News blackout on ACORN fraud

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

The Acronym You're Not Hearing in the News: ACORN

We've heard much from the media about CDOs, CDSs, and other previously obscure abbreviations. But we should be hearing more about this acronym: ACORN.

ACORN, as National Review readers will know, is a "community-organizing" outfit with which Senator Obama was once closely allied, and for which he did work. ACORN has made a cottage industry out of leaning on banks and government to extend credit to house buyers who were bad risks for mortgages, i.e. subprime borrowers.

Americans for Limited Government calls them out today:

Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson today called upon Congressional leaders in a letter not to help people stay in homes they could never afford in the first place, and who would have never qualified for loans if the government had not encouraged loose lending.

The letter was addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), and Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

“The tens of millions of American families who have played by the rules and paid their bills must not be forced to bear the burden for reckless decisions made by the government,” wrote Wilson in his letter.

In a statement, Wilson laid the blame for loose lending at the government’s feet. “Thanks to the federal government artificially setting low interest rates and using the so-called Government Sponsored Enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as a housing welfare program, the bad loans made now threaten the greater economy.”

Wilson explained in more detail, “The government encouraged risky loans to low-income individuals via laws like the Community Reinvestment Act, plus with Clinton administration regulations of 1995 overseen by then-HUD Director Andrew Cuomo that made Fannie and Freddie the leaders in the subprime mortgage market.”

... As a result, Wilson believes that the Community Reinvestment Act and the 1995 regulations must be permanently repealed. According to the letter, “The government should not be encouraging loose credit to help low-income individuals to purchase homes. Instead, it must encourage honest credit so that there is not a repeat of the current mistakes. Only then will the true market demand for housing be known. The loose lending practices, and housing welfare programs administered by federal regulations and laws must be repealed.”

... In his statement, Wilson implored Congress not to repeat the same mistakes again: “The root cause of this problem was the government-created loose lending standards. If Congress should address anything, it should be to put an end, once and for all, to the ACORN-inspired housing welfare program that has pulled the nation’s economy into the most turbulent waters it has seen since the Great Depression.”

Imagine if the housing bubble hadn't burst, but there hadn't been all those dodgy subprime loans made and then securitized. We'd be reading stories about how America is having a wonderful housing boom but the poor and minorities are being left out. There's lots of greed and stupidity in this story, but we shouldn't ignore the fact that a big part of what is wrong comes from bad public policy designed to encourage homeownership, particularly among the poor. Unintended consequences are not to be denied.

But we're not going to hear much about ACORN's role in all this, or, by extension, Senator Obama's.


SEIU unit sets big anti-Stern rallies

Related: "Andy Stern throws corrupt protege under the bus"
More SEIU stories: hereAndy Stern stories: here

Power-grab by union bigs opposed by rank-and-file

On Friday, Sept. 26th and Saturday, Sept. 27th, members of United Healthcare Workers West (UHW) will protest in San Mateo against an attempt by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) leadership to take over their local. SEIU President Andy Stern has called for a hearing at the San Mateo Events Center that could put the local under trusteeship. UHW supporters are condemning the move as an attempt to silence dissent and stifle union democracy.

Oakland-based UHW is calling SEIU's move retaliation for the local's opposition to a plan that would have moved 65,000 UHW members into the United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW) union, a Los Angeles-based local led by Stern appointee Tyrone Freeman. Freeman was recently removed from his post and charged with corruption after reports that he improperly used union funds to benefit himself, family, and friends.

UHW has also led a dissident faction within SEIU, disagreeing with the Washington DC-based leadership on how to organize workers, union democracy, what health care legislation to support in Sacramento, and the balance between growth and securing good contracts for members. The Oakland-based local represents 150,000 members working in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and homecare. In the last year, it has organized more new workers than the rest of SEIU combined and it has won reforms in needle-stick protection and nurse-patient ratios.


Anti-choice Big Bedfellows smacked down

Related: "Big Bedfellows oppose worker-choice"
"DP cheers Big Bedfellows against workers"
More worker-choice stories: here

Stop! That is the message to Gov. Bill Ritter, Sen. Ken Salazar and business and labor leaders who are working on a compromise to remove the four anti-business initiatives from this year's ballot.

An attempt to have these measures pulled is critical. However, the idea that businesses would contribute millions of dollars to an effort to defeat three other anti-labor measures is so flawed and problematic that everyone involved needs to stop for a minute and take a gut check.

With this compromise we are truly standing on the shores of a Rubicon in Colorado politics. The very notion that an opposing party, regardless of the issue, could essentially pay millions of dollars to the other side to drop something from the ballot flies in the face of everything we stand for in this country.

Politics is often a contested sport and sometimes even a war, but what sets us apart as Americans is that we play by the rules. Under those rules, you can accuse, cajole, berate, intimidate and even threaten, but the one thing you can't do is buy off the other side.

Can you imagine the uproar if the oil and gas companies went to the governor and paid him - via a multimillion-dollar contribution to some other cause he cared about - to remove the severance tax issue from the ballot? People would go to jail and there would be the proverbial hell to pay.

I understand that sometimes you have to compromise for the greater good. However, in this case, there is an ethical line and - out of desperation - good people are poised to cross it. The unions went too far and pulled the pin on an economic grenade that will truly have catastrophic consequences on the Colorado economy (and, in case they missed it, their members as well). The right to work proponents won't back down either, setting up an impasse. Those involved in the issue are scrambling to find a way to prevent the ticking bomb from going off. In their desperation they have lost sight of the bigger picture.

