In part 3 of my series of the people who surround Barack Obama, I’ve decided to delve in the that ever-popular organization: ACORN.
Yes, Obama has had numerous contacts with ACORN. And, given the current financial climate, you’ll probably not like reading some of the stuff he DID with ACORN.
Who or what is ACORN? Well, ACORN is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now – basically, a bunch of community organizers. What does ACORN do? Well, according to the ACORN website:
ACORN is the nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people with over 400,000 member families organized into more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in 110 cities across the country. Since 1970, ACORN has been building community organizations that are committed to social and economic justice, and won victories on thousands of issues of concern to our members, through direct action, negotiation, legislative advocacy and voter participation. ACORN helps those who have historically been locked out become powerful players in our democratic system.
Community organizing: Each of the 1,200 local ACORN neighborhood chapters in 110 cities and 40 states brings neighbors together to work for stronger, safer and more just communities.
Issue campaigns: Each ACORN office carries out multiple issue campaigns. ACORN members across the country work to raise the minimum wage or enact living wage policies; eliminate predatory financial practices by mortgage lenders, payday lenders, and tax preparation companies; win the development of affordable housing and community benefits agreements; improve the quality of and funding for urban public schools; rebuild New Orleans; and pass a federal and state ACORN Working Families Agenda, including paid sick leave for all full time workers.
A recent study shows that our issue campaign victories have delivered approximately $15 billion in direct monetary benefits to our membership and constituency over the past 10 years.
Service delivery: ACORN and its allied organizations provide extensive services to our members and constituency. These include free tax preparation focusing on the Earned Income Tax Credit; screening for eligibility for federal and state benefit programs; and, through the ACORN Housing Corporation, first time homeowner mortgage counseling and foreclosure prevention assistance, and low income housing development.
Ballot initiatives: ACORN-backed ballot-initiative campaigns in 2006 helped raise the minimum wage in Ohio, Arizona, Missouri and Colorado, working with community-faith-labor coalitions on successful campaigns in each state.
Voter participation: Since 2004, ACORN has helped more than 1.7 million low- and moderate-income and minority citizens apply to register to vote.
Now, you might have heard about some of the…um…problems ACORN has had in recent months concerning potential voter fraud. I’ll address that more later. Nevertheless, ACORN is very much in the news these days.
So how does ACORN tie into Barack Obama? Well, a recent New York Times article was published concerning accusations that the McCain camp has made concerning Barack Obama’s past involvement with the “community organizing” institution:
Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign on Friday stepped up its efforts to tie Senator Barack Obama to a community organizing group that has been accused of involvement in problematic voter registrations in several hotly contested states, including Colorado, Indiana, Nevada and North Carolina.
The group, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, has long been a favorite target of conservatives. It made news this year when it was revealed that a brother of Acorn’s founder had embezzled almost $1 million from the organization but that Acorn had failed to disclose the theft for eight years.
“Barack Obama has made very inconsistent remarks about what his relationship with this organization is,” Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, said in a conference call.
Mr. Davis said Mr. Obama had worked as Acorn’s lawyer and conducted training events for its leaders. He also noted a payment the Obama campaign made in February to an Acorn affiliate, Citizens Services Inc.
While Mr. Obama did represent Acorn in a lawsuit in 1995, Acorn was on the same side as the Justice Department. The training events involved two hours of work. And the payment to the Acorn affiliate was reported in campaign filings, although they had to be revised because of an error.
Acorn, whose political action committee has endorsed Mr. Obama, has said that the investigations into its voter registration work are politically motivated.
“Rumors of Acorn’s voter fraud have been greatly exaggerated and to a large extent manufactured,” Bertha Lewis, the organization’s interim chief organizer, or chief executive, said Monday in a conference call to announce that the organization had registered 1.3 million people to vote.
Note: the aforementioned article was edited for brevity. Please refer to the link for the full story.
But wait…it gets even better. Further down in the article, you find the following:
In 1992, Mr. Obama was personally involved in voter registration efforts when he served as director of Project Vote in Chicago, helping to register 150,000 voters on the South Side. His success was widely written about at the time and credited with helping to elect Senator Carol Moseley Braun, the first African-American woman in the Senate.
Mr. LaBolt emphasized that Project Vote and Acorn were not as intertwined at that time as they are today, when a significant part of Project Vote’s revenues flow to Acorn and various of its affiliates as payment for services.
