you got five or six kids, you can't pay eighty-five, ninety dollars a month, whatever it is that they charge. So the children have to wait until nine, ten o'clock at night to sneak in here and play their little bit of football, play their little bit of baseball."

Yes, these are the 'working poor' of the neighborhood, not those that have the money to play in the organized leagues.  It is interesting that ACORN was set up to help these very same people, and yet here is siding with upper-middle class organizations and hefty politicos in over-riding not only the working middle-class but working poor who benefit from these city facilities.  She would not be alone:

George Dames is also none too pleased. Chairman of the North Flatbush Youth and Community Coalition, one of the founding members of the Save the Parade Grounds Coalition, he has not even been invited to the ACORN press conference to announce the deal that has been struck.

"I don't know what ACORN's motivation is at this point," he says dispiritedly over the phone. "I think that people need to be straight-up in terms of what their issue is." He speculates that ACORN, which receives city contracts for several projects, may have been dissuaded from carrying its fight with the mayor too far.

"It seems very suspicious to me that when we had the upper hand, that the community group is the one to make a deal."

Yes, as part of the machine politics of continuing to get taxpayer money, ACORN looks to have stepped in, de-railed a local community organization, promise a lawsuit and then cut a deal behind the backs of the community with the City of New York so that ACORN would not put its funding stream at jeopardy.  From this Mr. deMause would write a book and launch its website: Field of Schemes.  In that he keeps track of the long, long, long list of professional teams looking to extract, extort and bribe their way to 'economically viable' stadiums at taxpayer expense.

At that Atlantic Yards Report posting by Norman Oder, he talks with Mr. deMause on the deal:

Q. That experience seemed to make you rather cynical about ACORN.

A. It was Bertha [Lewis] and this guy, George [Dames, from the North Flatbush Youth and Community Coalition], who was a local guy from Flatbush, who were sort of pushing the opposition to the Mets, this temporary stadium in the Parade Grounds. Everything was going pretty well for the opposition, they had this court case going, suddenly, Bertha calls me and says, Come to the press conference, we cut a deal, and George and a lot of these folks weren’t at the press conference, because they didn’t know about it.

And they had struck this deal: the Mets were basically going to give money to pet projects of ACORN, or give it to community stuff, but Bertha would be the rainmaker for it.… and Howard Golden, the borough president, was not on board with the deal: I’m still suing.

The Mets finally gave up, played at St. John’s for a year or two, and wound up in Coney Island permanently. Bertha’s deal never wound up going anywhere, Golden finally came up with money to do the renovations of the parade grounds. Bertha said: it’ll never happen any other way, at least we’ll get it renovated, we have to let the Mets in--and then it happened. It wasn’t a ton of money.

As everyone now knows the City Council and Borough President can find $10 million if they need to. So it was remarkable seeing her as this firebrand, I’m going to tell the Mets to go to hell, they will never set foot in the Parade Grounds and then do this complete sudden turnabout and she said, OK, fine, I’m on board with it.

So long as she looks good, why that's fine!  And the community?  Finally able to work its way through towards getting what it needed for renovations and continuing the fight by Howard Golden.  The Mets gave up to that... while Bertha Lewis was looking to cut a deal that made her look good and of making the best of a bad situation.  Which was actually not necessary if she had persevered.  Instead it makes ACORN look as an opportunistic organization willing to prey upon a community to fit the needs of the Administration that it is, in theory, supposed to be confronting.

The taxpayers would pay for the Mets Stadium, the community would have lost a good portion of its public land used for organized outdoor sports, and the little things done by the Mets would make ACORN shine, while helping few people in any particular way.  But at least it would keep the funding rolling in from the City!

Now, flipping over to Sen. Obama, we find Stanley Kurtz writing at National Review Online on 29 MAY 2008 about Sen. Obama and ACORN:

This is a story we’ve largely missed. While Obama’s Acorn connection has not gone entirely unreported, its depth, extent, and significance have been poorly understood. Typically, media background pieces note that, on behalf of Acorn, Obama and a team of Chicago attorneys won a 1995 suit forcing the state of Illinois to implement the federal “motor-voter” bill. In fact, Obama’s Acorn connection is far more extensive. In the few stories where Obama’s role as an Acorn “leadership trainer” is noted, or his seats on the boards of foundations that may have supported Acorn are discussed, there is little follow-up. Even these more extensive reports miss many aspects of Obama’s ties to Acorn.


