ACORN's crime spree spans the U.S.

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: hereWade Rathke stories: here

Union-backed ACORN makes a difference

Barack Obama's Campaign is using ACORN, a national organization representing the poor, to register new voters to vote for him. The senator's familiarity with ACORN began in Chicago when he was a community organizer and worked with ACORN staffers. ACORN's history is marked by acts of voter fraud and subsequent criminal convictions arising from these frauds, embezzlement, violent protests and union busting,

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is ostensibly a community organization that addresses housing, schools, neighborhood safety, health care, job conditions and voter registration. With a membership of more than 350,000, ACORN is organized into more than 850 neighborhood chapters in more than 100 cities across the United States.

The organization was founded in 1970 by Wade Rathke, George Wiley and Gary Delgado. Wade Rathke's brother embezzled $948,607 from the group and affiliated charitable organizations in 1999 and 2000, but ACORN executives did not inform law enforcement. A whistleblower revealed the fraud in 2008, leading to the departure of both Dale and Wade Rathke. The National Labor Relations Board also found that ACORN attempted to thwart union organizing efforts within its own organization by firing two workers attempting to unionize ACORN.

In Ohio, in 2004, four ACORN employees were indicted by a federal grand jury for submitting false voter registration forms. In January 2005, two Colorado ACORN workers were sentenced to community service for submitting false voter registrations. On Nov. 1, 2006, four part time ACORN employees were indicted in Kansas City, Mo., for voter registration fraud. Prosecutors said the indictments are part of a national investigation. ACORN was investigated in 2006 for submitting false voter registrations in St. Louis, Mo. Fraudulent voter registrations numbered 1,492.

In 2007, five Washington state ACORN workers were sentenced to jail. ACORN agreed to pay King County $25,000 for its investigative costs and acknowledged that the national organization could be subject to criminal prosecution if fraud reoccurred. In 2008, the Michigan Secretary of State office told the Detroit Free Press that ACORN had been submitting a sizeable number of duplicate and fraudulent applications to vote. On Sept. 17, the Bernalillo County clerk in New Mexico notified prosecutors that the office had received fraudulent registration cards.

ACORN receives significant funding by "persuading" local business owners to contribute to it. Its main source of funds, however, is the federal government. It receives federal funds for various community organizing efforts. The revenues from these programs are in the tens of millions of dollars. There is little government oversight over its use of the funds, which is why the founder's brother was able to embezzle almost a million dollars without detection.

Mr. Obama's connection to ACORN began in Chicago. Madeleine Talbot, the leader of Chicago ACORN was so impressed by Mr. Obama's organizing skills that she invited him to help train her own staff. Ms. Talbot was a key leader in an attempt by ACORN to storm the Chicago City Council during a living-wage debate. According to the Chicago Daily Herald, ACORN demonstrators pushed over the metal detector and table used to screen visitors, backed police against the doors to the council chamber, and blocked late-arriving aldermen and city staff from entering the session. Ms. Talbot was led away handcuffed, charged with mob action and disorderly conduct. This was the woman who first drew Mr. Obama into his alliance with ACORN and whose staff Mr. Obama helped train.

Mr. Obama served on the boards of two charitable foundations in Chicago, the Woods Fund and the Joyce Foundation. According to The New York Times, Mr. Obama's memberships on those foundation boards, "allowed him to help direct tens of millions of dollars in grants" to various liberal organizations, including the Chicago ACORN, "whose endorsement Mr. Obama sought and won in his state Senate race."

As late as August 2008, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported criminal investigations against at least six ACORN workers who tried to add dead, imprisoned or imaginary people to the voter rolls. The ACORN effort is part of a massive national voter registration drive aimed at the fall presidential election. Democrats have opposed any measures requiring photo identification to register to prevent fraud. In the current financial bailout negotiations going on in Washington, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., are trying to include ACORN as a recipient of federal funds as part of this program.

Mr. Obama's repeated calls for reform and integrity in government obviously excludes the street politics and hooligan tactics of ACORN. His campaign and the Democratic Party have adopted an "anything goes to win the presidency" attitude. The absence of major news media coverage of Mr. Obama's relationship with ACORN is equally distressing.

- Abe Bernstein is a retired business executive


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