The sad reality is that there are two clear messages from this attempt to stave off a disaster. The first is the presumption that with enough money one can actually buy an election. After all, why would the unions support pulling their measures in return for a big check to fight the measures that they oppose unless they thought they could beat them with money?

While skeptics have long said that elections can be bought, I don't think that has always been the case in Colorado. In our recent history there are a number of instances where extremely well-funded candidates haven't won their contests. However, starting with issues races in the late '90s (and more recently with Statehouse seats and perhaps even the 2nd Congressional District race this year), there is starting to be a disturbing pattern of the ability to purchase political success.

The second message from this folly is that there is way too much garbage on the ballot. We continue to frivolously amend what is supposed to be our sacred document with the trivial and arcane. The idea that our state constitution can be changed at whim and that dueling measures can be easily wielded as a weapon against an opposing party is absurd (again, they can be bought - it only takes about $200,000 to gather the requisite signatures to put anything on the ballot).

Let us hope that cooler heads prevail and an attainable and ethical solution is found. If there is anything good that comes from all of this, may it be that the citizens of Colorado get fed up with these abuses and recognize that we need to reform our ballot process.

- Jack Fox is a Denver businessman who has been involved in a number of campaigns to defeat ballot initiatives in the state.


Labor strikes insult true professionals

Related: "#1 in the nation for teacher strikes" • "The 28 labor-states"

Ex- school board member blasts militant unionism

Teaching is a profession and I consider those engaged in that profession ''professionals'' in the truest sense of the term. Like all professions, teaching has its rewards, both financial and non-, and it has its associated risks and challenges. People who enter this profession are expected to understand and accept those risks, rewards and challenges, just as doctors, pilots and engineers do.

Teachers have the powerful right and ability to change employers if their risk-reward mix no longer matches their expectations and needs. The use of union-sponsored strikes should be insulting to anyone who identifies himself or herself as a true professional. If you really don't like your wage and benefit package, shop yourself to a district that will serve you better.

Going on strike is a gross disservice to students, parents and taxpayers. Why any professional teacher would choose walking in a picket line over delivering education escapes my understanding. I consider it a betrayal of professional ethics and a violation of the implied professional oath to teach.

What truly amazes me about this situation is that the essence of a strike (i.e.: you don't play nice, so we'll take our ball and go home) is significantly below the intellectual level of the teaching professionals I've come to know. I've seen my teacher friends negotiate home and auto purchases and sales with true finesse and class. I can only assume there is some union-mandated behavior rules that trump otherwise good judgment.

Should teacher strikes be banned like police and firefighter strikes? I don't consider teachers' work as necessary for ensuring public safety, so I would not use that argument to bar teacher strikes. However, given that teacher professionals find it necessary to be represented by a union, I'd recommend the union take a more professional and socially responsible approach than the out-dated, strike-based model of coal miners and steel workers. It may even be that in some communities, the union may price its workers out of a job Â… as happened to our steel mills and factories.

- Charles Versaggi of Allentown, is a former member of the Allentown School Board.


FUBAR bailout rewards ACORN

More ACORN stories: here

ACORN's phenomenal history of fraud

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Union-backed group guides election to Dems, Barack

John Fund, author of “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy,” fears that the United States could be on the brink of repeating the 2000 Florida election debacle — this time not in one, but in several states.

“If we don’t invest in better election procedures and equipment as well as voter education, we may pay for our failure by turning Election Day into Election Month through a new legal quagmire: election by litigation,” writes Fund, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Newsmax.

For one thing, Democrats plan to have more than 10,000 lawyers on the ground in all states this November, ready for action if the election is close and they see a way to contest it, Fund says. Republicans will have their own corps of attorneys at the ready.

“If the trend toward litigation continues, winners in the future may have to hope not only that they win but that their margins of victory are beyond the ‘margin of litigation’,” Fund concludes.

Then there is the specter of so-called provisional balloting, a new monkey wrench ready to jam the voting gears.

“Election 2008 will be the first presidential election where the full impact of new federally mandated provisional ballots will be felt,” Fund notes.

Under that mandate, anybody who shows up at a precinct to vote Nov. 4 but is not on the registration lists must be given a provisional ballot, which would be set aside and counted if found valid later.

“A tug of war over provisional ballots may be inevitable in key states where the margin of victory is no greater than the number of provisional ballots cast,” forecasts the author.

And then there is the ACORN phenomenon. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the nation’s largest openly radical group with an annual budget of more than $40 million and chapters in 800 poor neighborhoods, has faced accusations of using illegal registration methods.

At least two former Florida-based ACORN employees accused the group of illegal practices. One of the most serious cases involving ACORN came out of Seattle, where prosecutors indicted seven ACORN workers in July 2007.

They were accused of submitting phony registration forms in what Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed has called “the worst case of voter-registration fraud” in the state’s history.

As early as 1992, the year after Sen. Barack Obama returned to Chicago to become a public interest lawyer after graduating from Harvard Law School, ACORN recruited him to run avoter registration drive for the ACORN affiliate Project Vote. The drive succeeded, and he went on to become the organization’s counsel.

Newsmax caught up with the busy author in New York, where he gives some up-to-the-minute impressions of what’s in store for us come November.

Newsmax: There are literally just days left until Election 2008. Is it too late to correct the numerous flaws you have pointed out – both in your book and other writings? Is there some silver bullet that would at least in this eleventh hour mitigate the looming chaos of Election 2008?

