News & Notes August 16, 2012

The silliness of a presidential campaign season is in full swing.  The VP references a term used by Republican leaders and gets slammed for it from…Republican leaders.  Romney screams for an end to negative campaigning while issuing ad after ad which are proven to be false and misleading.  We have two and a half months of this nonsense to go before the election and it’ll only get worse.  My advice?  Turn off your TV.

A new Franklin & Marshall poll has Obama up by 6 points, about half what it was.  With over a million voters disenfranchised and a 620,000 vote margin in 2008 Pennsylvania is in play.  Polls will mean nothing this year because we have no idea of those surveyed can actually vote because of ID.

State Rep. Joe Brennan got busted for alcohol abuse again yesterday.  Police arrested him for beating his wife then driving off drunk.  He’s in the Lehigh/Northampton District once represented by T.J. Rooney, former State Democratic Chair.  Brennan and Sen. Lisa Boscola from the Lehigh Valley both have had problems with alcohol.

The Institute for Policy Studies released a report claiming that 26 large corporations paid their CEO’s more than they paid in taxes.  Conservatives are always claiming we have the highest corporate tax rate around but neglect to tell you how many businesses actually pay that rate.  Corporations share of federal tax revenue is down from 30% to 9% because of all the loopholes and other measures taken to reduce their taxes.  Many of the top 100 corporations pay no federal taxes whatsoever.  I don’t consider that a high tax rate.

New videos:

The reductions in Medicare are offset by closing the donut hole and providing more covered services such as colonoscopies.  The Ryan Budget cuts the same amount but those funds go to tax cuts for the rich.

An ACORN worker fired after James O’Keefe illegally recorded him and manipulated a video to destroy ACORN is suing the video artist.  Juan Carlos Vera actually reported O’Keefe to police for his supposed child prostitution ring but I bet you never heard that part of the story.  Every video James O’Keefe has produced has been riddled with editing lies and he has gotten into repeated legal trouble for his actions.  Let’s hope accountability results in this liar being held responsible for his actions.

Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin is fighting to keep her salary as she fights corruption charges.  Her suspension has the PA Supreme Court deadlocked in a 3-3 partisan divide.  Her sister, former State Sen. Jane Orie is now in prison for using state offices, resources and staffers to run Melvin’s Supreme Court campaigns.  A third sister Janine Orie is also charged with operating those campaigns from then Superior Court Judge Melvin’s office.  Does she deserve to get paid while in court?  Her sister used state and campaign funds to fund her defense so it is likely Melvin will also.  Hasn’t she scammed taxpayers enough?

Sen. Pat Toomey is a strong supporter of Paul “Ayn” Ryan.  Not only do they go way back they once lived together.  Gee, does that make them gay?

According to State Rep. and Auditor General candidate Eugene DePasquale Gov. Corbett’s administration is training state workers on how to get around the Open Records Law.  I wonder what they want to hide from us?

Great Britain is threatening to invade Ecuadoran territory in London to seize WikiLeaks hero Julian Assange.  Embassies and consulates are officially the sovereign territory of those nations and doing so would constitute an act of war.  All this to arrest a man who Obama wants to send to Gitmo for revealing damaging secrets the U.S. government didn’t want out.  Assange is a hero and this morning Ecuador announced it is granting him asylum.

Florida Congressman Cliff Stearns lost a primary yesterday and his 12 terms in Congress are done.  he is infamous for efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

Rachel Maddow did a piece on our Voter ID election rigging scandal yesterday.  Obama is going to have to focus his efforts here on helping voters get ID’s instead of regular campaign activities.  He’s lost a lot of support since 2008 among Pennsylvania liberals, especially young voters, and must overcome this huge obstacle.

Fraud Against ACORN Revealed

Remember those outrageous videos produced last year smearing ACORN?  Andrew Breitbart paid James O’Keefe for them and published them on his websites and Fox News played them endlessly.  ACORN was defunded by reactionary idiots in Washington who revealed their naivete and ignorance until a federal judge declared their action unconstitutional.  It was all quite an ugly spectacle.  Unfortunately the escapade destroyed a good organization.  The right wing has been trying to wreck ACORN because it registers voters, most of who wind up voting Democratic because they are minorities, and helping give voice to those who are without a voice in our system.  This is a threat to the right wing.