But according to Sam Graham-Felsen, who blogs on the Obama campaign’s Web site, Mr. Obama himself linked his 1992 work to Acorn in a meeting with Acorn’s leaders in November.
“Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drives in Illinois, Acorn was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work,” Mr. Obama said, according to a post Mr. Graham-Felsen made in February.
And how close is the relationship with Obama and ACORN? Same article:
Even before Friday’s conference call, Republicans had made much of an $832,598 payment made in February by the Obama campaign to Citizens Services Inc., a consulting firm affiliated with Acorn.
“This organization is not just related to but deeply ingrained in the Acorn organization, a front group for Acorn,” Mr. Davis said.
The Obama campaign initially reported that the payment was for “staging, sound, lighting” and other advance work when it reported its expenditures with the Federal Election Commission. It filed amended reports in August and September to reflect that those payments were for get-out-the-vote efforts.
Suuuuurrrrre it was. I’m sure that most people spend nearly a million dollars on “staging, sound, lighting” for “get-out-the-vote” efforts.
Now it appears that the Obama campaign is trying to violently back-peddle from their cozy relationship with ACORN. Jake Tapper of ABC News has done a little digging:
As reports pile up of voter registration fraud connected to ACORN — the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, a group that advocates for low-income voters – the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has sought to downplay his past ties with the group.
But in their efforts to do, Obama campaign officials found themselves forced last week to correct an erroneous assertion made on the campaign’s “Fight the Smears” webpage that “Barack was never an ACORN trainer and never worked for ACORN in any other capacity.”
That wasn’t true.
In fact, ACORN spokesman Lewis Goldberg told the New York Times that Obama conducted two unpaid leadership training sessions for ACORN’s Chicago affiliate in the late 1990s.
The “Fight the Smears” website now asserts, “Fact: ACORN never hired Obama as a trainer, organizer, or any type of employee.”
Key word: hired.
Goldberg told the Times that Obama’s work for ACORN was unpaid.
Moreover, Obama also represented ACORN and other groups in the mid 1990s as an attorney suing the state of Illinois to uphold the federal Motor Voter law. The governor and other officials of the State of Illinois were refusing to comply with the law on the ground that it was unconstitutional.
Further confusing the length and depth of the Obama-ACORN relationship was the discovery by conservative bloggers of an error-riddled story in the journal Social Policy featuring not only a 2004 photograph of Obama and ACORN members but an essay called “Case Study: Chicago- The Barack Obama Campaign” written Toni Foulkes, a Chicago ACORN Leader.
“Obama started building the base years before,” Foulkes wrote in her 2004 essay. “For instance, ACORN noticed him when he was organizing on the far south side of the city with the Developing Communities Project. He was a very good organizer. When he returned from law school, we asked him to help us with a lawsuit to challenge the state of Illinois’ refusal to abide by the National Voting Rights Act, also known as motor voter. Allied only with the state of Mississippi, Illinois had been refusing to allow mass-based voter registration according to the new law. Obama took the case, known as ACORN vs. Edgar (the name of the Republican governor at the time) and we won. Obama then went on to run a voter registration project with Project VOTE in 1992 that made it possible for Carol Moseley Braun to win the Senate that year. Project VOTE delivered 50,000 newly registered voters in that campaign (ACORN delivered about 5000 of them).”
Foulkes messed up the chronology in that account, making it sound earlier than it had occurred. The Motor Voter Law was passed in 1993, the lawsuit was brought in 1995.
Additionally, press accounts from the time of the Illinois Project Vote voter registration drive put the number of new voters registered at 150,000, not 50,000.
Still, that doesn’t seem to square with the Obama campaign’s assertion that “Fact: ACORN was not part of Project Vote, the successful voter registration drive Barack ran in 1992.”
Foulkes went on to note that “since then,” ACORN had “invited Obama to our leadership training sessions to run the session on power every year, and, as a result, many of our newly developing leaders got to know him before he ever ran for office. Thus it was natural for many of us to be active volunteers in his first campaign for State Senate and then his failed bid for U.S. Congress in 1996. By the time he ran for U.S. Senate, we were old friends.”
Obama’s losing congressional campaign was in 2000, not 1996.
So, what’s the big deal about ACORN? Well, if you read the ACORN website concerning the “recent” allegations of fraud:
ACORN has just completed the largest, most successful nonpartisan voter registration drive in U.S. history. We helped 1.3 million low-income, minority and young voters across the country register to vote.
Unfortunately, just as in 2006, that success in bringing people into the democratic process, have been greeted with unfounded accusations to disparage our work and help maintain the status quo of an unbalanced electorate.
