Radical Critics Claim ACORN Probe Is Vote Suppression Plot

Denial is a powerful mechanism. And when one’s allies are under investigation, the first instinct all too often is to question the motives of the investigators rather than consider the evidence. So it is with the ongoing probe by federal and state authorities of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN. Union Corruption Update over the last couple years, and especially in recent months, has been vigilant in highlighting examples of blatant voter registration fraud in the 2004, 2006 and 2008 election cycles committed by ACORN volunteers. In all key battleground states, the hard-Left ACORN, heavily supported by organized labor (indeed, in the cases of SEIU Locals 100 and 880, ACORN does the organizing), has been active in voter registration. And by various accounts, they’ve produced a bumper crop of phony names, phony addresses and same-person multiple registrations. 


ACORN was founded in 1970 with a stated mission to engage in grass-roots organizing on behalf of the “powerless.” From the very beginning, the New Orleans-based nationwide nonprofit network has shown a disdain for process in the larger pursuit of redistributing power. This past June that operating style came under close scrutiny. Founder and chief organizer Wade Rathke stepped down amid bad publicity stemming from accounting fraud by his brother that had occurred back during the turn of the decade. This election, more than previous ones, presents an opportunity for absolution: the possible election this Tuesday of Barack Obama as our nation’s next president, plus large Democrat gains in Congress, governor’s offices and legislatures. During the current 2007-08 election cycle, ACORN claims to have generated nationwide about 1.3 million voter registration cards, about 30 percent of which, say critics, are suspect. True, a phony registration card doesn’t necessarily translate into a phony ballot. Federal law requires that newly registered voters must provide election officials with a valid ID before casting their vote. Yet because ACORN has been focusing its energies on closely-contested “battleground” states, fraud and the ability to detect it may well tip the scales in a close election.            


It’s not as if authorities haven’t taken notice. In Nevada, for example, the State Attorney General recently shut down an ACORN voter registration project that already has produced hundreds of suspect or outright phony registration cards, several of which bore the names of Dallas Cowboys starting players. In Florida, officials uncovered ACORN-stamped cards bearing such names as “Mickey Mouse.” The FBI has initiated probes in a variety of states. And House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, ranking House Financial Services Committee Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., and several Republican committee members wrote a letter dated October 14 to House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., requesting that Frank call hearings on ACORN vote fraud. 


On October 15, a group of Left-leaning organizations held a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to denounce requests for probes of ACORN as nothing more than a GOP tactic to suppress votes. Leaders of ACORN, the NAACP, People for the American Way (PFAW), and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) each weighed in. Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, with typical indignation, declared: “This latest attack on ACORN follows a sorry pattern, played out in election after election.” LCCR President Wade Henderson pronounced a similar judgment. “The attack on ACORN,” he noted, “is a distraction from the democratic process and an effort to intimidate voters. We at the Leadership Conference recognize this attack for what it is, we deplore it, and we believe that all Americans who support democracy will reject these accusations.” Members of LCCR, it is worth noting, include such labor organizations as the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Service Employees. PFAW President Kathryn Kolbert also made her view known, calling upon GOP presidential candidate John McCain to “disavow the organized effort his party has made to subvert the democratic process.”  

In Congress, Barney Frank is reacting to colleagues in much the same manner. In responding to Rep. Boehner’s request, Frank accused Republicans of trying “to hijack the committee and turn it into an echo chamber in an effort to help the McCain campaign.” Never mind that Democratic as well as Republican election officials have alleged ACORN vote fraud. Never mind either that the speakers at the October 15 press conference themselves did a pretty good imitation of an echo chamber, with ritualistic denunciations of GOP “attacks” on the “democratic process.” More to the point, the accusations are well-founded, and for that reason alone, should be investigated to the fullest extent, regardless of which political party stands to benefit most. In a few states, activists have admitted to fraud and have gone to jail. Other persons, who serve as ACORN stooges, such as Cleveland’s Freddie Johnson, might as well go, too. Whoever becomes our nation’s next president – and ACORN makes no secret of its support for Obama – further investigations and felony charges should lie ahead. (The Hill, 10/15/08; The Frontrunner, 10/16/08; alternet.org, 10/23/08; Time, 11/3/08; other sources).