James O’Keefe, recently arrested trying to do something to the phones in a federal office, made the highly edited and misleading (fraudulent?) videos and sold them to Breitbart.  The most infamous one had him dressed as a pimp and getting advice from an ACORN employee in Baltimore about how to set up a child prostitution ring.  It was all a fraud.  O’Keefe, in reality, entered the ACORN office in normal attire and represented that his companion (Hannah Giles) was a prostitute being threatened by her pimp and needed help.  In the edited version showed on Fox News and elsewhere he was dressed as a pimp and claimed they needed advice on setting up a child prostitution ring.

It was all a fraud.  I said at the time the video appeared edited and I wanted to see the unedited video.  Andrew Breitbart has never produced those.  Mike Stark of Stark Reports and The Brad Blog caught up with Breitbart at CPAC and asked him about his fraud.  It’s a very interesting video:

When will Fox News apologize for airing fraudulent videos and making false claims about ACORN?  Don’t hold your breath because they got what they wanted:  the destruction of ACORN’s reputation.  Maybe it is Fox’s reputation which needs to be destroyed.

ACORN

ACORN’s reputation has been destroyed through a comples conspiracy to denigrate, trap and destroy the most powerful voice for African Americans.  It began in the past two presidential elections when GOP talking points began criticizing ACORN and accusing it of voter fraud.  ACORN has never been convicted of voter fraud.  In fact the community organizer group bent over backwards to assist prosecutors in preventing fraud.  

State election laws, including here in Pennsylvania, require any voter registration effort to register every person who wants to register and requires that every voter registration form be turned in to government officials.  The reasons for this are obvious:  adherents of any political Party would like to only register their voters and would like nothing better than to turn away other voters or not turn in their forms.  In fact Republicans have been prosecuted for voter fraud for refusing to turn in registrations they collected from Democratic voters.  ACORN has not.

ACORN segregates every questionable registration form and tells local election officials they suspect they are fraudulent.  That is called cooperating with the process.  The GOP has lied to Americans with their vast propaganda machine to persuade people ACORN is a corrupt organization.  Why?

Because ACORN is the most powerful voice for millions of Blacks, Hispanics and urban and rural poor.  Poor people don’t tend to vote Republican for obvious reasons.  Over 90% of Blacks vote Democratic, for obvious reasons and the attacks on ACORN underscore why:  the overt racism of GOP leaders and followers.  Destroying ACORN has been a major goal of the RNC for several years.

ACORN stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.  It has been in the forefront of issues facing the poor.  Affordable housing, predatory lending practices, “red lighting” mortgages to keep Blacks in certain neighborhoods, and other racially charged practices have all been attacked and confronted by ACORN to protect the poor.  Payday lenders such as Tom Knox have been exposed and ACORN was first to warn about the evils of the sub prime lenders and the flood of foreclosures.  They fought for fair lending practices, against foreclosures caused by fraud and many other illegal and unethical business practices aimed at fleecing poor people.  For this they became a threat to the Republican business establishment.  ACORN had to go.

Fox News has been leading the way on this with assistance from Rush, Glenn Beck and others.  They violated Maryland law going into a Baltimore ACORN office and recording ACORN staffers in a widely seen video.  These weren’t Fox employees and had no journalism shield for their activities.  It was the actors who violated the law but we haven’t heard much about that, only a highly edited video which may or may not, show misconduct.  ACORN fired the employees and retrained their staff.  Fox did not.

An ACORN employee smelled a rat when more actors tried trapping her and she played them for fools and exposed Fox News’ failure to fact check their stories.  Big news there…

Remember the goal for all these attacks on ACORN:  they are designed to destroy a reputable organization which fights hard and effectively for the poor, especially African Americans.  It is a group which is a threat to their vested interests so they create false stories with which to attack and destroy ACORN.

