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Little Sympathy for ACORN Here


By John Martin - Posted on 16 September 2009

If this isn’t the end of ACORN, I hope it’s the end of ACORN as we know it. It’s become an annual tradition in national politics— ACORN is found doing something dumb, they claim their dumb actions aren’t as bad as they look, and then they insist the vast right-wing conspiracy is behind the whole mess anyway.

Well, now we have video— lots and lots of video. Despite claims that what’s been released has been selectively edited (which it surely has), what it shows is the extent of the waste (to put it mildly) that can result when public money gets spread around unchecked. Nobody cares how many ACORN offices turned away the prostitute-pimp tandem; the ones that didn’t have the smarts to do the right thing are enough to expose just how backward this organization is.

In 2006, ACORN employees in Kansas City were found falsifying voter registration cards.  In 2007, the same thing was going on in Seattle.  While these transgressions were arguably harmless, not resulting in any actual false votes being cast, that’s beside the point. ACORN was put on notice that the hard right was targeting them and they did nothing, practically daring their opponents to keep at it.  By the time 2008 rolled around, ACORN workers were still at it, found trying to put Donald Duck and Tony Romo on the voter rolls.  Thankfully, President Obama was able to keep enough distance that ACORN’s issues did not cost him the presidency.  But they could have.

Now here we are in Obama’s first term.  Instead of quickly cleaning house and making sure their problems wouldn’t further risk hurting Obama, ACORN allowed their problems to continue.  The President was already facing relentless attacks from the right.  Now Obama and his party are forced to play defense yet again.  In the least, the events of the past week give the right’s longstanding ACORN allegations some credibility.  At worst, they provide a rallying point for the right against Obama and his agenda.

In cities across the country, public money is doled out to community groups such as ACORN all the time.  The money is earmarked by local politicians who seek these organizations’ support, but still, much of that money is put to good use.  Unfortunately, we have no real way of knowing if this money is being put to its most efficient use.  Yes, such funding goes towards helping people receive tax advice. It helps indigent people receive meals. Senior Centers are funded so the elderly have a welcoming place they can spend their days. Maybe, however, the poor and needy would be better off if they were just given this money directly, instead of having the ACORNS of the world skim their share off the top, taking credit while spending our tax dollars.

It’s true that ACORN helps people, but it’s a foregone conclusion that some people will benefit when money is thrown around. With all the waste we see among those with access to public money, it’s a matter of time before we’re forced to finally begin looking for ways to cut back on our wasteful ways. These ACORN videos have the potential of crystallizing many of the claims big government skeptics have had for a long time. They also have the potential of creating a few new converts.

You beat me to it! I was gonna write the same thing. They should be stripped of every federal dime they receive if these allegations are in fact true.

^^^^^^^
Golf11, NYC
Vero Possumus
http://twitter.com/Golf11

Good blog, John.

Nope, no sympathy at all from me either.  

 

Not to pile on too much, but here's the latest:

 

Why are they releasing the videos every couple of days instead of all at once? Are they happening a day or so before they post them or are they trying to keep the story in the forefront as much as possible? 

The latter, I'm sure.  It also seems like they're leaving the "best" for last, as more and more people start paying attention.

I hope ACORN employees aren't still giving child prostitution advice!

Or tax code advice -- I smell an audit!

^^^^^^^
Golf11, NYC
Vero Possumus
http://twitter.com/Golf11

Update:

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — Police say a worker with the activist group ACORN who was caught on video giving advice about human smuggling to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute had reported the incident to authorities. Police say he contacted law enforcement two days later. The detective consulted another police official who served on a federal human smuggling task force, who said he needed more details. The ACORN employee responded several days later and explained that the information he received was not true and he had been duped. Vera was fired on Thursday.

----

He'll get his job back then, right? Right?

*crickets*

Will we see this on Fix news? right? Right?

*crickets*

I don't know about you, but "I waited a couple of days before reporting a possible human smuggling operation to the police" doesn't exactly smack to me of, well, sincerity...
----

It's sad that we've reached a point where 'government service' is a dirty word... If we're the greatest country on earth, maybe we can have the greatest government.