What has Barack Obama got to do with all this? Plenty. Let’s begin with Obama’s pre-law school days as a community organizer in Chicago. Few people have a clear idea of just what a “community organizer” does. A Los Angeles Times piece on Obama’s early Chicago days opens with the touching story of his efforts to build a partnership with Chicago’s “Friends of the Parks,” so that parents in a blighted neighborhood could have an inviting spot for their kids to play. This is the image of Obama’s organizing we’re supposed to hold. It’s far from the whole story, however. As the L. A. Times puts it, “Obama’s task was to help far South Side residents press for improvement” in their communities. Part of Obama’s work, it would appear, was to organize demonstrations, much in the mold of radical groups like Acorn.

Why, moving into things in an apparently benign way and then seeking to twist things to the benefit of the organization you are representing?  Just like would be done in 2000 in Brooklyn?

Although the L. A. Times piece is generally positive, it does press Obama’s organizing tales on certain points. Some claim that Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father, exaggerates his accomplishments in spearheading an asbestos cleanup at a low-income housing project. Obama, these critics say, denies due credit to Hazel Johnson, an activist who claims she was the one who actually discovered the asbestos problem and led the efforts to resolve it. Read carefully, the L. A. Times story leans toward confirming this complaint against Obama, yet the story’s emphasis is to affirm Obama’s important role in the battle. Speaking up in defense of Obama on the asbestos issue is Madeleine Talbot, who at the time was a leader at Chicago Acorn. Talbot, we learn, was so impressed by Obama’s organizing skills that she invited him to help train her own staff.

Hey, not giving any credit to those who do the actual work is pretty much a stock 'n trade of ACORN by the time it gets to Brooklyn.  And then comes the political theater of 'direct action' of trying to stymie the ability of elected representatives from actually doing their work so that they can be heard 'by the activists'....errr... 'by the people'.  Madeleine Talbot did a lot of that, and actually helped in the early training of Sen. Obama in that area.  But Barack Obama, back before he was elected to anything, was already eyeing other goals, and so would eschew those tactics:

Does that mean Obama himself schooled Acorn volunteers in disruptive “direct action?” Not necessarily. The City Council storming took place in 1997, years after Obama’s early organizing days. And in general, Obama seems to have been part of Acorn’s “inside baseball” strategy. As a national star from his law school days, Obama knew he had a political future, and would surely have been reluctant to violate the law. In his early organizing days, Obama used to tell the residents he organized that they’d be more effective in their protests if they controlled their anger. On the other hand, as he established and deepened his association with Acorn through the years, Obama had to know what the organization was all about. Moreover, in his early days, Obama was not exactly a stranger to the “direct action” side of community organizing.

Consider the second charge against Obama raised by the L.A. Times backgrounder. On the stump today, Obama often says he helped prevent South Side Chicago blacks, Latinos, and whites from turning on each other after losing their jobs, but many of the community organizers interviewed by the L. A. Times say that Obama worked overwhelmingly with blacks.

To rebut this charge, Obama’s organizer friends tell the story of how he helped plan “actions” that included mixed white, black, and Latino groups. For example, following Obama’s plan, one such group paid a “surprise visit” to a meeting between local officials considering a landfill expansion. The protestors surrounded the meeting table while one activist made a statement chiding the officials, after which the protestors filed out. Presto! Obama is immunized from charges of having worked exclusively with blacks — but at the cost of granting us a peek at the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy side of his community organizing. Intimidation tactics are revealed, and Obama’s alliance with radical Acorn activists like Madeleine Talbot begins to make sense.

And if everyone is on the same ideological page, the question of 'race' doesn't matter as much, does it?   So when it comes time to get the 'motor-voter' bill enacted, ACORN turns to Obama who has already had extensive contacts with the organization in his pre-law school days.  From there Obama goes on to work at foundations doling out money:

Although it’s been noted in an important story by John Fund, and in a long Obama background piece in the New York Times, more attention needs to be paid to possible links between Obama and Acorn during the period of Obama’s service on the boards of two charitable foundations, the Woods Fund and the Joyce Foundation.

According to the New York Times, Obama’s memberships on those foundation boards, “allowed him to help direct tens of millions of dollars in grants” to various liberal organizations, including Chicago Acorn, “whose endorsement Obama sought and won in his State Senate race.” As best as I can tell (and this needs to be checked out more fully), Acorn maintains both political and “non-partisan” arms. Obama not only sought and received the endorsement of Acorn’s political arm in his local campaigns, he recently accepted Acorn’s endorsement for the presidency, in pursuit of which he reminded Acorn officials of his long-standing ties to the group.