Fund: We can do three things: 1) Help our overburdened, often elderly poll workers by letting high school and college kids earn credit for helping at the polls. 2) Have more people volunteer to be poll watchers, election day attorneys and monitors to keep the count smooth and honest. And 3) encourage local and federal prosecutors to take voter fraud seriously this year. Just sending out notices before an election making clear that officials will be watching for fraud is a valuable preventive device.

Newsmax: Lots of us ordinary citizens had comfort from the fact – we thought – that, after the misadventures of Election 2000, there would be a concerted, almost Manhattan Project-like effort to clean up the literal and figurative hanging chads. In fact, we may be worse off, according to your grim analysis. What happened – or didn’t happen — and why?

Fund: Our election system is decentralized and each of 50 states makes up its own rules, not to mention the discretion counties and cities have. We lost focus on cleaning up our sloppy election systems after 9/11 and after memories of the Florida fiasco faded.

Newsmax: Isn’t the biggest ticking time bomb for Election 2008 the new provisional ballots?

Fund: Yes, the winner of this year’s race in any state may have to win not just a margin of victory, but a victory beyond the margin of litigation. In any close state where provisional ballots – votes cast by people not on the registration rolls but not counted until verified later – outnumber the number of votes separating the two candidates you have a built-in recipe for recounts, recriminations and rogue lawyers filing lawsuits to either count or disqualify those provisional votes.

Newsmax: I just did a story on Rudman-Danforth’s McCain-Palin 2008 Honest and Open Election Committee. They seemed long on horror stories and very short on forward moves to preempt catastrophe. Why isn’t the Justice Department at the tip of the spear? The Election Committee has no real power.

Fund: The Justice Department was embroiled in a 2006 controversy over whether some U.S. attorneys were fired because they hadn’t pursued vote fraud cases. The clumsy, stupid way those dismissals were handled basically shut down the Justice Department’s voter fraud efforts and means there will be much less oversight from them this year. It will be up to individual U.S. attorneys to carry the ball.

Newsmax: For all the controversy and furor of Election 2008, at one point Al Gore stepped forward and conceded. Can we expect the same gentlemanly behavior in Election 2008 if it all comes down to a relative handful of votes?

Fund: I hope so, but I wouldn’t count on it. I think both sides have a lot of emotional investment in this election, and the stakes are high. I think they will scratch each others’ eyes out and exhaust every legal remedy before calling it quits. That process took 37 days in 2000.

Newsmax: Sarah Palin gets grilled in the media on what seems to be petty issues. On the other hand, Barack Obama’s long and cozy affiliation with ACORN is hardly enjoying household infamy in America. Why did Obama get a pass?

Fund: Reporters often have a romantic notion of what being a community organizer is. In reality, it’s often a dressed-up word for someone who engages in the sharp elbows of partisan politics.

ACORN’s legal troubles and questionable tactics are not well known because they hide behind the veneer of a poverty alleviation group. They are far more political and cynical than that. A few years ago, they even dared to sue the state of California to try to get exempted from paying the minimum wage to their workers who gather signatures and registrations.


Consumer Rights group rips ACORN

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Union-backed group has a decade-long criminal pattern

James Terry, Chief Public Advocate for the Consumers Rights League, today testified at a joint House Administration and House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on "Federal, State and Local Efforts to Prepare for the General 2008 Election," where he highlighted "corruption at every level of ACORN including embezzlement, cover-ups, misuse of taxpayer funds and voter fraud." An excerpt of his testimony follows:

James Terry, Chief Public Advocate, Consumers Rights League:
"ACORN routinely says it will clean up its act. Yet, given its decade-long history of voter fraud, embezzlement, and misuses of taxpayer funds, ACORN's pattern of fraud can no longer be dismissed as a series of 'unfortunate events.'

"The problem of voter registration fraud raises serious questions for this committee, and the Consumers Rights League appreciates that the right questions are being asked.

"Here are the most important questions right now: We know about the thousands of potentially fraudulent voter registration cards turned in by ACORN and caught by officials. But given the size of ACORN's efforts and the fact that the abuses appear to be systemic, we believe it is fair to question how many more fraudulent registrations have not been discovered, Furthermore, as this mega organization with a decades long history of violating the law is turned to get out the vote efforts, we believe it is fair to question how many fraudulent registrations may lead to fraudulent votes or what other activities they are willing to undertake to influence the election.

"These are serious questions, especially in light of recent election results which show that a just few votes can change the outcome of an election, the course of our country and the course of history.

"While we do not presume to tell this committee how to address this problem, we respectfully submit that our nation's election system is facing a concerted campaign that raises serious issues that merit the committee's oversight and attention."
Complete transcript of hearing testimony:

About The Consumers Rights League:

The Consumers Rights League is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization dedicated to protecting consumer choice and access to the marketplace. Through investigative analysis, CRL produces quality research that thoroughly documents the real-world choices and challenges consumers face and reports on the benefits enjoyed by an overwhelming majority of consumers. Learn more about CRL's mission at www.consumersrightsleague.org

SOURCE: Consumers Rights League


Voter fraud alert in Miami-Dade

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Union-backed voter fraud group ACORN arouses elections officials

Two suspicious Seminole County voter registration cards became a flash point Wednesday in the Republican effort to suggest the community group ACORN is committing fraud in its historic Florida get-out-the vote efforts.

An ACORN spokesman said the group spotted what appeared to be forged registration cards weeks ago and fired a worker over them. Seminole's election chief, Mike Ertel, said he was still "tremendously concerned," but stopped well short of calling the incident "fraud." The Republican National Committee, though, levelled the accusation and blasted the housing and wage advocacy group in a nationwide conference call with reporters, saying this wasn't an isolated incident.