I interviewed Wade Rathke, co founder of ACORN on Democratic Talk Radio about a month ago.  We discussed numerous ACORN initiatives in Philadelphia which have been very successful in rescuing the poor from predatory lenders, rapacious bankers, fraudulent mortgage brokers, overzealous sheriffs and others.  The organization has been quite successful and so presented a threat to powerful business interests.  Their efforts at registering urban voters was also a threat.  ACORN was effective so it had to be destroyed.  Let us not allow that to happen.  Shame to every Democrat who voted against ACORN.  Shame.

How can you help?  ACORN is a membership organization and you can join ACORN and show your support for them in a time of serious need.

ACORN Ensnares Fox News

ACORN got revenge on Fox News when they, again, tried to produce a smear of the community service organization.  Fox is sending actors into ACORN offices and they somehow think all ACORN people are dullards.  Since most of them are Black and Fox is full of racists it’s obvious where their thinking comes from (below their belts, above their legs in the back).  This time the ACORN person played them like a violin and Fox fell for it.  They played the video clip with NO fact checking.  A bit of background digging would have revealed they’d been played.

Why All Progressives, Democrats, Unionists and Reformers Should Join ACORN

by Stephen Crockett

We are all familiar with the highly partisan and blatantly dishonest attacks on the low and moderate income advocacy group ACORN that dominated Fox News election coverage last Fall. Republican Right Wing partisans have remained loyal to their absurd talking points after the November election and continue to intentionally spread lies about the ACORN organization that all progressives, Democrats, labor activists and reformers should actively refute. These politically-motivated attacks on ACORN are based on two ridiculous ideas.

The first ridiculous idea is that this relatively small group of relatively poor individuals somehow is responsible for the mortgage crisis and the collapse of the economy. After decades of Reagan-Bush Republican mismanagement, Wall Street greed, assaults on unionized labor, unsound tax policies, unfair trade policies, disastrous healthcare policies, runaway corporate corruption, huge sweetheart government contracts going to Republican connected corporations and absurd financial deregulation, we need to understand that the structure of our economy needs serious fundamental reform. Reagan-Bush Republicanism ruled the market economically and politically to create the economic crisis.

The economic collapse has many more serious fundamental causes than just the collapse of the mortgage market. Income inequality, speculation, ending anti-usury laws, not enforcing anti-monopoly laws and excessive credit card debt can be added to the previous list of root causes underlining the current economic crisis. The Republican Right bears most of the responsibility for this situation. ACORN bears none!

First of all, sub-prime mortgages did not create the mortgage crisis. The notable economist Paul Krugman has debunked this Republican myth very effectively. The mortgage crisis has been spread across all income levels. Foreclosures are not limited just too poor people.

ACORN has never issued any mortgages nor has it pressured lenders to issue high-rate, unaffordable loans to poor and middle class Americans. Instead, for over a decade, ACORN has been the national leader in the fight against predatory lending.

The roots of the mortgage foreclosure problem are in the deregulation of the financial sector of our economy. Readers can find an excellent article outlining this situation, The Conservative Origins of the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis by John Atlas and Peter Dreier http://www.prospect.org/cs/art…  The article effectively refutes most of the Republican talking points on the root causes of the mortgage meltdown.

Secondly, ACORN has never been involved in election fraud. ACORN never tried to rig any election. The accusations are both false and politically-motivated in the extreme. The FBI investigation of ACORN for voter fraud so widely publicized during the election does not appear to exist. Every state and local investigation has proven ACORN to be innocent of any wrong-doing!

Every informed political person knows that voter registration forms once signed cannot be legally discarded even if the organization collecting them suspects fraud. It is a crime to discard those registration forms. ACORN has a policy of trying to verify the validity of voter registration forms and bundling suspect forms together before turning them in to election offices. ACORN is not required by law to do this extra step but voluntarily does so to help local election offices prevent voter registration fraud.

The real reason that the Republican Right has smeared ACORN on the voter registration issue is that ACORN helped register upward of 1.3 million new voters during the 2008 election cycle. The majority of these voters were low and moderate income Americans. Since they are low and moderate income voters, they tend to support Democrats more than Republicans. Everyone knows that the Republican Party supports the economic interests of the Super Wealthy and international corporations over those of poor and moderate income Americans.

