The Hits Keep Coming

Community Organizing Ideas and Issues

The Hits Keep Coming

October 19, 2008

            New Orleans               The maelstrom with ACORN in the bulls-eye at the center of the Presidential race continues unabated. 

            Vice-Presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin now has a place for ACORN in her standard stump speech as she wends her way across Indiana and other states.

            The McCain campaign has an anti-ACORN ad that they are paying to air broadly.  If you can handle the pain:                   On the Colbert Report the other night, they spoofed the notion that ACORN was the cause of the end of the world as we have known it:

            Amy Goodman on her Democracy Now radio show on the 17th somehow she had the most extensive quote from Senator Obama defending ACORN’s voter efforts in full that I have seen: 

Barack Obama himself was questioned about ACORN’s problematic registrations. He said: ”Having run a voter-registration drive, I know how problems arise. This is typically a situation where ACORN probably paid people to get registrations, and these folks, not wanting to actually register people, because that’s actually hard work, just went into a phone book or made up names and submitted false registrations to get paid. So there’s probably been fraud perpetrated on ACORN, if they paid these individuals and they actually didn’t do registrations. But this isn’t a situation where there’s actually people who are going to try to vote, because these are phony names.”

That’s a righteous quote, my friends!

The best overall defenses I have found are on Media Matters and on Michael Moore’s website.

From Moore’s website:

Much Ado About ACORN

By Ali Gharib / IPS

NEW YORK, Oct 17 – As Election Day in the United States draws nigh, attacks from Sen. John McCain’s campaign and its Republican supporters have focused attention on the activities of a national low- and moderate-income advocacy group, accusing it of everything from engaging in widespread, systematic voter fraud to causing the U.S.-turned-global financial crisis.

The heavily coordinated attack on the Association of Community Organisers for Reform Now (ACORN) by the McCain camp has drawn criticism as both an increasingly desperate attempt to launch negative attacks on his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, and a bid to suppress voter turnout among groups that lean Democratic.

Republican attacks on ACORN have become commonplace around major elections, but this year’s offensive against the "nation’s largest grassroots community organisation" are particularly acute. McCain’s running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and his ardent supporter, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both mocked Obama as "a former community organiser" at this summer’s Republican National Convention.

With just two and a half weeks until the final ballots are cast and tallied in the presidential race, and on the heels of the financial meltdown and market turmoil, McCain’s campaign has fallen behind in the polls in various key battleground states that will likely decide the outcome of the election.

The attacks on ACORN have ranged from complaints leading to a raid of ACORN’s Nevada headquarters and now a federal investigation, to a conservative-group aided lawsuit in Ohio, and a McCain campaign ad tying Obama to ACORN and accusing it of catalysing the financial crisis.

The campaign came to a crescendo Wednesday when McCain lashed out against the group during the final presidential debate in New York.

"We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama’s relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy," McCain declared during the contentious debate, implying that Obama was deeply tied to the group and his campaign had given ACORN hundreds of thousands of dollars for "lighting and site selection".

Obama responded that allegations of individual instances of fraud do not mean ACORN was engaged in systematic fraud, and that he has limited ties to the group.

"The only involvement I’ve had with ACORN was I represented them alongside the U.S. Justice Department in making Illinois implement a motor voter law that helped people get registered at DMVs," said Obama.

McCain’s attack was perhaps the most hyperbolic accusation lobbed at ACORN yet, and closely mirrors a negative ad from his campaign last week that accused ACORN, in its advocacy of home ownership for working class people, of directly contributing to the sub-prime mortgage implosion that sparked the credit crunch and strained global financial markets.

"ACORN forced banks to issue risky home loans — the same types of loans that caused the financial crisis we’re in today," said a deep-voiced narrator in the McCain-approved ad released on Oct. 10.

In a response to the ad, ACORN released a 13-page report Thursday titled "ACORN and John McCain: The Real Story of Financial Crisis 1999-2008" documenting its own record on opposing policies and practices that are blamed for the mortgage crisis, and attacking what they called "recent attempts by the McCain…campaign to shamelessly shift blame for the current financial crisis."