Lewis Black

My understanding was that Vera offered to contact the police during the interview and he was begged not to by O'Keefe and his partner.  The "tax advice" he gave them wouldn't amount to much after reporting the activity to the police, wouldn't you think?   I tend to think that at least in this particular circumstance O'Keefe edited out a lot of stuff which would have contextualized the situation.  It's certainly not the first time he's done that to get to his desired end result, according to at least one of his college friends.

From what I've gathered about him, O'Keefe stinks.  He is no journalist and he will be exposed for what he is one of these days if he keeps up his "documentaries," believe me.   That FOX News is giving his "documentaries" the time of day without even verifying their accuracy before airing them speaks more about the ethics and ideology of FOX News than anything else.

Understand me:  if ACORN has workers who have behaved unethically, they should fire them.  

Loyal Republicans wonder why their party is going to h*ll in a handbasket.  It's because the spokesmen of their party  not only give these clear witchhunts the time of day, but ask for more.   If they actually cared about the method and their messagemakers a little bit more, maybe they wouldn't lose credibility every single day with everyone else.

I thought this was interesting and Golf/John as NYers would have to verify:

Because of the unique nature of New York State election law, candidates are allowed to be endorsed and appear on the voting machine ballot as the candidate of multiple parties, winning the cumulative total of all votes cast for that candidate on multiple party lines.  Minor parties such as the Conservative, Liberal and Right to Life Party have played significant roles in New York politics.

The Working Families Party is not about working people or families and it isn’t really a party.  The WFP is a wholly owned subsidiary of ACORN.  Bertha Lewis co-chair of the Working Families Party is the Executive Director of New York ACORN.  New York ACORN leader, Steven Kest was the moving force in forming the party and WFP headquarters are located at the same address as ACORN’s national and New York office at 88 Third Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. 

WFP is essentially a money funnel which pays for an aggressive door to door canvas.  Largely funded by unions, the WFP is ACORN’s “political arm” in New York State.  Candidates supported by the Working Families Party and issues supported by ACORN are both advocated on the door steps of target voter homes as they share one major voter canvas.

 

 

http://biggovernment.com/2009/09/17/working-families-party-acorn-what-will-ag-cuomo-do/ 

 

I'd trust Roger Stone's analysis of New York politics over my own, but I was under the impression that the Working Families Party was calling the shots by now.  Either way, WFP and ACORN work very closely together, and its' common knowledge that you need the WFP's support to win in many places, especially manty places in New York City.  In fact, there is a member of the City Council who ran ONLY on the WFP line a few years ago and won.

10 years ago, people were clammoring to win the Conservative Party line, as they were the strongest third party in the state.  Now there's no question that WFP is in that position.

BTW... the Working Families Party has their own set of problems continually brewing, including some very questionable campaign finance practices, which are outlined in that article you posted.

 

 

I agree with you, ACORN has displayed a pattern of poor management for a long time and consequences are over due. If they can manage to clean house then they deserve to survive, otherwise they must fail. We do live in a capitalist society and this is how it should work.

Where I disagree is “President Obama was able to keep enough distance that ACORN’s issues did not cost him the presidency.  But they could have.” As I see it the link between Obama was never more than peripheral and most people, liberal, conservative, or moderate, realize that. Like the Ayres association… we all associate with a variety of people and organizations we have no way to know all about. Would you be surprised to find out your neighbor (whom you socialize with) is having an affair (there seems to be one in every neighborhood)? Does that make you a cad? Love the local café and recommend it to your friends? Does it make you a drug king when one of the employees get busted dealing? Most people know this and I suspect that even most of those who are using it as an excuse to besmirch Obama know it but practice a double standard out of bias (the all or nothing attitude, if you’re my friend you’re prefect, if you’re my enemy you have no redeeming trait and so must be guilty to the greatest degree of anything you may be accused of). Perhaps it is hopeful thinking, possibly I see it this way just because I need to believe we, as a whole, are better than this.