In Orange County, ACORN staffers submitted multiple, duplicate registrations on behalf of six separate voters this summer. One individual had 21 duplicate applications. Election Supervisor Bill Cowles and his staff protested, noting in a June memo that ACORN had been submitting sloppy forms as well.

ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, changed procedures, disciplined some staffers and improved relations with Orange. ACORN has signed up 135,000 new Florida voters since January in just three counties: Orange, Broward and Miami-Dade.

That's a fifth of all new voters. More than 58 percent are Democrats, who now outnumber Republicans by almost 500,000 voters -- providing Barack Obama a potentially crucial edge in the neck-and-neck race in Florida.


ACORN's voter-registration drives have come under fire from Republicans for being sloppy and allegedly fraudulent in North Carolina, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico and Colorado, said Republican National Committee chief legal counsel Scott Cairncross.

Cairncross noted that ACORN in Washington state had to file an agreement with prosecutors to improve procedures after seven workers were charged with criminal voter-registration fraud.

''This organization is not new to this game. They are a quasi-criminal Democrat-affiliated organization that harms the elections process,'' Cairncross said.

ACORN's Florida coordinator, Brian Kettenring, said the organization is non-partisan. He dismissed the attacks saying the Republicans are trying to ``reduce the size of the electorate.''

''What's criminal is the way the McCain campaign is drumming up lies and misrepresentation to try to suppress minority voter participation,'' Kettenring said. ``It's clear they are willing to use mistruths and exaggerations to try to create an atmosphere of chaos.''

Plus, he said, voter-registration problems don't equal vote fraud, such as someone showing up to the polls with a false I.D.

However, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, pointed out that unregistered voters could be signed up without their knowledge and then have absentee ballots fraudulently cast on their behalf in rare cases. Browning said he had a good working relationship with ACORN when he was Pasco County's elections chief until 2006.

ACORN is a massive nationwide association that made its presence felt in the 2004 elections when it signed up 212,000 people to vote in Florida, where it now has 15,000 members.

Republicans said ACORN wasn't just working on the successful ballot initiative boosting the minimum wage in Florida -- it wanted to help Democrat John Kerry. Kerry lost by about 381,000 votes. Since that election, ACORN says it has signed up 382,000 voters in Florida.

This year, ACORN's political action committee endorsed Obama, a former community organizer who had done work for ACORN.

''These are friends and allies of Barack Obama,'' said Republican spokesman Danny Diaz, who accused ACORN of ``undermining our election system.''

The Obama campaign says it works separately from ACORN. It reports signing up about 100,000 new voters of its own since January.


The registration drives have paid off in Miami-Dade for Democrats, where more than 63,000 Democrats have been registered compared to 12,138 Republicans and about 24,000 independents. That has increased the percentage of Democrats by nearly two full points, ---- to 44 percent ---- on the Miami-Dade voter rolls.

''Miami-Dade could be huge for us,'' said Obama's campaign manager, Steve Schale. ``This is a numbers game, and having tens of thousands of more votes makes us even more competitive in Florida.''

But the Republican Party of Florida has heard it all before: The big registration gains, the buzz, the anti-Bush talk. Yet the Republican presidential candidate, except in 1996, has won every time in the past three decades.

Nationwide, ACORN has signed up 1.15 million new voters. And, as a result, mistakes can pop up, Kettenring said.

Kettenring said the group pays card-gatherers by the hour and requires them to get working phone numbers to spot-check registrations. Bad card-gatherers and those who don't supply enough phone numbers for checking are fired, said Kettenring, who wouldn't divulge names. He said the signers of cards are more often to blame for errors than the card gatherers.


The card gatherer in one of the Seminole County cases was fired in August, Kettenring said, because the worker submitted too many cards without phone numbers.

In the other case, he said, ACORN warned the card gatherer to be more careful. Kettenring said ACORN contacted the woman listed on the card, Sacha Thomas, who said she suspected her friend had signed her up. She wouldn't comment to The Miami Herald. The man listed on the other card, James Stanley, couldn't be reached by The Herald.

Kettenring said ACORN can't destroy cards, even suspicious ones -- which it flags with a sheet labeling it ''problematic.'' He said that happened in this case when the forms were submitted to Orange County, where the registrations were collected.

The paper-work was forwarded to Seminole County but the problematic-card note didn't make it. Orange County officials say they can't find the problematic card sheets.

Orange's election supervisor, Cowles, who had complained in the past of ACORN's methods, said he now has a ''good working'' relationship with ACORN, as did Miami-Dade's Lester Sola and Broward's Brenda Snipes. So far, no one has filed a complaint against ACORN with the state's election-fraud division.

Seminole's election supervisor, Mike Ertel, had little bad to say about ACORN, either, though he was concerned about the two registrations.

''The story here is that the system worked,'' said Ertel, who had nothing bad to say about ACORN. ``We check 100 percent of these, and this rarely happens. I'm not sure this is a widespread issue. And we saw two this weekend that gave us pause. It gave me great concern. I don't want anybody disenfranchised.''


ACORN's role in mortgage ripoff revealed

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Union-backed voter fraud group championed reckless social policy

"It was reckless deregulation and lack of oversight that's a big part of the problem on Wall Street right now," said Barack Obama at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Blame for the current financial crisis has been leveled at Wall Street greed, deregulation, and the free-market system. However, government policies - formulated and promoted more than 30 years ago by community organizations like those affiliated with Barack Obama - are the root cause of the problem.

