Noting ACORN Victories While Congress Still Delivers the Low Blows

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throwback pic from ACORN Convention 2004

New Orleans   Fresh from a great meeting celebrating ACORN’s year in Canada, as we got into the cars to go catch up with the latest news of a community organizing project in Homestead, across the river from Pittsburgh, one of the ACORN organizers in Canada asked if I had seen the front page of the USA Today, as always a giveaway paper at the hotel. Several of us jumped out in the cold to go pick up a copy, curious why ACORN was on the front page of this national paper. Sure enough, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of an article entitled, “Huge Spending Bill, Lots of Little Quirks.” Our quirk went like this:

USA Today, Weekend, December 18-20, 2015, Front Page: Keeping ACORN Dead

Remember ACORN? Congress does. The community organizing / voter registration group was the target of a sting video by conservative activist James O’Keefe and accused by conservatives of helping clients break the law. The group was never charged in that case, but Congress cut off its federal funding, and the group closed its doors in 2010. Nevertheless, the spending bill contains a provision barring any federal funding to “the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.”

Blogger Cory Doctorow had nailed this low blow well in ACORN’s 15 seconds of fame over the weekend by calling out Congressional Republicans for trying to stoke up their rabid, hater base:

Republican operators spent the runup to the bill copypasting phrases that had literally no legislative effect, but did signal to low-information voters that their agenda was being upheld. For example, the bill specifically defunds ACORN, a community service group that became a Republican whipping-boy in 2009. ACORN has since folded. But the bill bans any funding to ACORN, its “allied organizations” (a legally meaningless term) and “successors” (another legally meaningless term.)

The good news is that they left Planned Parenthood alone, didn’t curtail unionization or wage hike efforts for American workers, and didn’t specifically try to bully women and small children in the bill. They did add 54-words to give some more life to a huge tax loophole, but all this is what you expect in any kind of bipartisan bill given the polarity in Congress these days.

Organizing for social change and empowering lower income families and workers, means you have to be ready to take a punch, even the low blows. Zach Carter, Huffington Post, Senior Political Economy Reporter, deflects some of them with an even handed report:

No matter that the anti-poverty group officially folded more than five years ago. Republicans have relentlessly beaten this dead horse in spending bills ever since, and they show no signs of stopping now. From page 1,016 of the 2,009-page bill:

SEC. 522. None of the funds made available under this or any other Act, or any prior Appropriations Act, may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, allied organizations, or successors.

Of course, ACORN cannot receive money from the federal government anyway, because it does not exist. As a non-entity, ACORN also has no affiliates or subsidiaries. “Allied organizations” and “successors” are not even legally defined terms.

And for any listeners or readers with amnesia or just a short memory, he adds more facts to puncture the drooling, mad dog fantasies of the haters with this background:

In 2009, conservative provocateur James O’Keefe released selectively edited videos that appeared to show ACORN employees attempting to provide tax advice for prostitution rings. The group had alerted authorities about the requests from O’Keefe’s undercover character, however, and subsequent investigations by the California attorney general, the Massachusetts attorney general and the Brooklyn, N.Y., district attorney all cleared ACORN of criminal wrongdoing, while an investigation by the Government Accountability Office would clear the group of charges that it mishandled federal funds.

Keep in mind that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” as you do your work from day to day, even if words can inflame, confuse, and trick, and make the work harder.