…Unfortunately, we have no real way of knowing if this money is being put to its most efficient use.  Yes, such funding goes towards helping people receive tax advice. It helps indigent people receive meals. Senior Centers are funded so the elderly have a welcoming place they can spend their days. Maybe, however, the poor and needy would be better off if they were just given this money directly…

When viewed in one chunk the funds for these programs are a lot of money, no denying that. However if we divide it by the number of people it assists then it generally looks rather paltry. The money spent by soup kitchens averages between 50 cents to a dollar a day per meal. How much food could an indigent person buy with $7/week? Two or three deli sandwiches a week? Or a candy bar a day? And it’s more than a hot nutritious meal, it’s also a safe, warm place to sit, relax, and feel relatively safe, if even it is only a short time.

As for senior programs, a few dollars a week is always welcome by the people these programs assist, but what good would it do a house bound senior with no way to go shopping? Even if they can have food delivered free what good is it in the refrigerator for many who are no longer capable preparing a proper meal for themselves? Then, and I think this is very important, is the socialization. Too many seniors become isolated, sitting at home alone, often nothing more than a TV for company for days or weeks at a time. In my view this aspect of senior centers is the most important element.

It’s true that ACORN helps people, but it’s a foregone conclusion that some people will benefit when money is thrown around. With all the waste we see among those with access to public money, it’s a matter of time before we’re forced to finally begin looking for ways to cut back on our wasteful ways. These ACORN videos have the potential of crystallizing many of the claims big government skeptics have had for a long time. They also have the potential of creating a few new converts.

I whole heartily agree. I feel we need better watch dogs with more rapid denunciation and consequences when public funds are squandered. Those who behave badly need to be punished but so to do their supervisors who either look the other way or simple don’t look at all. In short… if you’re not doing your job and doing it well… you will loose it. But to simply do away with such programs I think would be sad. It would cause great hardship to many who depend on them, and punish those who do do the job honestly and well. 

"But they could have.” As I see it the link between Obama was never more than peripheral and most people, liberal, conservative, or moderate, realize that."
I agree completely.  Luckily, people ultimately didn't believe the guilt-by-association charge.  All I was saying was that enough possibly COULD have believed it, thus hurting his chances.  The reason why the right tried this tactic was because it has worked in the past in other instances, whether justified or not.
"When viewed in one chunk the funds for these programs are a lot of money, no denying that. However if we divide it by the number of people it assists then it generally looks rather paltry."
A lot of money is spent on social services.  Some of that money is managed by the government, some is given to organizations such as ACORN.  I'm mostly saying that it's possible the money would be more effective given directly to needy people.  

The main problem I have with such organizations is that they become part of the political machine, especially in large cities (or at least, I'm personally familiar with how they become part of the political machines in large cities.)  A politician uses tax dollars to fund a large social service organization, needy people turn to that organization for help (b/c they don't have enough of their own money), and then that politician uses the employees and the clients of that organization as foot soldiers and voters, reminding them all the while how dependent they are upon him/her for their well-being.  This is how most big local leaders in NYC stay in power.

If people were given public money directly, they'd have the freedom to go to whatever senior center, job training center or whatever else they wanted-- as such services would spring up if there was a need for them and if people had the resources to pay.

That's the argument.  Whether I'm right or wrong is almost besides the point, because that's what many people believe.  If enough people start believing that all social service organizations are ACORNs, they're going to have a harder time surviving.

I agree with you on the political machine statement. This, like more problems in life, is not a simple yes or no situation. The pros and cons are many and ripple far. The answer will not be easy to find.

If enough people start believing that all social service organizations are ACORNs, they're going to have a harder time surviving.

Very true. The expression “one bad apple spoils the barrel”, when applied to humans, has more to do with perception than reality. And the truth is most public services like senior centers don’t get in the news because people are doing what they need to so news there. But if one is found to be skimming funds suddenly all are looked at negatively.

If people were given public money directly, they'd have the freedom to go to whatever senior center, job training center or whatever else they wanted-- as such services would spring up if there was a need for them and if people had the resources to pay.

My argument is that private organizations can be just as bad as the public financed ones, with the bottom line being the motivating factor. I admit my experience is with smaller communities, where choices are limited, communities often to small to support more than one option. It could become just as bad as our health care system has become with the insurance companies. Greed is a problem in both the public and private sectors.