Voter suppression targeting low and moderate income Americans by Republican operatives have been documented in almost every state in the nation in recent elections. The attacks on ACORN were designed to support legal action attempting to keep low and moderate income citizens from voting. Republican lawyers filed lawsuits in dozens of states as part of this effort during the 2008 elections with a special emphasis being placed on swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. The lawsuits failed basically everywhere because they lacked any merit or validity.

However, the illegitimate Republican lawsuits attacking ACORN were effective propaganda tools in keeping the hardcore Republican partisans fired-up and motivated during the election. These false attacks are still being used to keep the ever-shrinking Republican base motivated to fight the Obama economic recovery agenda. ACORN has lobbied hard in favor of much of this legislative agenda. It is easy to understand the Republican attacks if you read ACORN: The Bogeyman in the GOP Closet http://www.huffingtonpost.com/… .

When the attacks on ACORN began, I joined ACORN and became strongly involved in their political action, lobbying and community organizing activities. While ACORN consists of mainly poor and moderate income people, they accept anyone regardless of income who cares about the issues that impact poor and moderate income Americans.

ACORN is an important ally of progressives, Democrats, labor unions and reformers everywhere. ACORN is a strong supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act. They are fighting foreclosures and predatory lending. ACORN fights hard for equality before the law. ACORN helps bring millions of new voters into the political process. They fight to make our economy work for all Americans and not just the economic elite. ACORN is good for American Democracy.

Every progressive, Democrat, union activist and reformer in America should seriously consider showing their support by joining ACORN and becoming actively engaged in their efforts. You can join ACORN by contacting your local ACORN office or signing up via their website at http://www.acorn.org/.

Written by Stephen Crockett (Host, Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio… and Editor, Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com). Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702. Email: demlabor@aol.com. Phone: 443-907-2367.

ACORN Responds to Boehner

From ACORN:

To the Honorable Rep. Boehner,

ACORN is the nation’s largest community organization of low- and moderate-income Americans teaming up to fight for improvements in our communities and in the economy. With more than 450,000 member families across the country, including more than 11,000 in Ohio, we know from the front lines the devastation hitting families as they struggle to keep their jobs and their homes in this economy. We were saddened to hear you recently repeat misinformation and untruths related to ACORN, and we are writing to extend an olive branch and offer to educate you about the real work that ACORN is doing to help your constituents and improve our economy.

In a press release from your office last week, you claimed that the economic recovery package “could open billions of taxpayer dollars to left-wing groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). ACORN has been accused of perpetrating voter registration fraud numerous times in the last several elections; is reportedly under federal investigation; and played a key role in the irresponsible schemes that caused a financial meltdown that has cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars since last fall.”

This disappointing slide into gutter politics is replete with incorrect information and false accusations. First, there are no funds in the economic recovery package that are headed to ACORN. Republicans made similar unfortunate claims about how the bailout of the financial industry last year would send billions of dollars to ACORN, which of course was as untrue as this recent accusation from your office, and we have never seen those billions of dollars. Second, the provision you claim would potentially allow ACORN to compete for federal funds is only for $750 million, a much different scale than your mendacious headline claiming we were to receive “billions”. Third, ACORN has not done this work in the past, has no plans to apply for these funds, and did not weigh in requesting the change to the Neighborhood Stabilization Funds allocation to open up a small portion of the funds to a competitive process for non-profits. The Neighborhood Stabilization Fund is a critical, if severely underfunded, federal effort to help those state and local governments hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis to stabilize neighborhoods by acquiring vacant properties and returning them to occupancy.

As to your sillier accusations, ACORN worked assiduously to combat voter registration fraud, implementing a comprehensive quality control system that rooted out and fired employees who tried to cut corners by filling out fake cards. Indeed, we complied with every investigation into our hugely successful non-partisan voter registration drive, and have been commended by election officials and prosecutors for our cooperation in prosecuting those employees who sought to defraud ACORN by taking a paycheck without doing the work. There has never been credible evidence presented of a single vote that was cast illegally because of ACORN’s work, despite intense media scrutiny and partisan rancor. Further, we would love to hear about the “key role” you claim we played in causing the financial meltdown. Since 1999, ACORN has been the nation’s leading opponent to the irresponsible and predatory lending practices that we warned would lead to a foreclosure crisis and economic misery. Had the United State Congress or Federal Reserve heeded our warnings about unchecked predatory lending, we surely would have avoided the worst of the current economic crisis.