Economists and financial experts interviewed pointed especially to the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 (CRA) and the Associated Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) as major culprits.

Thomas DiLorenzo, Ph.D., an economics professor at Loyola College in Maryland, who specializes in housing finance, said, "I think they [ACORN and the CRA] were very major contributors to the current crisis. For 30 years they compelled banks to make loans to unqualified people.

"Groups like ACORN were getting money from the federal government for promoting these activities," he continued, "They essentially engaged in legalized extortion of banks. Any bank that plans a merger or expansion can be challenged in court about their compliance with the CRA. It must first prove to regulators that it has made 'enough' loans to the government's preferred borrowers. ACORN would threaten these plans by prolonging the process in the courts. The banks routinely buy off ACORN and other "community groups" by giving them millions of dollars as well as promising to make even more dubious loans."

According to Mr. DiLorenzo, the federal government has been paying ACORN to enforce the CRA, which is "all about making loans to unqualified buyers." Further, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, by a 1992 law, were devoted to subsidizing these loans by securitizing them. (Securitization means the mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were sold to private investors.)

The 1992 law was the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act that mandated an increase in primary-market loans made to lower income borrowers by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae increased its commitment to this market to $1 trillion because of this mandate.

William N. Goetzmann, Ph.D., Professor of Finance and Management Studies at Yale University took a slightly different path. He blamed the culture that is determined to have low-income people own a house.

"A principle factor was stimulating the desire of everyone to own their own home. The good intentions of the last four or five presidents, from Carter to this current administration, to make sure everyone owned a house was misguided. The CRA was just one of the mechanisms used for this," he said.

Yet, Mr. Goetzmann also laid much of the blame at the feet of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. "The commitment by the government to give them funding makes the United States unique in the world. We have these giant home mortgage insurers that no other country has."

This spread the risk but also created a financial structure that imploded once the housing market tanked.

However, all this was unnecessary as far as he was concerned. "Personally I feel that low-income people may not be well served by home ownership. There are a lot of accompanying costs associated with home ownership that low income people cannot afford, such as maintenance and insurance," Goetzmann said.

Stan Liebowitz, Ph.D., an economics professor at the University of Texas at Dallas dedicates a chapter on the subject of the culpability of community groups and the mortgage debacle in his forthcoming book, Housing America: Building out of a Crisis.

"The relaxed mortgage standards that everyone in the government promoted and mandated resulted in people getting loans who could not repay them," he wrote.

Mr. Liebowitz reached the conclusion that policymakers are correct to ask what caused the crisis, however, their answer thus far - that it is the fault of "unscrupulous lenders ... taking advantage of poorly informed borrowers" - is not correct.

He postulated that authorities ignore the proof that practices like zero down payments or mortgage applications "where the applicant was allowed to make up an income number" are the real transgressors. These policies were "heralded" and fostered by "the political housing establishment," i.e. regulators, politicians, academics and community groups.

He also said that while the housing establishment is proud of these practices, because they increased homeownership, they do not want to take responsibility for the mortgage meltdown they caused.

Yet, the CRA has many defenders such as Wharton professor Kenneth Thomas, who noted that since the 1990's that not one bank failure has resulted from the legislation.

- Michael P. Tremoglie


ACORN: Voter fraud is much ado about nothing

Related: "Florida officials grapple with voter fraud"
More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Union-backed voter-fraud group gets defensive

ACORN is striking back at the Republican National Committee today after being blasted as a "quasi-criminal" organization over its voter-registeration efforts in Florida.

At issue is a pretty benign WDBO radio report that said Seminole County was taking a closer look at a few voter cards submitted by ACORN. The story was picked up with a somewhat more alaming tone by WESH Orlando and pounced on by Republicans two days after John McCain's campaign started publicly pushing the story line.

"The McCain campaign and RNC are trying to go on the attack to discredit groups that do low-income and minority voter engagement activities," said ACORN's Florida director, Brian Hettenring.

In a conference call, Apopka ACORN volunteer Leroy Bell said the complaints "don't have any truth to it," because the group is required by law to submit registrations whether they're complete or not.

ACORN doesn't register voters in Seminole, so the cards in question originated in Orange County where it does do voter outreach in public spaces, officials said. ACORN says it's submitted 135,000 voter registration cards to county election supervisors statewide for this November's election, and the number of registrations being disputed in Seminole is approximately two cards.

"What's going on here is a right-wing radio station called the supervisor trying to drum up a story," Hettenring said.

Moreover, Seminole Elections Supervisor Mike Ertel has said most of the petitions coming into his office "are legit."

Ertel sent an e-mail to ACORN on Saturday, before WDBO called him on Monday morning, he said. In the e-mail, Ertel wrote that two applications "cause me tremendous concern."

He wrote that both appear to have come from ACORN -- the organization's forms bear a tell-tale printer's stamp on the bottom-right corner -- and that the voters listed told elections officials that they had not filled them out.

Ertel requested that ACORN send his office information on the canvassers who initialed the forms.

"We're working in concert with the organization," Ertel said Wednesday. "We've got to give them the benefit of the doubt. This is not about attacking a voter-registration organization. It's about ensuring that every voter registration is complete."


LA Times exposes Andy Stern's corrupt SEIU

More SEIU stories: hereAndy Stern stories: here

Jumbo unions' bigs abuse the dues and trust of rank-and-file members

The Service Employees International Union's headquarters has paid millions of dollars to consulting firms, political nonprofits and individuals with family ties and other personal connections to some of the labor organization's top officers, records show.

