Obama Rx for economy: Hike union dues

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More EFCA stories: here More card-check stories: here

Controversial Obama proposal would eliminate secret-ballot union voting

The shrinking economy is the top issue on voters' minds with the presidential election days away, but the topic of greatest interest to the nation's largest employers is getting scant attention. There's virtually no talk about a proposal to end secret balloting in union-organizing drives.

Few issues rile big employers more than the expected revival of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. Unions say that the legislation is necessary to unshackle millions of workers who want to organize but are unable to do so, while big employers fear that it would dramatically raise the cost of doing business.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

The act, which passed the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate in June 2007, would update the nation's labor laws and end a long-standing practice of secret balloting that dates to 1935 and the National Labor Relations Act.

Instead of voting in secret in a federally supervised election to determine whether to unionize, under the new proposal employees could unionize simply by collecting signatures from more than half the workers at a business.

Labor and management couldn't be farther apart in how they view the legislation, co-sponsored in Congress by Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democratic presidential nominee, and opposed by his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Unions think that employers have the upper hand now because the current structure gives them time to use their money, influence and pressure to prevent workers from seeking union representation.

"The current system is just unfairly tilted in the employer's favor," said Jacob Hay, a spokesman for the Laborers' International Union of North America, which represents workers in construction trades. "The balance of power is tilted towards them."

Trade groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, which represent employers, argue that there's a balance now and that changing it will give an advantage to labor.

"This is definitely NAM's top issue," said Keith Smith, the director of employment and labor policy for the manufacturers group. "We don't look at this as just a labor relations issue. We see this as a competitiveness issue, because it is a game changer."

Steven Law, chief counsel of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that his members feared that ending secret balloting in favor of what unions called "card check" was an invitation for strong-arm tactics.

"Our view is that union elections ought to be decided in the privacy of a voting booth and not in the parking lot late at night," Law said. "And if card check gets passed, that is where union elections will be decided. It opens the door to all kinds of harassment and intimidation."

After more than two decades of declining membership that's left just 12 percent of the work force unionized, organized labor thinks that a Democratic president and Congress could make it easier to organize and fight for higher wages after eight years of flat wage growth and widening income inequality.

Behind the trade associations are big retailers such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot and manufacturers that oppose union representation, and they fear that next week's election could bring an end to secret balloting.

The Employee Free Choice Act passed the House in part because lawmakers were sure that it didn't have the 60 votes needed in the Senate to cut off debate and go to a vote.

"A lot of members voted for the card check bill last time thinking it was a throwaway vote, and now they face the possibility of being held accountable by voters and the unions," Law said.

In an interview on CNBC television Wednesday, McCain said he would veto the card check legislation "in a New York minute." Employers, however, are perplexed about why McCain hasn't championed this topic - a core Republican issue - more stridently.

"We're disappointed and surprised that the issue has not got more attention across the board. ... This is an issue that has been flying under the radar screen, and businesses are going to be shocked that this legislation now has a good chance of passing," said Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to McCain and President Bush who now works with the Workforce Fairness Institute, a coalition that's lobbying against the change.

Thea Lee, chief economist for the AFL-CIO, suggests that the answer lies in the fact that McCain's election strategy depends on winning blue-collar workers, who are more likely to be pro-union. McCain, she said, doesn't want to call attention to the issue.

"Look at the states where he has been competing: Ohio, Pennsylvania. I guess he's not in Michigan anymore," Lee said.

According to the AFL-CIO, McCain has supported the labor group's causes just 16 percent of the time.

"It's something a lot of union members don't know. ... If they did they'd have a different image of him being a maverick," Lee said.

Another possible explanation for why McCain hasn't gone after Obama more forcefully on the card check issue is the fact that his running mate's husband, Todd Palin, is a member of the United Steelworkers Union, which supports card check.

In an interview in late September after her surprise addition to the Republican ticket, Sarah Palin told conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt that she and her husband once had depended on "good union jobs" when they were younger.

"We've gone through periods of our life here with paying out of pocket for health coverage until Todd and I both landed a couple of good union jobs," Palin told Hewitt. "Early on in our marriage, we didn't have health insurance, and we had to either make the choice of paying out of pocket for catastrophic coverage or just crossing our fingers, hoping that nobody would get hurt, nobody would get sick."