I've looked at these activities previously from the involvement with the organized crime part of this (here, here, here, here) and the political lobbyist side (here, here) and putting in the intimidating tactics and coercive views of ACORN, amongst others, this comes out as Leftist Machine Politician.  This is money for votes and promise to use political heft to get *more* money to those organizations that, in theory, should be non-partisan but, in fact, have a deeply partisan and divisive agenda utilizing authoritarian tactics and deal making for their own betterment.  In trying to make a 'political wing' and a 'non-partisan' wing, you end up with things like HAMAS being the 'local activist wing' of the Muslim Brotherhood.  And, do note that it is BOTH sides of ACORN, the partisan AND non-partisan side that have had legal and ethical difficulties.

Let me emphasize: just because something is legal, does not make it wholly ethical.

For an organization that is looking to get voices of the poor and such into the system of elective representative democracy, to utilize tactics that undermine or attempt to circumvent the system of registering voters is wholly unethical while technically legal.  On 25 JUN 2008 Creators Syndicate published a piece by Michelle Malkin on the problems of ACORN, its getting 40% of its funds from taxpayer sources, and the types of tactics used to circumvent the actual, technical way voters register is examined as part of it:

Last July, ACORN settled the largest case of voter fraud in the history of Washington State. Seven ACORN workers had submitted nearly 2,000 bogus voter registration forms. According to case records, they flipped through phone books for names to use on the forms, including "Leon Spinks," "Frekkie Magoal" and "Fruto Boy Crispila." Three ACORN election hoaxers pleaded guilty in October. A King County prosecutor called ACORN's criminal sabotage "an act of vandalism upon the voter rolls."

The group's vandalism on electoral integrity is systemic. ACORN has been implicated in similar voter fraud schemes in Missouri, Ohio and at least 12 other states. The Wall Street Journal noted: "In Ohio in 2004, a worker for one affiliate was given crack cocaine in exchange for fraudulent registrations that included underage voters, dead voters and pillars of the community named Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy and Jive Turkey. During a congressional hearing in Ohio in the aftermath of the 2004 election, officials from several counties in the state explained ACORN's practice of dumping thousands of registration forms in their lap on the submission deadline, even though the forms had been collected months earlier."

That is a legal tactic, but wholly unethical in seeking to get fraudulent names into the voter registration rolls by overwhelming the system meant to ensure a regular and orderly processing of such forms.  By withholding those forms until the last day, ACORN is seeking to not only swell the rolls and put the opportunity in place to allow individuals to use those fraudulent names for voting as ACORN desires.  That, in and of itself, is the unethical part as it is a repudiation of the compact amongst the citizenry to ensure that all citizens have an opportunity to vote legally and with due process involved.  That is due process of the law working to ensure rights and is just as important, if not more important, than criminal due process.  It is the means which allows us assurance that the will of the actual, real citizens as the people of the United States have an opportunity to use their franchise right without worries of fraud.

An organization interested in 'social justice' cannot claim that undermining the actual justice of society in regularizing the voter registration process is towards a 'common good' or even a special interest good: it is an authoritarian attempt to game the system for political advantage at the expense of the citizenry.

This is in, and of, itself, bad enough.  The hypocrisy of ACORN however extends far deeper into the organization as examined by the Employment Policies Institute in a paper on ACORN updated in 2004, The Real ACORN: Anti-Employee, Anti-Union, Big-Business.  While touting its pro-Union stances and gaining support from multiple Union organizations, and helping to create the United Labor Union and fighting businesses to allow Unionization, there is a problem with its stance:

Despite its ardent public support of higher wages and union membership for all workers, ACORN has made repeated attempts to block the unionization of its own workforce while paying below-minimum wage salaries to its employees. In addition to the extensive union-busting detailed by the NLRB (see Appendix A), ACORN unsuccessfully sued the state of California to be exempted from the minimum wage. In its appeal of that suit, ACORN argued that the reduction in the number of employees resulting from the minimum wage would violate its First Amendment rights.  ACORN’s claims were labeled “absurd” by the presiding judge (see Appendix B).