As we have for years, ACORN has been working overtime to help families who have been hit hard by this recent and ongoing foreclosure crisis. Back in the Ohio district that you represent, realtytrac.com shows more than 4800 families whose properties entered foreclosure in 2008 alone*. Indeed, the foreclosure problem in your district is so extreme that Butler County Sheriff Jones has set a national precedent in deciding to stop foreclosure-related evictions. Across Ohio, ACORN is working with families who are saddled by unfair mortgages with predatory features and unaffordable terms, as well as organizing neighborhoods to cope with the fallout from the record rate of foreclosures that is leading to increased crime, vandalism, decay, and plummeting property values.

While ACORN is helping families fight to modify their loans to affordable payments and stabilize communities, your voting record in Congress indicates a striking disconnect from these problems. First, in voting against the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008 (HR 3221, Roll Call 519), you missed an important opportunity to assist your constituents, one in which 45 members of your caucus voted with the majority, including fellow Ohio GOP Representatives Steve LaTourette, Mike Turner, Dave Hobson, Pat Tiberi, and Deborah Pryce. Second, ACORN was dismayed that you voted against the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act (HR 3915, Roll Call 1118), which fully 64 members of your caucus supported, including fellow Ohio Republicans LaTourette, Turner, Hobson, Tiberi, Pryce, and Ralph Regula. For someone who accuses ACORN of contributing to the crisis, it is particularly ironic that you voted against finally enacting some modest regulations on mortgage brokers and lenders, the same regulations we have been demanding for a decade and which would have prevented the crisis we now face.

Instead of continuing to play the petty partisan politics you put on display a week ago with your attack on ACORN, we would ask you to instead champion the needs of the thousands of your constituents who are struggling to hold on to their houses and their livelihoods. We would be happy to meet with you in Ohio or in Washington to tell you more about the work we are doing on the ground to help your constituents, and to share ways in which the federal government with your leadership will help solve the foreclosure crisis that is at the heart of your district’s struggles and our nation’s economic crisis.

Thank you for your service to Ohio and the nation, and we look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

Mary Keith, Cleveland, OH – Ohio ACORN Board Chair

James Moreland, Cincinnati OH – Cinci ACORN Board Chair

This number includes 99 foreclosures in Preble County, 91 in Darke County, 232 in Miami County, which are entirely contained in Ohio’s 8th congressional district. For the portions of those counties that only lie partially in the 8th, Montgomery County had 1257 in the zip codes 45403, 45404, 45414, and 45424; Mercer County had 69 in the zip codes 45822 and 45828; and Butler County had 3006 in the zip codes 45011, 45013, 45014, 45015, 45042, 45044, 45050, 45056, 45067, and 45069; and Clark County had 141 in the zip code 45344.

This Is About Voter Intimidation, Not Voter Fraud

It must be October before a presidential election again because Republicans are into full voter suppression and intimidation mode once again.  Filled with pretend rage against supposed “voter fraud” they are attacking the groups which register the poor, disenfranchised, poverty stricken populations.  

Of course poor people are most likely to vote Democratic so the GOP goes on their soapbox every four years to try and frighten them into staying home.  We witnessed this in Berks County in October 2004.  Republican Commissioner Mark C. Scott (now the Commissioner’s Chair thanks to a smear campaign by Democratic committee people against our own) led the charge.  He was joined by V. Kurt Bellman the Elections Commissioner.

Reading is about 50% Hispanic and the climate was so toxic the Justice Department monitored elections for several years to insure fairness.  The County was fined for refusing to print ballots in Spanish even though they’d been printed in German for several hundred years.  People suddenly objected to bi-language ballots when it was people of color voting.