After a similar spate of charges against ACORN in 2006, we learned that then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had fired Republican U.S. Attorneys because they refused to prosecute ACORN and other voter assistance groups on trumped up fraud charges. This was the heart of the U.S. Attorney-gate scandal that led Karl Rove, Gonzales and other top Department of Justice officials to resign. Because the press didn’t catch on until long after the election, it was part of a successful strategy to create an unfounded specter of voter fraud and to suppress voting.
As an attempt to dodge responsibility, they cite the following “key points”:
In order to help 1.3 million people register to vote, we hired more than 13,000 registration assistance workers. As with any business or agency that operates at this scale, there are always some people who want to get paid without really doing the job, or who aim to defraud their employer. Any large department store will have some workers who shoplift.
ACORN’s strategy is to collect as many forms as they can, and then “dump” them into election offices when the deadline comes due. In one report I saw, over 4000 registration forms were dropped off – last minute – in some Indiana registration office, and around 2000 forms they went through were bogus.
That’s roughly half for those of you (liberals) who “can’t do math so good”.
Why this strategy? Well, if the workers at the registration office don’t get all the people that “registered” on the voting roll call, other liberal activist groups swoop in with lawyers and scream about voter disenfranchisement, voter suppression, and so on.
Please…after Florida in 2000, don’t tell me that this kind of crap doesn’t happen.
But, ACORN’s own logic in its defense is skewed. A person shoplifting from the store is stealing from the store. The people who “defrauded” ACORN not only “stole” from ACORN, but also robbed the taxpayer because of all the money wasted by state and local governments trying to filter out the bogus voter registration forms from those that were valid. Plus, it is ACORN’s own policies and payment schedules that are to blame here, as the following post details:
ACORN had a part-time staff of 30 who worked five days a week to find unregistered people. The workers made $8 an hour and were required to sign up 20 voters in each five-hour shift.
The elections board’s registration department said in a report that ACORN’s quota contributed to the possible fraud.
ACORN stopped the registration efforts of the part-timers on Aug. 15. Three salaried employees continue the drive to sign up voters.
Kristopher Harsh, head organizer for the agency’s Cleveland office, said it is unlikely a full-fledged movement will resume before the Nov. 4 election.
ACORN has submitted about 75,000 voter registration cards to the Cuyahoga board this year.
Board employees are unsure how many of the cards are fraudulent. But the voter registration department received so many suspicious cards that it began compiling a binder with evidence. The binder grew to be an inch-thick.
At its Tuesday meeting, the elections board cancelled five fraudulent registrations submitted by ACORN workers. The cases involved already-registered voters who alerted the board after being notified by mail that their registration records had been updated.
You;d think that with the problems they were having, they’d eliminate the quota system. That is, unless, the point is to make problems. Want more evidence? Consider the case against ACORN in the State of Washington:
Satterberg called Mitchell “a ringleader.” According to charging papers, he encouraged canvassers he supervised to forge registration forms to meet ACORN’s quota of 18 to 20 registrations per canvasser per day at a time when the organization was threatening to shut down the Puget Sound voter drive for poor performance.
Mitchell allegedly told investigators that a staff member in the ACORN national office promised him a $25,000-a-year job with benefits “if he got the numbers up.”
The other point about this is the provisional ballot. Try denying one of those without the ACLU throwing everything at you they’ve got, including the kitchen sink, in an attempt to make the case for voter suppression.
So, their first key fact is crap. They know what they’re doing, and their tactics are coordinated with other like-minded liberal groups to try and steal elections.
Their next “key fact” is a hoot:
Any large voter registration operation will have a small percentage of workers who turn in bogus registration forms, Their goal clearly is not to cast a fraudulent vote. It is simply to defraud their employer, ACORN, by getting a paycheck without earning it. ACORN is the victim of this fraud – not the perpetrator.
If you own a trucking company, and one of your employees is hammered, and decides to get behind the wheel of his big rig, you get sued when that truck slams into a busload of school kids. Pure and simple. ACORN, like the owner of the trucking company, is liable for the actions of its employees.
Life sucks for liberals when they have to live up to the same laws they make for the rest of us.
In nearly every case that has been reported , it was ACORN that discovered the bad forms, and called them to the attention of election authorities, putting the forms in a package that identified them in writing as suspicious, encouraging election officials to investigate, and offering to help with prosecutions. We are required by law to turn in all forms, but instead of just turning them in and figuring that it is the responsibility of the board of elections to figure out which are valid, we spend millions of dollars verifying that forms are valid, and then separate out those that are suspicious.