Tactics such as these should come as no surprise to even a casual observer of ACORN’s history.  In 1995 the ACORN Housing Corporation (AHC)—a technically separate entity that maintains extremely close ties to ACORN, sharing office space with ACORN in several cities—was stripped of an AmeriCorps grant after it was found to be using the money as part of an illegal fundraising scheme for ACORN (see Appendix C). Indeed, a thorough reading of ACORN’s “people’s platform,” as it pertains to workers’ rights, finds ACORN in violation of more than one in four of its own guiding principles.

Yes, the very organization that wants such fine things cannot PROVIDE them for their own workforce: a 'living wage', the right to unionize and trying to ensure that everyone else should adhere to these things.  That is unethical, socially irresponsible and hypocritical all at the same time: the Trifecta of what the Left generally rails against in private organizations.  Who do they think they are?  Enron?

The EPI paper then goes over multiple specific instances of ACORN doing these things:  union busting, paying sub-'living wage' and under the legal minimum wage, running unsafe workplaces, failing to pay contracted wages.  All of these are decried by ACORN and done BY THEM.  Or, in the lovely words of the Left - exploiting the poor, endangering them by not following the law and not allowing them to earn a decent wage and then suppressing their rights to unionize to better these things.  ACORN uses its politicking to get in good with the Big Labor Unions so that they will look the other way and not complain about ACORN's activities.  Then there are pages of documentation to back these things up, so it is clear that not only are these problems on the record but often at the Federal level going all the way to Capitol Hill.

On 06 APR 2004, Thomas Ryan at FrontPageMag details the 'social activist' funding and support done by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in particular ACORN shows up, as one may have guessed as it has AHC mentioned just above:

Fannie Mae is as well culpable for funding a host of left-wing groups. Recipients of their funds include the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), and the Center for Community Change. ACORN, the self-proclaimed largest left-wing activist organization in the nation, implements an anti-capitalist agenda which has roots in the National Welfare Rights Organization – a 1960’s radical group formed for the sole purpose of inundating the welfare system with enough recipients to break America’s financial back. The Center for Community Change’s goal is to “create better communities and policies” – it hopes to achieve this goal by enlisting such celebrity notables as Susan Sarandon and Russell Simmons to propagate the message to vote Democrat.


Some of the blame with regards to corporations funding of left-wing groups may fall on the regulatory policies themselves. Christopher Yablonski, from the CRC, states, “Regulatory policies often give corporations a built-in incentive to pay-off left-wing activists. For example, the financial services industry has given generously to activist groups like ACORN. ACORN uses the federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to pressure lending institutions into making low-interest loans.” “By threatening to use CRA provisions to hold up federal approval of bank mergers and acquisitions,” Yablonski continued, “ACORN, its affiliates, and other ACORN-like groups have forced banks to make billions of dollars in high-risk loans. These agreements often include hefty pay-offs to activist groups that file the complaints. In 1996, ACORN affiliates across the country secured nearly $570,000 in contributions from leading companies—a 40 percent increase over 1995.”


Whereas the Enron and Tyco woes were localized to the shareholders and employees of the companies, the taxpayers themselves will feel a possible Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae scandal. Both corporations receive over $2 billion in credit from the United States Treasury, and taxpayer subsidies of an estimated $10 billion.

The house that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have built is now a shambles, with its drains siphoning money into the pockets of radical leftist groups, all the while teetering on a potentially catastrophic accounting scandal. The fact that both of these companies, and others like them, continue to fund such groups as the Center for Policy Alternatives and ACORN is evidence of a growing epidemic in which both stockholders and everyday taxpayers know little of where their money is truly going.

Yes, billions of dollars in high risk loans due to the lobbying of ACORN and other groups... that was seen in 2004.  Today's sub-prime mess?  It can be directly traced to these very same activities that puts low income individuals who would not normally qualify for a loan at risk due to that lobbying.  And who will benefit when these same borrowers go down?  Why ACORN, et. al., as they would see this as 'social injustice' while it is not even 'sustainable living' for these individuals who take out such mortgages.  Apparently the only 'green' cared about is that on dollar bills.

As if on cue they show up as the housing sub-prime mortgage problem started to escalate in Philadelphia in 2007 as seen at the City Paper's article on problems there by Ted Hesson on 09 OCT 2007, and the article is highly sympathetic to both those caught in this mess and ACORN, so do beware:

"You better get that raise and you better get that better job in the next two years if you're going to make the payment," Mason says. Foreclosure filings are up by 47 percent in the city from April 2006 to April 2007, especially in North and Southwest Philly, according to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a national housing group.