The report cited specific incidents of ACORN’s actions and advocacy and compared them with a website search of McCain’s record on the issue of predatory lending — aggressive lending practices roundly blamed for creating the defaulted mortgage payments that sent lending banks into dire straits.

"From working to pass city ordinances and state laws restricting risky lending practices, to protesting and suing lenders, and from lobbying for federal laws and regulations to releasing numerous reports warning of impending crisis, one must conclude that ACORN fought against predatory lending," said the report, authored by the national director of ACORN’s Financial Justice Centre, Austin King.

"John McCain’s history with this issue is more difficult to document, mostly because there is not much history," continued the report, displaying a timeline littered with ACORN actions and a matching one for McCain with only seven blips, mostly steps towards banking deregulation that McCain has supported.

In addition to the report, ACORN has been hosting a series of press calls and conferences to address the accusations.

The tit-for-tat exchange even saw McCain campaign surrogates and ACORN holding back-to-back press conferences at the National Press Club in Washington. ACORN executive director Steve Kest said in a press release that despite being the topic of the McCain campaign conference, representatives of ACORN were not allowed into the room to hear the accusations in person.

Two days later, ACORN released a letter to the two McCain surrogates, former Sens. John Danforth and Warren Rudman, to meet with ACORN and review registration screening procedures with them.

All of the press conferences have garnered a lot of media attention. A blog entry by Eric Boehlert on Media Matters, a progressive media-monitoring outfit, cited a statistic that the conservative-leaning Fox News cable channel had mentioned ACORN 342 times in a one-week period from Oct. 6 through Oct. 13, compared to just 61 mentions on CNN.

Many of the accusations against ACORN are rehashed attacks from previous election cycles and a long history of conservative animosity against the group.

The accusation of voter fraud has been bandied about for years. It was, in fact, at the centre of the firing of a U.S. attorney from New Mexico, David Iglesias, when he refused to pursue fraud charges against ACORN after a task force found no grounds for prosecution. A U.S. Inspector General report this month concluded that the firing was political.

The "Attorney-Gate Scandal", as it has come to be known, led to the resignation of then U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

In another regurgitated attack, a lawsuit filed in Ohio this week with the help of the Buckeye Institute, a conservative think-tank, sought to stop ACORN from operating in the state on the grounds that false registrations were diluting legitimate votes.

An ACORN employee based in Ohio, Katy Gall, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that she doubted that the organisation had even registered many voters in Warren County, where the suit was filed, and an ACORN press release said the "filing appears to be nothing more than a cut-and-paste recycling of the filing made in 2004, which was dismissed for lack of any evidence."

Furthermore, ACORN says that accusations of voter fraud are completely unfounded, despite admitting that there has been some registration fraud which the group claims to be making efforts at curtailing.

"…Issues related to voter registration are not voter fraud," said a release from ACORN today. "These are not cases where people are able to vote multiple times. Let us repeat — these are not situations involving actual votes."

ACORN claims to have registered 1.3 million new voters in the 18-month period leading up to the Nov. 4 election, many of whom are part of ACORN’s focus on advocacy for low- and moderate-income citizens — groups that tend to vote Democratic.

ACORN has also ironically pointed out that despite his accusations of ties to Obama, it was McCain who "stood shoulder-to-shoulder" with ACORN at an immigration reform rally co-sponsored by the group in February 2006.

"It is clear for us to see that John McCain was for ACORN before he was against ACORN," said Maude Hurd, ACORN’s national president, in a statement Thursday.

            From Media Matters on Thursday, October 16th:

CNN reports leave out relevant facts on ACORN voter registration allegations

Summary: From October 6 through October 15, CNN aired at least 54 segments mentioning allegations that ACORN submitted allegedly false or duplicate voter registration applications this year in a number of states. However, only one of those segments mentioned both of the following two relevant points: 1) that the statutes of most of those states require third parties registering prospective voters to submit all registration forms they receive; and 2) that actual instances of illegal votes being cast as a result of registration fraud are extremely rare. Of the 54 CNN segments addressing the allegations against ACORN, two mentioned only the former of those two points, while one mentioned just the latter.