Read the article I cited to you about the Cuyahoga case. Did you see in there anything that mentioned about how ACORN pointed out their fraudulent ballots? In this instance, it was FIVE VOTERS WHO WERE ALREADY REGISTERED that pointed out the bogus registration.
Now, there have been instances where ACORN did separate the good from the bad. But, you’d think that when the “bad” stack starts reaching into the thousands, you might suspect something’s wrong?
I guess that’s just me.
This next one is an outright lie:
This has nothing to do with “voter fraud” – nothing at all to do with anyone trying to cast an extra vote. There has never been a single reported instance in which bogus registration forms have led to anyone voting improperly. To do that, they would have to show up at the polls, prove their identity as all first-time registrants must, and risk jail. The people who turned in these forms did so not because they wanted an extra vote, but because they didn’t care enough to make sure eligible people got to vote at all.
Consider the following New York Post article:
Investigators probing ACORN have learned that an Ohio man registered to vote several times and cast a bogus ballot with a fake address, officials said yesterday, as they revealed that nearly 4,000 registration applications supplied by the left-leaning activist group were suspect.
The Post reported last week on the Cleveland-area probe and the subpoenas, which were sent out to four people – including two voters who said they were hounded by ACORN workers to register over and over, even when they warned they’d already done so.
It’s the latest issue in the probe of ACORN’s registering voters in Ohio, one of at least nine states where officials are investigating similar reports of phony sign-ups by the group.
At the same time, officials said, some 5 percent, or 3,650, of the 73,000 total registration cards turned in by ACORN in the Cleveland area from its Project Vote initiative to sign up low-income voters were “questionable,” Platten said.
There were “egregious acts of registering multiple times,” said Platten. “The extent of it is beyond the resources of this board.”
How bad has some of ACORN’s registration efforts been? Well, they had to settle a criminal suit with the State of Washington, for a voter-fraud scam billed as the largest in Washington’s history. In fact, the reports of fraudulent voter registration forms being submitted by ACORN is rampant. They’ve been implicated in voter registration scams in something like twelve states. In Ohio, an affiliate-employee of ACORN was given crack cocaine in exchange for voter registration slips.
But I’m sure this is all one big misunderstanding…across several states…and multiple years.
But there’s more to this. ACORN is not just involved in voter registration initiatives that “somehow” turn into fraud scams. No. They’re also into getting people “affordable housing”, as this New York Post article details:
The CRA’s ostensible purpose is to prevent banks from discriminating against minorities. But Rep. Marge Roukema (R-NJ), who chaired the subcommittee, was worried that charges of discrimination had become an excuse for lowering credit standards. She warned that new, Democrat-proposed CRA regulations could amount to an illegal quota system.
FOR years, ACORN had combined manipulation of the CRA with intimidation-protest tactics to force banks to lower credit standards. Its crusade, with help from Democrats in Congress, to push these high-risk “subprime” loans on banks is at the root of today’s economic meltdown.
When the role of ACORN and congressional Democrats in the mortgage crisis is pointed out, Democrats reply that banks subject to the CRA represent only about a quarter of the loans that led to our current troubles. In fact, the problem goes way beyond the CRA.
As ACORN ran its campaigns against local banks, it quickly hit a roadblock. Banks would tell ACORN they could afford to reduce their credit standards by only a little – since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal mortgage giants, refused to buy up those risky loans for sale on the “secondary market.”
That is, the CRA wasn’t enough. Unless Fannie and Freddie were willing to relax their credit standards as well, local banks would never make home loans to customers with bad credit histories or with too little money for a downpayment.
So ACORN’s Democratic friends in Congress moved to force Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to dispense with normal credit standards. Throughout the early ’90s, they imposed ever-increasing subprime-lending quotas on Fannie and Freddie.
But then the Republicans won control of Congress – and Rep. Roukema scheduled her hearing. ACORN went into action to protect its golden goose.
IT struck as Roukema aired her concerns at that hearing. Pro testers, led by ACORN President Maud Hurd, stood up and began chanting, “CRA has got to stay!” and “Banks for greed, not for need!” The protesters then demanded the microphone.
With the hearing interrupted and the demonstrators refusing to leave, Roukema called the Capital Police, who arrested Hurd and four others for “disorderly conduct in a Capital building” – a charge carrying a penalty of a $500 fine, six months in prison or both. As the police arrived, two of the protesters menacingly approached Roukema’s desk, still demanding the hearing microphone.