Scott and Bellman went on a voter suppression rampage in the three weeks preceding the 2004 election accusing voter registration groups of committing massive fraud.  Headlines in the Reading Eagle claimed there were 7000 fraudulent forms submitted and that people would be going to jail if they voted.

After the election 25, count them 25, voter registration forms were submitted by V. Kurt Bellman for investigation.  None were deemed worthy of prosecution by the then GOP District Attorney.  None.  Zilch.  Nada.  Zero.

Fast forward four years and we’re seeing the same, identical hysteria over voter registration efforts by minority groups.  How long will we keep allowing this nonsense and believing these fools?  Why do we keep giving them attention for their ludicrous claims?

The rate of actual voter fraud in this country is negligible.  Especially compared with the voter intimidation and suppression which is the real issue.  This is the Republican Party engaging in very real intimidation tactics.  Fliers were actually distributed around Philadelphia this fall telling Blacks they’d be subject to arrest warrant searches if they voted.

Now ACORN is being vilified as a voter fraud operation.  I’m familiar with ACORN.  I attended their presidential forum (which Barack Obama did NOT attend, mind you) and have covered their myriad good works.  ACORN was in the forefront of warning about predatory lenders, sub prime mortgage lending practices, the need for affordable housing and many other issues adversely affecting the poor being perpetrated by Republicans in Washington.

ACORN is a strong advocate for the poor and the GOP wants to destroy the organization.  They are doing so with non stop coverage on their propaganda network Fox News.  Here’s what happened in Nevada…

ACORN ran a successful voter registration operation and registered 80,000 new voters.  They submitted the forms and kept aside a group bundled separately which they suspected may be problematic.  In fact, what ACORN did was segregate suspicious forms and submit them with the caveat that they might not be good.

ACORN employs minority and poor people to do voter registration work.  Many of those working the poor neighborhoods cannot afford to volunteer to do this work so ACORN pays them per registration form.  Some of these people, as have some Republicans on Wall Street, got greedy and milked the system.  ACORN weeded out what they thought might be suspicious documents and told the Clark County officials to examine them for fraud.

What happened?  The Republicans saw this as an opportunity to engage in voter intimidation, get sensational headlines and engage in voter suppression tactics.  They raided the ACORN office!  Yes, they conducted a raid after ACORN told them some of the forms may be fraudulent.

When you conduct a voter registration drive you are required, by law, to submit every form and register every voter who wished to complete a form.  Election service departments then sift through the forms and check them for duplicates (if people aren’t sure they are registered you have them resubmit to be absolutely sure they can vote), and check to be sure those wishing to vote are eligible.

Yes, there are always duplicate registrations.  The GOP has such a history of purging voter lists these days one never takes a chance and has a voter resubmit a voter registration form if they have any doubt about their status.  Republicans are actually purging voters all across the country but this doesn’t seem to get headlines.  Florida purged 50,000 African Americans in 2000 because they had the same surname as convicted felons.  If a “Smith” or “Johnson” had a felony and you were another “Smith” or “Johnson” in a minority neighborhood you lost your right to vote.

Where was that story?

Instead we have this hysteria on Fox News over ACORN.  Here are several statements on this from ACORN and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party:

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman T.J. Rooney made the

following statement in response to the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s

latest attempt to distract voters from the disastrous Bush-McCain economic

policies:

“Senator Barack Obama’s call for change has prompted thousands of

Pennsylvanians to join the voting rolls, eager to participate in this

historic election.  The campaign, working with the Pennsylvania Democratic

Party, has built an unprecedented ground operation – and we’ve done it

without the help of outside groups.  We will continue our fight to ensure

that Pennsylvanians can exercise their right to vote.

“This clearly frightens the McCain-Palin campaign and the Pennsylvania

Republican Party.  These lies and smears are just another desperate attempt

to distract Pennsylvania voters from the disastrous Bush-McCain economic

policies that have led to the greatest financial crisis since the Great

Depression.”