Obama opposed by workers on secret-ballot ban

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More EFCA stories: here • More card-check stories: here

Fascistic proposal would force disinterested workers into labor unions without a secret ballot vote

Debate over a controversial bill that would make it easier for unions to sign up new members has intensified as the economy declines. Business and industry groups say the legislation, known as the Employee Free Choice Act, will lead to massive job losses and hobble the economy. Labor groups argue that it will give a historic boost to the middle class. Debate over the measure, which passed the House last year but was blocked in the Senate by a Republican filibuster, heated up during the campaign and has been amplified by the burgeoning financial crisis.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama supports the measure, while his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, is opposed. Regardless of who wins, the debate will continue after the election because Democrats are expected to bring it to a vote again next year. If Sen. McCain becomes president, a compromise bill could ultimately be proposed.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

Labor claims the legislation would lift wages and make it easier to organize workers. Declining union membership stands at 7.5% of private-sector workers, about half of the level of 25 years ago. Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, says the law could help his union organize more than a million workers a year.

Business-backed groups agree that the bill would increase unionization, but say it would also hurt growth by raising labor costs, eventually leading to widespread layoffs. One of those groups, the nonprofit Employee Freedom Action Committee, began airing an ad last week linking unions to massive job losses in the steel, auto and airline industries. "If you think the economy is bad now, it could get worse," the ad says. Many companies, including big targets for union organizing like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., adamantly oppose the legislation.

* Read the text of the Employee Free Choice Act, as it was introduced in the Senate

Analysts say claims by both camps are inflated.

Thomas Kochan, a professor of management at MIT's Sloan School of Management who also writes for the liberal Huffington Post blog, predicts a moderate increase in union representation, but said higher wages could lead to productivity improvements and enhanced labor-management cooperation rather than job losses.

Marisa Di Natale, a senior economist at Moody's Economy.com, said the economic impact of the legislation would be marginal.

"Certainly unions drive wages up," she said. "Because we have such a low concentration of the total unionized work force, it's not going to make a huge difference in the aggregate."

Unions and business do agree on one point: the Employee Free Choice Act would rewrite labor-management relations.

The National Labor Relations Act, passed in 1935, allowed unions to organize workers in two ways: either through a secret-ballot election, in which workers vote for or against unions, or by getting a majority of workers to sign a card declaring that they want to belong to a union.

Importantly, the choice of method was effectively left to companies, which have generally favored secret-ballot elections because they give management ample opportunity to combat union organizing efforts. Labor organizers charge that this method often amounts to intimidation. Card-signing campaigns, by contrast, can be conducted without an employer's knowledge for weeks or months, though employers say union organizers can pressure workers off-site to sign the cards.

About 300,000 workers joined unions through card checks in 2007, according to the AFL-CIO, while about 60,000 workers joined unions through elections, according to the NLRB. The Employee Free Choice Act would give unions, not companies, the choice of method.

Another big change involves negotiating first contracts. Under current law, unions and companies are required to bargain in good faith. But if they don't reach an agreement within a year, the union typically loses the right to be exclusive bargaining agent for the workers. Unions say companies resisting unionization have no incentive to reach a contract before the year's end.

The Employee Free Choice Act would give unions and companies 90 days to negotiate a contract. If they don't, a mediator would be appointed to help them reach a deal in 30 days. If that fails, a government appointed arbitrator would impose a contract. Companies say that gives unions less incentive to bargain in good faith because they are guaranteed a contract.

"Having an arbitrator decide contract provisions is a sea change for this country," said Chuck Cohen, a labor lawyer who filled a Republican seat on the National Labor Relations Board during the Clinton administration and opposes the legislation.


Forced to join a union in Colorado

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

Resident supports worker-choice alternative

If you start your own company, nobody would say you must join a chamber of commerce in order to stay in business. If you grow corn, nobody would say you must join the Corn Growers Association, or the Cattlemen’s Association if you raise cattle. Yet, thousands of Coloradans are forced to join or pay dues to private organizations against their will at many workplaces across Colorado.

Seem unfair that someone could force you to join a private organization as a condition of employment? It is. But this is what thousands of Colorado workers endure by being forced to join a union in order to get a paycheck.

"Yes on 47"

There are plenty of reasons to join private organizations that might benefit you or the community at large, but we don’t think anybody should be forced to join. That’s why we support Amendment 47.