A personal experience…

Some 30 years ago I worked for a small (40 bed) nursing home. Although it was only rated as an intermediate care facility the majority of our patients were full care, bed redden (they got a waiver to accept them as we were the only facility in 40 miles). The difference was full care facilities were required to have almost three times the staff, with most of them to have a higher level of training, than intermediate care facilities. As the waiver they were able to negotiate did not specifically require any extra staff of course the owners did not increase it.

There came a time when the owners decided to cut back on housekeeping staff and order us to limit changes for incontinent patients to once a shift while requiring health care aids to perform most of the housekeeping chores. They fired the recreation coordinator making “TV time” the only recreation and set limits on how often patients clothes could be washed (one outfit per day per person), at the same time raising rates for the patients. A few of us decided to figure out exactly where the money was going. It was easier than you’d imagine… mortgage, taxes, supplies, utilities, and of course, personnel. Added it all up then deducted it from the $4000/month per patient… turns out the owners were making $50,000.00/month each (in current purchasing power that would be about $130,000.00 each). What they were doing was legal, no law against it. By threatening to publish our results in the local paper we were able to elicit some minor changes (got the housekeepers back and permission to change patients when ever they needed it).

With out serious regulation and over sight I have no doubt the same thing will happen if senior centers are privatized. Not all, I know there are good people out there, but then not all social organizations are like ACORN.

I’m really not arguing with you, just looking at the situation. I think it works best this way, a debate, two or more people looking at more it from more than one way.

Your jumping ahead of the fringe here on Acorn! Getting to heated, with out looking at the big picture. Say you work for a huge company with thousands of workers an a few of those workers decided to committ a crime. Should YOU as a employee lose your job, an the company be totally shut down? Thousands of children are involved with these employeed Acorn worker, an Parents who has to put food on the table an keep a roof over their heads. Should we throw away the whole barrel because of a few bad apples in that Barrel? Yet, we hear the GOP say Obama wants a piece of every pie, an stick the Goverment in every bussiness in the U.S! What would they say of a take over of Acorn, an a Gov. clean up job on the company? Money should not be given to needy people directly! years ago they use to give needy parents/seniors/disabled Energy money to cover their winter Gas cost, an summer cooling cost. The simple fact was a large percent went out a blew the money, an later had to ask Social Services (welfare), to keep their gas or Electricity on! Now it is given directly to the gas or Elect company, an it was up to the needy to keep tabs on their bills so the company did not cheat them out of that extra payments given the comp's! Look around you, can we afford more unemployed workers tossed into our system at this point? Can the Gov. afford to pay all those thousands of workers children medical care, food stamps, unemployment an welfare meet needed Rent cost, an Shelter cost to keep them off the streets? You can rant an rave all you want, call for change, an even threaten action so they will take it seriousely an initiate change on their own. But, I think Acorn has a better chance to clean up their act on their own, than those Big Companies we just bailed out with CEO"S an their Millions dollar Bonus's, don't you? The GOP would be better focusing on Health Ins. Companys who are ripping Americans off of Billions of dollars and been doing so for many, many years. Giveing a warning to acorn to clean up their act or be accountable to the courts an a mandated investigated follow up. I seem to have a different out look on this situation than some people, an I am open for debate if you think I am just being ignorant or think in to small a term on this subject. My problem is to many of my family has lost employment this last year to no fault of their own with factories closeing their doors. There is a lot of innocent people connected to acorn an a lot of innocent families an children who will be hurt, to no fault of their own. We have seen enough of this Punish thousands of people because of a few greedy people in these companies.

I don't expect organizations to be perfect. But when groups like ACORN become known more for their notoriety than any good deeds, it's time to cut off federal funding.

  Excellent article. I'm in total agreement with both John and Golf. (and pretty much everyone else here on this one)

 And Jupitor, Im not sure if you are referring to ACORN when you use your "one bad apple" analogy. But there are more than one bad apple in ACORN, and this is not the first offence ACORN has been found on the wrong side of. In fact, ACORN has been on the wrong side of entirely too many issues. I'm surprised it has taken this much before even the Liberal media outlets cry foul. But, better late than never.

 Great read John.