Advocates say that voter registration drives have come under recent partisan attack due to their success in helping to register new voters this year, including 1.3 million through ACORN¹s joint effort with Project Vote.According to these experts, spreading fears of fraudulent voting ­ which happens less often in the U.S. than death by lightning ­ is done to discredit voter registration efforts and justify restrictive laws that place additional barriers to full participation for all Americans.

October 13, 2008, Miami, FL – U.S. Senator John McCain’s recent attacks on the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), are puzzling given his historic support for the organization and its efforts on behalf of immigrant Americans.  As recently as February 20, 2006, Senator McCain was the keynote speaker at an ACORN-sponsored Immigration Rally in Miami, Florida at Miami Dade College – Wolfson Campus.

The rally, co-sponsored by ACORN in partnership with the New American Opportunity campaign (NAOC), Catholic League Services – Archdiocese of Miami, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Miami Dade College, People for the American Way/Mi Familia/Vota en Accion, the Service Employees International Union, and UNITE/HERE, was intended to call attention to the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

Senator McCain spoke at the rally attended by hundreds of ACORN members, most of whom were dressed in the red shirts typical of its members.   Senator McCain’s speech focused on the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, a bipartisan, comprehensive reform bill, which McCain sponsored with Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA).

Bertha Lewis, Chief Organizer of ACORN, said, “It has deeply saddened us to see Senator McCain abandon his historic support for ACORN and our efforts to support the goals of low-income Americans. Maybe it is out of desperation that Senator McCain has forgotten that he was for ACORN before he was against ACORN; he was for immigration reform before he was against immigration reform; and he was a maverick before he became erratic.  We were thrilled to partner with him to help reform the outdated immigration laws in this country, and were pleased to work closely with him on this issue.”

Lewis continued, “We expected Senator McCain to support our efforts to give voice to millions of American’s who have never participated in an election before.  We are surprised at his efforts to vilify an organization that, until recently, he saw as an ally.  Maybe this surprise attack and change of heart is indicative of his state of mind, and the way he would govern.”

Senator McCain and his campaign have recently launched a series of coordinated attacks on ACORN, the nation’s largest community organization of low-and middle-income families.

Ms. Lewis went on to say that, “We are sure that the extremists he is trying to get into a froth will be even more excited to learn that John McCain stood shoulder to shoulder with ACORN, at an ACORN co-sponsored event, to promote immigration reform.”

Senator McCain was joined at the rally by Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL), Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), leaders from both political parties, immigrant communities, and members of labor, business, and religious organizations.

Isn’t it odd that John  McCain is now attacking ACORN after attending an ACORN event?



ACORN responded to McCain’s smear campaign with this statement:

“For almost a decade, ACORN, a community organization of 400,000 families in neighborhoods across the country, has been fighting against the predatory lending practices that have robbed our members of their homes, destabilized neighborhoods, and roiled the global economy.”

“In his newest ad, John McCain’s campaign bizarrely claims, “ACORN forced banks to issue risky home loans, the same types of loans that caused the financial crisis we’re in today.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, ACORN has worked successfully to help working class families get good home loans on fair terms from legitimate banks and has fought vigorously against predatory lenders who have ripped off families in our communities.  These predatory loans caused the crisis.”

“For more than a decade, ACORN members have held protests, released reports, and advocated for regulations to protect homeowners from predatory lenders.  ACORN organizers and volunteers have been working day and night to help victims of the GOP economic meltdown to save their homes from foreclosure. In fact, ACORN has brought class action lawsuits against several predatory lenders, and has lobbied the Federal Reserve and Congress in support of regulations against predatory lending.  ACORN has even been successful in convincing many lenders to treat homeowners more fairly and help families be able to make their mortgage payments and save their homes.”

“Unfortunately, the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans like John McCain have blocked the sensible regulations that ACORN and others proposed that would have averted the mortgage meltdown.  If John McCain thinks that community organizers caused the foreclosure crisis, he knows even less about the economy than previously thought.”

“John McCain and the Republicans are desperately trying to shift the blame for the economic crisis they caused with a philosophy of deregulation and indifference to homeowners.  All the grainy footage and creepy music in the world can’t cancel out some simple, basic facts, and the facts about the economy are not on John McCain’s side.”