Requests to the Capital Police to release the activists from Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass,) failed. Then Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) showed up at the jail and refused to leave until the protesters were released; the Capital Police relented.
Meanwhile, instead of repudiating ACORN’s intimidation tactics, Rep. Kennedy berated Roukema for arresting one of his constituents and accused the Republicans of preparing for “an all-out attack on CRA.” He also promised to introduce legislation to expand the CRA’s coverage to mortgage bankers and large credit unions.
THIS little slice of political life from 1995 had a variety of ripple effects. Above all, ACORN’s intimidation tactics, and its alliance with Democrats in Congress, triumphed. Despite their 1994 takeover of Congress, Republicans’ attempts to pare back the CRA were stymied.
Instead, Democrats like Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Reps. Kennedy and Waters allied with the Clinton administration to broaden the acceptability of risky subprime loans throughout the financial system, thus precipitating our current crisis.
ACORN had come to Congress not only to protect the CRA from GOP reforms but also to expand the reach of quota-based lending to Fannie, Freddie and beyond. By steamrolling the GOP that March, it had crushed the last potential barrier to “change.”
Three months later, the Clinton administration announced a comprehensive strategy to push homeownership in America to new heights – regardless of the compromise in credit standards that the task would require. Fannie and Freddie were assigned massive subprime lending quotas, which would rise to about half of their total business by the end of the decade.
WHEN the ACORN-Democrat alliance finally succeeded in blocking Republicans from restoring fiscal sanity in 1995, the way was open to virtually unlimited lending quotas – and to a whole new way of thinking about credit standards.
Urged on by ACORN, congressional Democrats and the Clinton administration helped push tolerance for high-risk loans through every sector of the banking system – far beyond the sort of banks originally subject to the CRA.
So it was the efforts of ACORN and its Democratic allies that first spread the subprime virus from the CRA to Fannie and Freddie and thence to the entire financial system.
Soon, Democratic politicians and regulators actually began to take pride in lowered credit standards as a sign of “fairness” – and the contagion spread.
And when financial institutions across the board saw that they could make money by trading what would once have been considered junk loans, the profit motive kicked in. But the bad seed that started it all was ACORN.
HOW does Barack Obama fit into all of this? Obama has been a key ally of Chicago ACORN going back to his days as a community organizer.
Later, as a young lawyer, he offered leadership training to the activists who were forcing Chicago banks into high-risk subprime loans. And when he made it on to the boards of Chicago’s Woods Fund and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, he channeled money ACORN’s way.
Obama was perfectly aware of ACORN’s intimidation tactics – indeed, he oversaw a Woods Fund report that boasted of managing to fund the radical group despite its shocking behavior.
And as a lawmaker, in Illinois and in Washington, he has continued to back ACORN’s leglislative agenda.
ACORN’s high-pressure tactics live on. And congressional Democrats are still covering for ACORN, funneling it money and doing its legislative bidding. ACORN also continues its shady ways, using a vast network of technically separate but in fact quite interconnected organizations to evade federal laws on the politicized use of government money.
Perhaps most disturbing of all, the Obama campaign appears to have little more regard for freedom of speech than Reps. Kennedy or Waters did when they backed up ACORN’s thugs in 1995. The campaign actually practices ACORN-style tactics, sending out “action wires” that call on supporters to block Obama critics from radio appearances (a tactic once applied to me) and demanding legal actions against unfriendly political advertisers.
This is how “non-partisan” ACORN is (same article):
That March, House Speaker Newt Gingrich was scheduled to address a meeting of county commissioners at the Washington Hilton. But, first, some 500 protesters from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) poured into the ballroom from both the kitchen and the main entrance.
Hotel staffers who tried to block them were quickly overwhelmed by demonstrators chanting, “Nuke Newt!” and “We want Newt!” Jamming the aisles, carrying bullhorns and taunting the assembled county commissioners, demonstrators swiftly took over the head table and commandeered the microphone, sending two members of Congress scurrying.
The demonstrators’ target, Gingrich, hadn’t yet arrived – and his speech was cancelled. When the cancellation was announced, ACORN’s foot soldiers cheered.
And there you have it. ACORN tied directly to the current Democrat-empowered financial crisis this nation is presently experiencing.
And Obama is right in the middle of it all.
Maybe Joe Biden will say something “witty” to explain it all away.