From October 6 through October 15, CNN ran at least 54 segments mentioning allegations that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now [ACORN] submitted allegedly false or duplicate voter registration applications this year in a number of states, according to a Media Matters for America search* of the Nexis database. But only one of those segments mentioned both of the following two relevant points: 1) that the statutes of most of those states require third parties registering prospective voters to submit all registration forms they receive; and 2) that actual instances of illegal votes being cast as a result of registration fraud are extremely rare. Indeed, in an October 10 press release, ACORN noted that "in almost every state we are required to turn in ALL completed applications, even the ones we know to be problematic." And in a 2007 report titled "The Truth About Voter Fraud," New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice stated, "[W]e are aware of no recent substantiated case in which registration fraud has resulted in fraudulent votes being cast." Of the 54 CNN segments addressing the allegations against ACORN, two mentioned only the former of those two points, while one mentioned just the latter.

While the media have devoted great attention to charges of voter fraud, in past election cycles such charges have largely proven baseless. According to the Brennan Center:

There have been several documented and widely publicized instances in which registration forms have been fraudulently completed and submitted. But it is extraordinarily difficult to find reported cases in which individuals have submitted registration forms in someone else’s name in order to impersonate them at the polls. Furthermore, most reports of registration fraud do not actually claim that the fraud happens so that ineligible people can vote at the polls. Indeed, we are aware of no recent substantiated case in which registration fraud has resulted in fraudulent votes being cast.

Additionally, an October 16 article reported that Sen. John McCain’s "voter fraud worries — about ACORN or anyone else — are unsupported by the facts, said experts on election fraud, who recall similar concerns being raised in several previous elections, despite a near-total absence of cases." The article quoted David Becker, "a lawyer for the Bush administration until 2005, in the Justice Department’s voting rights section, which was part of the administration’s aggressive anti-vote-fraud effort," who stated, "There’s no evidence that any of these invalid registrations lead to any invalid votes" and added: "The Justice Department really made prosecution of voter fraud of this sort a big priority in the first half of this decade, and they really didn’t come up with anything."

Indeed, the U.S. Department of Justice crime statistics cast doubt on the existence of widespread voter fraud. According to a report by the Justice Department’s Criminal Division of prosecutions between October 2002 and September 2005, the Justice Department charged 95 people with "election fraud" and convicted 55. Among those, however, just 17 individuals were convicted for casting fraudulent ballots; cases against three other individuals were pending at the time of the report. Further, on April 12, 2007, The New York Times reported, "Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews."

During a report on the October 12 edition of CNN Sunday Morning — the only CNN report to mention both of the above points — anchor Betty Nguyen aired a clip from ACORN chief organizer Bertha Lewis’s October 10 interview on CNN’s Larry King Live, in which Lewis said: "First of all, in every county when you register voters, you’ve got to turn in every single card no matter how weird or wacko it may appear, that’s the law." Later in the segment, Nguyen asked’s Steve Carbo, "I mean, are these numbers inflated here or is ACORN truly involved in voter fraud?" Carbo replied, "I think we need to be clear about what voter fraud is. The record shows that it’s exceedingly rare for individuals to show up on the polls on Election Day and pretend to be other people, to vote twice, to vote illegally."

Three segments mentioned one, but not both points. Two segments mentioned that many states require ACORN to submit all registration forms it received. On the October 10 edition of Larry King Live, Lewis said, "First of all, in every county when you register voters, you’ve got to turn in every single card no matter how weird or wacko it may appear, that’s the law." In a later segment on the same broadcast, after radio host Stephanie Miller called the allegations against ACORN "a non-story," King asked her, "Because you have to bring whatever they fill out?" Miller replied, "Yes."

One additional segment suggested that voter fraud is extremely rare. During a roundtable on the October 11 edition of CNN Newsroom, civil rights attorney Avery Friedman said, "Now in reality, when either Mr. or Ms. Turkey show up at the voting booth, today there is a built-in protective mechanism. So, although it sounds like a big deal, and I think some of the partisans are trying to paint it that, for those people who get minimum wage, who have quotas, those people are in trouble for doing these kinds of things. But the bottom line is that the system will work. I don’t think Jive Turkey will be voting this November."