Some fact checking:

Bogus “Voter Fraud Charges” Aim to Camouflage Voter Suppression

ACORN  (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has just completed the largest, most successful nonpartisan voter registration drive in US 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 US Attorneys because they refused to prosecute ACORN and other voter assistance groups on trumped up fraud charges.  This was the heart of the US 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.

Key Facts:

1. 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.  

2. 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.

3. 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.

4.  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.

5. When a department store calls the police to report a shoplifting employee, no one says the department store is guilty of consumer fraud.  But for some reason, when ACORN turns voter registration workers over to the authorities for filling out bogus forms, it gets accused of “voter fraud.”  This is a classic case of blaming the victim; indeed, these charges are  outrageous, libelous, and often politically motivated.

6.  Similar attacks were launched against ACORN and other voter registration organizations in 2004 and 2006. The bogus charges were at the heart of  the U.S. Attorney-gate scandal that led to the resignations of Karl Rove, Attorney General Ablerto Gonzales and other top Justice Department Officials.  It turned out that it was the charges that were fraudulent, and that they were part of a systematic partisan agenda of voter suppression. Republican US Attorneys David Iglesias (NM), Todd Graves (MO), and John McKay (WA) all were fired primarily because they refused to prosecute similar bogus charges of “voter fraud.”  Another US Attorney, Bradley Schlozman, who did politicize prosecutions against former ACORN canvassers, was forced to acknowledge under cross examination by the Senate Judiciary Committee that ACORN was the victim of fraud by its employees and ACORN had caught the employees and had identified them to law enforcement.

7.  The goals of the people orchestrating these attacks are to distract ACORN from helping people vote and to justify massive voter suppression.  That’s the real voter fraud; the noise about a small fraction of the forms ACORN has turned in is meant to get the press and public take their eyes off the real threat, while those hurling the charges are stealing people’s right to vote in broad daylight.  They have already tried to prevent Ohio from registering voters at its early voting sites.  In Michigan, they planned to use foreclosure notices to challenge thousands of voters. And if this year is like past years, they are preparing to use this so-called voter fraud to justify massive challenges to voters in minority precincts on Election Day.

The Details:

Fact: ACORN has implemented the most sophisticated quality-control system in the voter engagement field but in almost every state we are required to turn in ALL completed applications, even the ones we know to be problematic.

Fact: ACORN flags in writing incomplete, problem, or suspicious cards when we turn them in,. Unfortunately, some of these same officials then come back weeks or months later and accuse us of deliberately turning in phony cards.  In many cases, we can actually prove that these are the same cards we called to their attention.  

Fact: Our canvassers are paid by the hour, not by the card . ACORN has a zero-tolerance policy for deliberately falsifying registrations, and in the cases where our internal quality controls have identified this happening we have fired the workers involved and turned them in to election officials and law-enforcement.

Fact: No criminal charges related to voter registration have ever been brought against ACORN or partner organizations.  Convictions against individual former ACORN workers have been accomplished with our full cooperation, using the evidence obtained through our quality control and verification processes-evidence which in most cases WE called to the attention of authorities.

Fact: Most election officials have recognized ACORN’s good work and praised our quality control systems. Even in the cities where election officials have complained about ACORN, the applications in question represent less than 1% of the thousands and thousands of registrations ACORN has collected.

Fact: Our accusers not only fail to provide any evidence, they fail to suggest a motive: there is virtually no chance anyone would be able to vote fraudulently, so there is no reason to deliberately submit phony registrations. ACORN is committed to ensuring that the greatest possible numbers of people are registered.

ACORN will not be intimidated, we will not be provoked, and in this important moment in history we will not allow anyone to distract us from these vital efforts to empower our constituencies and our communities to speak for themselves.

Yes, it is silly season once again and Republicans like Mark Scott and V. Kurt Bellman are in voter intimidation mode all over the country.  After the election it will all disappear except that then the GOP will claim we need to pass legislation to eliminate the poor and elderly from the polls under the rubric of voter fraud.

Isn’t it time we got smart to these tactics and exposed the real story here?  This isn’t about voter fraud it is about vote suppression and voter intimidation.