Obama and Acorn
Community organizers, phony voters, and your tax dollars.
At the recent Emmy Awards, historian Laura Linney averred that America's Founders had been "community organizers" -- like Barack Obama. Too bad they aren't like that any more. Mr. Obama's kind of organizers work at Acorn, the militant advocacy group that is turning up in reports about voter fraud across the country.
AP Acorn -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- has been around since 1970 and boasts 350,000 members. We've written about them for years, but Acorn is now getting more attention as John McCain's campaign makes an issue of the fraud reports and Acorn's ties to Mr. Obama. It's about time someone exposed this shady outfit that uses government dollars to lobby for larger government.
Acorn uses various affiliated groups to agitate for "a living wage," for "affordable housing," for "tax justice" and union and environmental goals, as well as against school choice and welfare reform. It was a major contributor to the subprime meltdown by pushing lenders to make home loans on easy terms, conducting "strikes" against banks so they'd lower credit standards.
But the organization's real genius is getting American taxpayers to foot the bill. According to a 2006 report from the Employment Policies Institute (EPI), Acorn has been on the federal take since 1977. For instance, Acorn's American Institute for Social Justice claimed $240,000 in tax money between fiscal years 2002 and 2003. Its American Environmental Justice Project received 100% of its revenue from government grants in the same years. EPI estimates the Acorn Housing Corporation alone received some $16 million in federal dollars from 1997-2007. Only recently, Democrats tried and failed to stuff an "affordable housing" provision into the $700 billion bank rescue package that would have let politicians give even more to Acorn.
All this money gives Acorn the ability to pursue its other great hobby: electing liberals. Acorn is spending $16 million this year to register new Democrats and is already boasting it has put 1.3 million new voters on the rolls. The big question is how many of these registrations are real.
The Michigan Secretary of State told the press in September that Acorn had submitted "a sizeable number of duplicate and fraudulent applications." Earlier this month, Nevada's Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller requested a raid on Acorn's offices, following complaints of false names and fictional addresses (including the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys). Nevada's Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said he saw rampant fraud in 2,000 to 3,000 applications Acorn submitted weekly.
Officials in Ohio are investigating voter fraud connected with Acorn, and Florida's Seminole County is withholding Acorn registrations that appear fraudulent. New Mexico, North Carolina and Missouri are looking into hundreds of dubious Acorn registrations. Wisconsin is investigating Acorn employees for, according to an election official, "making people up or registering people that were still in prison."
Then there's Lake County, Indiana, which has already found more than 2,100 bogus applications among the 5,000 Acorn dumped right before the deadline. "All the signatures looked exactly the same," said Ruthann Hoagland, of the county election board. Bridgeport, Connecticut estimates about 20% of Acorn's registrations were faulty. As of July, the city of Houston had rejected or put on hold about 40% of the 27,000 registration cards submitted by Acorn.
That's just this year. In 2004, four Acorn employees were indicted in Ohio for submitting false voter registrations. In 2005, two Colorado Acorn workers were found to have submitted false registrations. Four Acorn Missouri employees were indicted in 2006; five were found guilty in Washington state in 2007 for filling out registration forms with names from a phone book.
Which brings us to Mr. Obama, who got his start as a Chicago "community organizer" at Acorn's side. In 1992 he led voter registration efforts as the director of Project Vote, which included Acorn. This past November, he lauded Acorn's leaders for being "smack dab in the middle" of that effort. Mr. Obama also served as a lawyer for Acorn in 1995, in a case against Illinois to increase access to the polls.
During his tenure on the board of Chicago's Woods Fund, that body funneled more than $200,000 to Acorn. More recently, the Obama campaign paid $832,000 to an Acorn affiliate. The campaign initially told the Federal Election Commission this money was for "staging, sound, lighting." It later admitted the cash was to get out the vote.
The Obama campaign is now distancing itself from Acorn, claiming Mr. Obama never organized with it and has nothing to do with illegal voter registration. Yet it's disingenuous to channel cash into an operation with a history of fraud and then claim you're shocked to discover reports of fraud. As with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, Mr. Obama was happy to associate with Acorn when it suited his purposes. But now that he's on the brink of the Presidency, he wants to disavow his ties.
The Justice Department needs to treat these fraud reports as something larger than a few local violators. The question is whether Acorn is systematically subverting U.S. election law -- on the taxpayer's dime.
Júdica me, Deus.