From Little ACORNS, Mighty BS Grows

Listened to Andrew Halcro’s call-in show a couple of days ago.  You don’t even need to follow right-wing talk radio to know what current meme the echo chamber is pushing.  Regardless of the actual topic, all of Halcro’s callers kept bringing up the ACORN/Obama connection.  Halcro is an Alaska Republican turned Independent. I suspect that we would probably have very different ideological viewpoints on many issues, but I do respect that fact that he is an honest debater and he tries to see all sides of an issue.  By his own admission, he didn’t know much about the ACORN situation, so I sent him a note trying to explain what was and what was not relevant in the ACORN media push. There are some organizational problems with ACORN, but nothing that even approaches the excessive fear-mongering going on with the right (McCain accused ACORN of threatening the “very fabric of our democracy” at the debate last night. It was all Obama could do not to laugh out loud).  Andrew graciously offered to share this information with his callers, although I don’t know what came of that since I was not able to listen that day (damn real-life responsbilities!).

Here are the crucial points to remember about ACORN:

1.) It is a coalition of many community organizations, not a single entity.

2.) Registering people to vote is one of their missions, not their only mission.

3.) ACORN pays people by the hour OR by the registration form (probably a bad idea).

4.) ACORN is legally forbidden to throw any registration form out, even if they know it is a duplicate or is suspicious.  It is the job of state or local voting officials to determine which registration forms are bogus and one way these officials can prevent fraudulent registrations is to insist that ACORN not be given the authority to determine which registrations are valid and which are not. ACORN knowingly turns in suspicious registration forms because they are legally required to do so and then they are crucified for doing what they are required by law to do.  Also, they generally attempt to flag suspicious forms with a cover letter, a fact that never seems to be addressed in media reports.

5.) Filling out a registration form does not make you registered to vote. You are not registered until state or local officials certify your registration.

6.) At worst, this is “voter registration fraud.” It does not become “voter fraud” until someone tries to vote using a bogus registration. The incidences of true voter fraud are so rare as to be practically non-existent.

7.) Going after ACORN is a favorite pastime of Bush Republicans because if they can get people riled up about this issue, it gives them ammunition to pursue voter suppression efforts.  This has already worked in this election.  An Ohio judge approved the purging of 600,000 voters in a Democratic district due to Republican efforts to cast doubt on ACORN.

8.) This obsession with voter registration fraud is the chief reason for the improper firing of seven US attorneys by the Bush administration.  In several of these cases, Republican US attorneys refused to pursue cases against ACORN and similar groups because they could not find evidence to support claims of voter fraud.  They were replaced by Gonzalez’s DoJ with “loyal Bushies” who were willing to pursue these cases on a partisan basis, evidence be damned. A recent report vindicates these seven individuals whose reputations were tarnished by the DoJ in an effort to justify the firings after the fact.  There will most likely be prosecutions of DofJ officials related to these improper firings after the election.

David Iglesias, one of the seven fired US attorneys and the one most viciously maligned by the DOJ, did an interview regarding this with PBS a while back.  Here is the transcript of that that interview: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/330/david-iglesias.html

9.) Barack Obama does have ties with ACORN, both as a community organizer in the past and as a Constitutional lawyer.  He represented ACORN in a federal lawsuit against the State of Illinois because Illinois was refusing to honor a legally sanctioned “motor voter” registration effort.  Obama’s co-counsel in this suit was the Department of Justice, so apparently the federal government is also implicated for shady ties to ACORN.

In her acceptance speech, Governor Palin suggested that community organizers “have no real responsibilities,” yet her running mate suggests that ACORN, an organization made up of community organizers threatens the “very fabric of our democracy,” so which is it?  I can agree that ACORN needs some organizational restructuring, but this paranoid fear being incubated on the right against a group of community organizers and volunteers is downright foolish.

Hendrik Hertzberg weighs in on this scandal-less scandal at the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/hendrikhertzberg/2008/10/voter-fraud-fra.html

The real danger with these make believe scandals: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/09/us/politics/09voting.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Representative John Conyers spanks the DoJ and FBI on behalf of the House Judiciary Committee: http://judiciary.house.gov/News/PDFs/Conyers081016.pdf

David Iglesias expresses dismay that the DoJ is up to its same old politicized tricks:

Letter from Obama campaign’s legal counsel to DoJ and Special Prosecutor in charge of the US attorney firings case: http://www.politico.com/static/PPM106_obama_doj_letter.html

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