 

 "Government doesn't solve problems, it subsidizes them" ~ Ronald Reagan

I agree that ACORN obviously had some poor management practices and needs to re-organize/revamp their system. Will they ever be able to regain a good reputation or get government funding again? It's doubtful. That may be unfortunate considering the positive goals and services done over the years by this group. I'm sure that this oganization did good 90% of the time. But these negative stories-even if the bad only represents 10% of your business practices-is enough to force people to overlook the good.

A few points:

-I did see interviews with the current CEO (recently took over) and she made no excuses, agreed that these videos were damning and that those workers were fully guilty/at fault. I give her credit for that and it appears she really wants to "disinfect" the organization from the inside out.

-Let's all be clear, no matter what connections FOX News tries to make-President Obama has nothing to do with these scandals or this organization. His past work with them was legit and pretty minimal.

-If I hired a few actors like those who pulled this off, I'll bet I could send them into any Wall Street or white collar business and uncover something similar or much worse (as well as others that get government funding like defense companies, etc.) The truth is that fraud and illegal activity/advice within a business probably occurs more than we'd like to admit. I am disgusted by any of it, including what we saw on the ACORN videos, but my point is simply that I'll bet FOX News would not be so interested in it if it did not have the name ACORN attached. They seem to have an obession with this organization. (Strange that FOX news has no problem that we tortured/waterboarded prisoners, lied to get us into a war, etc. but this ACORN stuff has them all bent out of shape!)

-My guess is that the ACORN workers in the videos probably made very little money and may have been taken in from bad circumstances themselves and given a job (as was the case with some of those voter workers.) So perhaps what ACORN did often-take a chance on "at-risk" workers to help them out of tough situtations-backfired. The intent may have been good but the outcome bad.

And that's all I have to say.

I agree with you totally Izzy.  Thanks for putting my thoughts into words.

What amazes me is those who deny that thousands of racists represent them, but are certain that  three or four counselors represent the whole ACORN organization.

Exactly, Suzi! We still have bailed-out banks trying to pay out huge bonuses to CEO's with our tax dollars. To me that's criminal.  But if the bank is not called ACORN Bank, it will be ignored by the far right!
Very few people know all the Good Acorn does for the needy! I also Bet ya their Federal Funds are watched a heck of a lot closer than those we recently bailed out, an you won't see acorn leaders or workers getting millions of dollars on Bonus's like those CEO's! Ya, acorn did some bad, an it's been blowen out their big time, but if we close their doors, an shut them off of federal funding, than those Who really wasted our Money in these Big Bail out's, an millions of Bonus's should have to close their doors to! They didn't change their ways when we called for them to be closed down, and be more responsable----Did they? Whats good for the goose is good for the Gander! I don't like what Acorn did, but they did it on such a itty bitty scale, compaired to those we bailed out an patted on the back, an let go on there merry way! I believe that company can be revamped, reorganized an they have done a lot of good, for a lot of people------But, it seems most refuse to lood at the difference of how we treat these comp.,  so differently because of the big guns who runs them, an the big money who push them. We really need to learn to be fair an balance in dealing with all these companies, not not pick an choose who YOU or THEY want to bail out or close down.

Hilarious News, Everyone!  (Huffington Post) 

The bill that was written and passed to de-fund ACORN, included language from the GOP that was so broad in it's scope it can apply to any organization that breaks federal, or state election laws, including the giants in the Military-Industrial Complex.  Both, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman could face federal funding challenges because they've been charged with fraud in the past.   

The Hell Yea! you just heard was IKE cheering from Heaven!  

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...Well, for one thing it's easier. When you tell the truth you never have to remember later what you lied about.  - Lwaxana Troi - Star Trek: The Next Generation 5x20 - "Cost of Living

Interesting. From Politico. ACORN ban may be unconstitutional.
Rachael Maddow had a great piece on her show last night which confirms why I felt so uneasy with this "jump on the bandwagon" defund ACORN political move by Congress. If they have concluded  that any agency accused or guilty of wrongdoing/illegal activity will automatically be cut from funds, why haven't they gone after others? I expected this stunt from Republicans who seem to have a clear agenda against ACORN, but the "fearful" Dem's who went along with this are just as guilty. I'm not saying they should not aim to defund ACORN, I'm just saying they need to be consistent, especially when cases against others are so much more disturbing.

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