The following 50 CNN segments did not include either of the above relevant facts (all program times ET):
 Date Show Anchors/Correspondents/Guests
10/15 Lou Dobbs Tonight
Host Lou Dobbs, correspondent Bill Tucker
10/15 Lou Dobbs Tonight
Dobbs, correspondent Drew Griffin, Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf
10/15 CNN Newsroom 1 PM
Anchor Kyra Phillips, Griffin
10/15 CNN Newsroom 11 AM
Anchor Tony Harris, Griffin
10/15 CNN Newsroom 10 AM
Anchor Heidi Collins, correspondent Brian Todd
10/15 CNN Newsroom 9 AM
Collins, Griffin
10/15 American Morning 7 AM
Anchor Kiran Chetry, Griffin
10/15 American Morning 6 AM
10/14 Anderson Cooper 360
Host Anderson Cooper, political analysts David Gergen, Roland Martin, Alex Castellanos
10/14 Lou Dobbs Tonight
Dobbs, Tucker
10/14 Situation Room 6 PM
Host Wolf Blitzer, Todd
10/14 Situation Room 6 PM
Blitzer, Griffin
10/14 Situation Room 4 PM
Blitzer, correspondent Jessica Yellin
10/14 CNN Newsroom 3 PM
Anchor Rick Sanchez, presidential candidate Ralph Nader (I)
10/14 CNN Newsroom 3 PM
Sanchez, correspondent Joshua Levs
10/14 CNN Newsroom 2 PM
Phillips, WEWS reporter Duane Pohlman
10/14 CNN Newsroom 1 PM
Phillips, Levs
10/14 CNN Newsroom Noon
Harris, Pohlman
10/14 CNN Newsroom 11 AM
Harris, Griffin, Blitzer
10/14 CNN Newsroom 11 AM
Harris, Tucker, Levs
10/14 CNN Newsroom 10 AM
Collins, Pohlman
10/14 CNN Newsroom 9 AM
Collins, Tucker
10/14 American Morning 7 AM
Chetry, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (R)
10/13 Lou Dobbs Tonight
Dobbs, Tucker
10/13 Lou Dobbs Tonight
10/13 Situation Room 5 PM
Blitzer, Griffin
10/13 CNN Newsroom 1 PM
Phillips, Griffin
10/12 The Next President: Battlegrounds
Host John King, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner
10/12 Lou Dobbs This Week
Dobbs, Griffin
10/12 Lou Dobbs This Week
Dobbs, Tucker
10/12 Lou Dobbs This Week
Dobbs, New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis, Sheinkopf
10/12 CNN Sunday Morning 9 AM
Anchor Betty Nguyen, Griffin
10/11 The Next President: Battlegrounds
King, Brunner
10/11 Lou Dobbs This Week
Dobbs, Griffin
10/11 Lou Dobbs This Week
Dobbs, Tucker
10/11 Lou Dobbs This Week
Dobbs, Louis, Sheinkopf
10/10 Larry King Live
Host Larry King, Griffin
10/10 Lou Dobbs Tonight
Dobbs, Tucker
10/10 CNN Newsroom 1 PM
Phillips, Griffin
10/10 CNN Newsroom Noon
Harris, Griffin
10/10 CNN Newsroom 9 AM
Nguyen, Griffin
10/10 American Morning 8 AM
Anchor John Roberts, Griffin
10/9 Anderson Cooper 360
Cooper, Griffin
10/9 Larry King Live
King, Democratic strategist Tanya Acker, Republican strategist Andrea Tantaros, Democratic strategist Paul Begala
10/9 CNN Election Center
Host Campbell Brown, Griffin
10/9 Lou Dobbs Tonight
Dobbs, Griffin
10/9 Lou Dobbs Tonight
Dobbs, Tucker
10/9 Situation Room 5 PM
Roberts, Griffin
10/9 CNN Newsroom 3 PM
Sanchez, Griffin
10/7 Lou Dobbs Tonight
* Media Matters searched the Nexis database for CNN for "acorn" from October 6 through October 15
–M.G., J.K.F., & H.D.