One company partly owned by a union director also received more than $1 million in SEIU consulting fees.

The nation's fastest-growing union, the SEIU bills itself a standard-setter in the drive to reform and modernize the labor movement. It has adopted a code of ethics that bars officers from directing business to their relatives, although a spokeswoman said no competitive bidding process is required when such contracts are awarded.

Labor Department https://cslxwep1.dol-esa.gov/Disclosure/OnlineSR30.jsp?ReportId=LM30 from 2003 through last year show that:

* The SEIU and its political affiliate contributed $3 million to America Votes, an advocacy organization that was headed by Cecile Richards, wife of an aide to SEIU President Andy Stern, at the time the payments were made.

* Melissa Mullinax was an SEIU political director when the political consulting firm she held a 20%-to-25% stake in, The Edison Group, was paid more than $1 million, including expenses. In addition, the SEIU has spent about $41,000 on a graphic design company owned by Mullinax's husband, Jason Abbott.

* The union paid about $520,000 to a consulting firm co-founded by Democratic Party and labor strategist Steve Rosenthal, the husband of another SEIU director, Eileen Kirlin. Rosenthal, a longtime friend of Stern, also headed America Coming Together, a get-out-the-vote nonprofit that received $23 million from the union.

* Pamela Kieffer, wife of a third union director, David Kieffer, has received about $70,000 in consulting fees and in separate payments from a firm that provided recruitment services to SEIU.

In addition, the SEIU and an associated nonprofit paid roughly $210,000 in consulting fees over four years to Don Stillman, husband of the union's outside legal counsel, Judith Scott. Stillman helped edit a 2006 book written by Stern, a publication that has generated controversy because of how the union president profited from it.

Although she is not an SEIU staffer, Scott disclosed her husband's relationship with the union on U.S. Labor Department disclosure forms filed by officers.

SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette said there was nothing improper about any of the payments, which also were reported in the union's annual financial filings with the Labor Department.

She said the expenditures comply with rules against nepotism and self-dealing that the union adopted in 2005. The officers had no input in the hiring of spouses or in their compensation, she said.

"They did not work for, nor were they retained by, their spouses, and they did a good job," Ringuette said.

The SEIU represents about 2 million healthcare workers, government employees, janitors and others in the private and public sectors. Ringuette said the union received excellent services from Rosenthal's organizations, America Votes, the consulting firms and the individuals, Mullinax among them.

"She is a respected political consultant," Ringuette said.

She said the money paid to America Coming Together was particularly well spent, considering the group's widely applauded efforts to turn out Democratic voters in the 2004 presidential election. Ringuette added that Rosenthal more than earned the $520,000 that his consulting firm received for political work.

Rosenthal said any criticism of his relationship with the union would be "almost stunning." "I hold the work I do up to anybody's," he said.

And Richards, now president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement that America Votes is a coalition of more than 40 groups, and that its financial records are "transparent."

Richards is the wife of former Stern chief of staff Kirk Adams, now a union director.

Attempts to reach other officers and their spouses were unsuccessful.

The SEIU's policies also require transparency in decisions to give union business to relatives. But the number and size of the SEIU payments were unusual, said a leader of a labor reform group.

"This is very uncommon in unions," said Ken Paff, national organizer of Teamsters for a Democratic Union. "We've had a lot of that in the Teamsters. . . . It's a bad indicator about a union when you have a pattern of husband and wife in that kind of role."

The SEIU has come under scrutiny recently by federal criminal authorities, following Times reports last month that its largest California local and a related charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to firms owned by the wife and mother-in-law of the local's president, Tyrone Freeman.

The local spent similar sums on a golfing resort, expensive restaurants and a Beverly Hills cigar lounge. According to the union, Freeman also spent union money on his Hawaiian wedding.

Fallout from The Times' reports spread to other SEIU chapters, prompting Stern to call on all locals to impose a code of ethics similar to the national office's.

The SEIU has brought internal charges against Freeman, who was initially appointed by Stern. The union alleges that the payments could not be justified for the services received, and instead were part of a broad corruption scheme. Freeman, who has been removed from the union payroll pending a hearing, has denied any wrongdoing.

Unlike the national officers, Freeman did not file disclosure forms until after The Times inquired about the expenditures, which are required for union payments to spouses, Labor Department officials say.

Two other SEIU local presidents have gone on paid leave, including Annelle Grajeda, an executive vice president of the national organization.

Grajeda, a Stern appointee who heads the SEIU's California council, stepped aside because of allegations that her former boyfriend received improper payments from the union. She has said she did nothing wrong.

Nelson Lichtenstein, director of UC Santa Barbara's Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy, said the SEIU headquarters' payments to officers' relatives could set a bad example for locals, even if the business relationships are out in the open and ultimately beneficial to union members.

"Clearly, there's a kind of double standard at work," he said.

Stern's harshest critic within the SEIU, Sal Rosselli, the president of a Bay Area local, says the 2006 book deal amounted to self-dealing. Stern received a six-figure advance for "A Country That Works," which the union helped fact-check and promote, and which union locals bought in bulk.

"The money should have gone to the union workers," Rosselli said.

In denying any impropriety, Stern has said that the SEIU's board voted independently to promote the book and urge locals to buy it, and that he received no royalties from sales to the union.