Housing groups like ACORN claim that many people stuck with these high-cost loans are victims of predatory lending: The borrowers were either deceived, ill-informed or not economically qualified. In addition, the mortgage industry has been loosely regulated in past years by the Pennsylvania Department of Banking. Before the subprime fallout, a broker applying for a license might not even undergo a criminal background check.

Philadelphia has tried to curb irresponsible lending in the past. Led by 9th District Councilwoman Marian Tasco in 2001, the city passed a law that required borrowers to get counseling before signing off on a high-cost loan, but the local ordinance was soon pre-empted by a much weaker state law.

This activist group isn't limited to just Philadelphia in its attempts to strong arm lenders it has previously encouraged to give such loans, as the story looks at Cleveland:

Cleveland doesn't blame predatory brokers — although he admits that they exist — because no one could have foreseen this sort of market crash, he maintains. Before the crisis, many people in his situation would have been able to refinance, but now they're falling behind on payments and their credit scores are suffering.

Ian Phillips, ACORN's state legislative director, reviews dozens of similar subprime mortgages each month and tries to rework the terms of the loan. ACORN has leverage against some lenders because they can organize rallies and protests against the companies, triggering negative publicity. High-cost loans, however, aren't usually sold to knowledgeable borrowers like Cleveland.

That's right: if you don't give out the loans, you are 'red lining' a community and if you DO and attempt to collect on them, you are liable for protests and rallies because you tried to be a flexible lender to low income individuals.  The context is not those who are getting hit by this mess, but by those who pressured it to exist in the first place by encouraging such poor lending practices: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  And they were influential in supporting those who were 'community activists' in getting such things out in the first place - groups like ACORN and their associated housing group.

ACORN Housing Corp and ACORN have filed affidavits in their work as seen by The Consumer Rights League posting on PRNewswire at Interest Alert on 31 JUL 2008:

WASHINGTON, July 31 /PRNewswire/ -- The Consumers Rights League (CRL) today released newly obtained affidavits from former ACORN and Acorn Housing Corporation (AHC) employees that attest to ACORN and AHC's illegal practice of using taxpayer dollars to fund political activity.

The affidavits from two former AHC employees, obtained by CRL following the publication of its original report in June, "ACORN's Hypocritical House of Cards," make further specific and damning allegations, including:

-- AHC and ACORN were at one time being funded from a joint account, which would appear to violate the same laws highlighted by the AmeriCorps Inspector General in 1994.

-- According to a former ACORN board member and AHC employee, AHC -- which received taxpayer money -- directly used funds to support ACORN activities, including paying for rent at an office where AHC was not even a tenant.

-- Perhaps most troubling, the sworn statement of former AHC staffer Andrew Johnson suggests AHC leadership pressured employees to intentionally hide information from HUD investigators.


AHC is a federally recognized tax-exempt organization. As such it is not allowed to share funds or provide funding for ACORN. Over a three-year period surveyed for the AHC report that organization took in 40% -- or more than $7 million -- in taxpayer funds. Over the same period, AHC gave grants and paid fees totaling more than $4.6 million to ACORN-related organizations (including Citizens Consulting, from which the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke embezzled nearly $1 million).


In that case, it was found that ACORN had abused the $1 million grant from taxpayers. The practice seems to have continued as AHC has taken in millions more from public coffers. An alarming internal AHC memo from September 2004 specifically stated: "Total funding from HUD's fair housing initiatives this year is about $650,000 which will provide a good opportunity for ACORN and AHC to work together on housing issues and campaigns."

Yes, AHC lobbied HUD, took money from HUD under false pretenses.  From that money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went to them and they shifted that to ACORN.  That is *entirely* a political agenda, and attempting to hide it is a cover-up.  That is collusion if not outright conspiracy.  All aimed to cause a crisis by them, so that low and moderate income people get shafted by sub-prime loans they can't afford so that ACORN can then complain about it and AHC ask for MORE money to help these people past their problems.  Which they helped CAUSE in the first place via the affordable housing campaign.

Got that?

Perhaps it is time for an ACORN and, indeed, the whole tree to get thrown under the bus by Sen. Obama.  Although this is exactly the same organization as he came to know it.  Just like Tony Rezko's.  And Rev. Wright's.  And so many others he has had sudden revelations about these last few months.

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