'The Man from ACORN' outfoxes America

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

'Community organizers' roll over flaccid GOP

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, among many other things, employs people to register voters. It's a thankless job, and it doesn't pay much, and so ACORN hires a disproportionate amount of folks who can't jobs anywhere else, including felons. ACORN's staff facilitates the sending of registration cards to county election supervisors who are then supposed to judge their validity and flag fraudulent ones.

Republicans have a long bill of charges. They accuse ACORN of deliberately trying to inflate the voter roles at the last minute. McCain-Palin '08 political director Mike DuHaime argues: "When groups like that put an enormous amount of pressure and constraints on the election supervisors, at some point, mistakes can happen" -- people who shouldn't vote get approved because the election supervisors are overwhelmed.

Republicans point out that Barack Obama has worked with the group before (although he was never a member or employee) and that ACORN's entire incentive system is set up to get as many registrations through as possible. They're angry that ACORN somestimes takes public money (and were horrified when it seemed that they'd benefit financially from the government bailout bill because it would fortify the National Housing Trust, which has, in the past, sent grants to ACORN).

ACORN works in urban areas and among the poor, so their advocacy benefits the Democratic Party.

And most acutely, Republcians point to charges, many validated, of ACORN's turning in hundreds, of not thousands, of fraudulent registrations in at least a dozen states and employing felons in states where it's illegal to do so for voter registration purposes.

Defenders of ACORN insist they're non-partisan, say that the group simply wants to make sure that as many eligible voters as possible vote and contend that critics are motivated by their partisanship, and possibly by their antipathy toward poor people and black people. Note: ACORN has liberal critics too, including some who think the group's aggressive tactics and history of quasi-socialism make other community organizers look bad.

With thousands of people working on voter registrations, there are bound to be some bad apples, but ACORN insists that it has a zero-tolerance policy for fraud and has notified prosecutors when it discovers bad behavior on behalf of its own employees.

News coverage of these genuine controversies have been scant. That's unfortunate.

ACORN's doing a lot of work on the ground, and its sheer size qualifies it as a powerful interest, even as it helps the powerless. As a story, it's got race, class, politics and power going for it. Here's hoping we read more about ACORN pro, con and otherwise, before the election.


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