The SEIU has accused Rosselli and his board of financial malpractice for using members' dues to set up a nonprofit and legal defense fund to wage an internecine battle with Stern.

Rosselli labels the charges retaliation. They are the subject of an internal hearing that begins today and could end in the SEIU's placing the local into trusteeship.


Unions deny workers' freedom of association

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"
More worker-choice stories: here

The scourge of forced-labor unionism bemoaned in labor-state

Suppose you are Jewish and attend synagogue. There is a Catholic church across the street. Members of both faiths are exercising their right to support only those private organizations that represent their personal values and beliefs.

This is the American way i.e. equal rights, freedom of association, and freedom of speech. The official Bucks County Democrat party's platform even touts such virtues on its Web site. Article 1 of their platform reads "we believe in equal rights and individual freedoms for all."

Consider this scenario. One day a law is passed by a Democrat-majority government that says all members of the Jewish congregation must pay nonmember dues to the Catholic Church. The government has declared that the Catholic Church does good work in the community — work that benefits every resident. Besides, there are more Catholics than Jews and this is what they voted for.

The Catholics call their vote "workplace democracy" to make it sound nice. Every Jew must now pay their fair share of dues to the Catholic Church. To ensure compliance, the law requires all Jews to have the dues deducted at source from their paychecks, whereupon their employer forwards it to the Catholic Church. If the Jews don't like it, they can go live somewhere else.

If a law like that were enacted, there would be riots in the streets. Well, I just described the law in Pennsylvania EXACTLY as it pertains to compulsory unionism. Elected officials like county commissioners, township supervisors, and school board directors, are empowered by state law to force non-union employees into paying union dues as a condition of their employment. It is despicable. Individual employees all across Bucks County are being denied that most fundamental of American rights — freedom of association.

The Bucks County Democrat Party's platform of "individual freedoms for all" is pure hypocrisy. The truth about this political party is that not one of their elected officials supports the right of workers to freely accept or reject union affiliation. Democrat County Commissioner Diane Marseglia just voted to force all nonmember employees to pay union dues in order to keep their jobs. She also voted to prohibit county employees from freely resigning their union membership whenever they like. And she voted to use the resources of government to help pump election money to the union that endorses her campaigns.

There are 22 Right-to-Work states in which it is illegal to force non-union employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. House Bill 150 in the state Legislature would make Pennsylvania a Right to Work state. It has 36 co-sponsors. Not one of them is a Democrat. Meanwhile, Republican John McCain supports passing a National Right to Work law, while Barack Obama opposes it.

Democrats who justify union dues extortion often say "unions benefit workers." Whether this is true is irrelevant. The issue is this: Who should decide whether a union benefits an employee — the union or the employee? Democrats like Obama and Marseglia believe that employees should have the right to join and pay dues to a union. But they don't believe that employees should have the equal right to refrain from doing so. These hypocrites with their phony platform of freedom take the Orwellian view that all workers are created equal, but some workers are more equal than others.

Individual liberty and freedom is precious to most Americans. A blind eye should never be turned when the First Amendment is being trampled upon. This November my wife, who is Jewish, will be voting for the man whose love of liberty left him tortured in a prison cell; the man whose unset broken bones today render him unable to freely move his arms. John McCain will never force her to financially support any private organization against her wishes.

This presidential election isn't about Republican vs. Democrat. It's about American vs. un-American.

- Simon Campbell is president of StopTeacherStrikes Inc., a nonpartisan group working to ban teacher strikes in Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.stopteacherstrikes.org


EFCA demystified

More EFCA stories: here

Labor's fascistic assault on the secret ballot

More EFCA stories: here

UNITE: 'There's no need to subject the workers to an election.'

Union issues often fall predictably along party lines. However, when you find an ultra=liberal like former Democrat presidential candidate George McGovern agreeing with Republican presidential candidate John McCain, you know you have an unusual issue before Congress and the American people.

Such is the case with the erroneously named “Employee Free Choice Act” which would strip the right to a secret ballot from every American worker involved in a union election and eliminate choice for workers. The unusual alliance of left and right opposing this undemocratic power grab of a bill derives from a shared support for a cornerstone of our democracy — the right to a secret ballot and the right to keep private how one chooses to vote. Nothing less than saving the right to vote is at issue. In a recent speech, Sen. McCain recently pointed out that Sen. Obama, who voted for the bill “wants to take away the fundamental right of workers to have a secret ballot when voting to be part of a union.” For factchecking purposes one could consult George McGovern to confirm McCain’s statement.

In August in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, McGovern, a liberal icon, raised alarm about the Employee Free Choice Act [EFCA] which passed the House of Representatives last year with far too little attention paid to the threat to workers this bill would impose. McGovern wrote that the measure “runs counter to ideals that were once at the core of the labor movement. Instead of providing a voice for the unheard, EFCA risks silencing those who would speak.... Under EFCA, workers could lose the freedom to express their will in private, the right to make a decision without anyone peering over their shoulder, free from fear of reprisal.”

The key offending provision of the bill provides that instead of a private election with a secret ballot that is overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, union organizers would only be required to obtain the signatures of 50 percent plus one of the employees in a workplace to certify a union. If union organizers were able to — by whatever means they can think of — collect enough signatures, the secret ballot would be unnecessary and eliminated from the process. This system is known as “card check” — a very un-American proposal.

As McGovern warned with this system: “there are many documented cases where workers have been pressured, harassed, tricked or intimidated into signing cards that have led to mandatory payment of dues.” In hearings in the House of Representatives in 2002, Bruce Esgar, an employee of MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas described such a case when he testified that union organizers threatened that workers who did not sign union cards would lose their jobs when the union was recognized. In testimony in 2007, Ricardo Torres, a long-time organizer for the United Steelworkers felt compelled to quit his job, according to his testimony, after “a senior Steelworkers union official asked me to threaten migrant workers by telling them they would be reported to federal immigration officials if they refused to sign check-off cards.” Jen Jason, a former organizer for UNITE-HERE also testified in 2007 to the fact that they “rarely showed workers what an actual union contract looked like because we knew that it wouldn’t necessarily reflect what a worker would want to see. We were trained to avoid topics such as dues increases, strike histories, etc. and to constantly move the worker back to what the organizer identified as his or her “issues” during the first part of the housecall. This technique was commonly referred to as “re-agitation” during organizer training sessions.”

President Bush’s former economic-policy adviser, Larry Lindsey also protested the legislation earlier this year in the Washington Post, “....a card-check system would offer even more room for intimidation of workers. A union card can be signed by workers at any time during an organizing campaign, which can take many months. Union organizers can pursue workers in their homes, at churches and civic clubs, and at watering holes after hours. Workers’ family members can also be intimidated during this process. So much for a “free choice” for employees. The bill assaults workers’ rights in other ways, too. For example, it would make it a crime for management to raise pay or improve working conditions while a plant is being organized. So the only way to get a raise would be to get the campaign over with and bring the union in. Such an arrangement might strike some as government-mandated intimidation.” Imagine a situation where getting a raise is a violation of workers’ rights!

House Republicans opposing this un-American legislation the “Employee Free Choice Act” align with the same concerns expressed by McGovern, Lindsey, and the former union organizers. Last year, in their minority report, opposing the bill to eliminate the secret ballot they wrote: “Very few points of labor law are black and white. This is one of those few. Courts, agencies, experts, lawmakers, and most important, American workers, recognize that the secret ballot election process is the only way to ensure that workers are given true ‘choice’ in determining whether to form and join a union.”

Quite simply, the card-check process invites coercion and abuse of the fundamental rights of workers and employers. The card-check process exposes and reveals the votes of workers to the employer, the union organizers and to fellow co-workers. The choice to disclose this information should reside with the individual and be a matter of choice for them individually. Private ballot elections have historically been the way for us to strike the fair balance between the interests of workers and employers. Those who would change this historic American precedent have an agenda other than respecting the interests of workers and employers alike. It’s simply un-American.

— John Motley is the senior vice president for government and public affairs at the Food Marketing Institute.


Worker-choice, Fi-Core questions answered

More worker-choice stories: here FiCore stories: here

Information provided about 'Financial Core Status'

I am a producer in Idaho — a right-to-work state — and am working on several nonunion commercials. We would like to fly some SAG actors out from Los Angeles to work with us. What does a right-to-work state mean for them? Would they have to file for financial core to work on a nonunion project here, or does the concept permit them to work here without any legal backlash? — DeDe, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

You've got the meaning of the right-to-work laws a bit backward. Such laws are meant to give nonunion and union workers equal access to available jobs. They do not release union members from union rules and regulations. Under the laws of right-to-work states — Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming — actors cannot be required to obtain union membership or pay any portion of union dues as a condition of employment. Nonunion actors in right-to-work states don't need to join SAG to work on SAG jobs, nor must they take financial-core status. They are free to join unions or to decline at their discretion; they have the "right" to work regardless.

SAG members, however, agree upon joining the union to adhere to Global Rule One. Exact wording of the rule, taken straight off the back of my SAG card, states that SAG members "may not agree to work for any producer who is not signatory to the applicable SAG contract. This provision applies worldwide." There are ongoing disputes over right-to-work laws and union regulations, and I encourage anyone interested to Google "right-to-work states" for a taste of the issues, but the answer is clear. SAG members are not permitted to work on your project. Contrarily, fi-core actors, as you may know, are able to work on any project but aren't SAG members, according to SAG; the guild refers to them as dues-paying nonmembers. Such status is rife with controversy and not something most actors would consider for even a well-paying nonunion commercial job.

Todd Amorde, SAG's national director of organizing, responded to your question as follows: "Union membership follows the member regardless of whether the member is working in a union security state or a right-to-work state. So a SAG actor working nonunion in Idaho would be in violation of SAG Rule One and would face disciplinary action. A SAG member may resign their membership and work nonunion. Financial core requires the member to resign his or her membership and become a fee-paying nonmember. As a reminder, SAG considers a member's resignation to be permanent. The interesting thing about this producer's question is that it clearly acknowledges that real professionals carry a SAG card and that the producer is unable to produce a quality project without using union talent. They want the quality without paying for it.

[Nonunion producers] try to prey on actors' insecurities in order to get them to give up protections that generations of actors have fought long and hard to achieve, only for an opportunity to work for less. Any professional actor living in Hollywood who would jeopardize their membership for a nonunion commercial in Idaho shows a lack of self-respect and foresight."

So, DeDe, it looks like you'll either have to become a SAG signatory or use nonunion talent on this one. Either choice has its perks. If you simply do not have the budget for a SAG contract, let me assure you that there are plenty of talented nonunion actors out there, waiting for a job like this. Years ago, before I was a SAG member, I was flown out to Arizona to shoot a nonunion commercial. It was a great learning experience on a very professional project. I hope you're able to give a few deserving nonunion actors the same treatment.


Talking about card-check

More EFCA stories: here

Related Posts with Thumbnails