Amendment 47, the Colorado Right to Work Amendment, is simple — it says that a worker cannot be forced to join a union or pay union dues in order to get or keep a job. But it also preserves a worker’s right to voluntarily join or financially support a union.

Take, for example, the Plumbers Union Local 3, the Colorado Education Association, or the Fire Fighters Local 1290. All are unions whose members choose, freely, to join. They exist because their members see something of value in being part of these private organizations. Amendment 47 affords every worker the same right to freely choose whether to join, without risking their job. Amendment 47 is not anti-union; it’s pro-freedom and pro-worker. The benefits are two-fold:

1. It’s a freedom issue. I believe all workers should have the freedom to choose whether to join a union or pay union dues. Current law in Colorado allows some unions to force workers to pay dues, whether that worker wants to or not.

2. There are 22 right-to-work states already, and studies consistently show that right-to-work states perform better economically than non-right-to-work states. That means more jobs, higher-paying jobs and a better economic environment for the entire state.

In the West, we value individualism and personal responsibility.

Amendment 47 doesn’t prohibit unions in Colorado. In fact, it might actually strengthen the collective voice of workers. If a union is truly effective and does a great job for its membership, it only makes sense that a worker would voluntarily join.

Amendment 47 is about guaranteeing worker rights for all Coloradans, because the freedom to associate with whom we choose is too important to ignore. It’s also about strengthening this economy by bringing new companies, higher wages, and a better job market.

Amendment 47 will make Colorado a better place to live, work, and to do business. In America, freedom is among our highest ideals. Let’s advance freedom together in Colorado. Please visit www.VoteYESon47.com for more information.

- Marianna Raftopoulos, Craig


Obama: Small businesses need unions

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More EFCA stories: here • More card-check stories: here

Fascistic proposal would force disinterested workers into labor unions without a secret ballot vote

Small business is the heartbeat of the American economy, and the proposed policies of an Obama administration will be crippling to small business and the general economy. When businesses are allowed to retain more of their earnings (through lower taxes), they are better positioned to grow via capital investment and job creation, thus generating additional wealth within the overall economy.

Barack Obama's tax increases on income will fall heavily on small businesses, which create the majority of new jobs. Research, based on IRS data, shows that up to a third of all business income is taxed at the two marginal tax rates Obama wants to raise. The reality is that high taxes remove incentives for entrepreneurs and businesses to create the wealth that gradually advances everyone's material well-being, including the poor.

On the labor front, Obama strongly supports the "Employee Free Choice Act," which, contrary to its name, will take away an employee's right to a secret ballot election for union organization.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

We need John McCain to be our next president.

- Doug Gebhardt, James City County


Editorial: Redistributing the Wealth

More collectivism stories: here

What Obama means by 'spreading the wealth around'

We now have Barack Obama's own words describing his strong conviction that redistributing wealth should be a national priority, thanks to the recent YouTube posting of a 2001 interview he gave to the Chicago public radio station, WBEZ. Obama's words undermine his insistence that he really doesn't share the radically anti-capitalist views of extreme leftists like William Ayers. During the interview, the former University of Chicago law professor and then-Democratic state senator was critical of the civil rights movement's strategy in the 1950s and 1960s of focusing on the courts to bring about positive changes "on behalf of dispossessed peoples." The problem with the strategy, according to Obama, was the fact that the courts wouldn't do enough to redistribute wealth:

"The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society," Obama said. "And to that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted."

That flaw in turn led to what Obama called one of the "tragedies" of the civil rights movement – failure to pay sufficient attention to creating"the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change." The task is made doubly difficult, he said, by the fact that "politically, it is very hard to legitimize" government action designed to bring about "redistributive change." In other words, thanks to the opposition of millions of Joe the Plumbers, Obama's concept of "sharing the wealth" can only be achieved by force through the power of the state.

Curiously, Obama has reacted to the opposition of Joe the Plumber with scorn, according to Wendy Button, a now-former speech writer for the Democratic presidential nominee. Button switched to John McCain when "instead of celebrating Joe's aspirations," Obama "mocked" him as not "a real plumber." Besides, Button said, "Joe the Plumber is right. This is the absolutely worst time to raise taxes on anyone, the rich, the middle class, the poor, small businesses and corporations." It's also not the time to use the government to force people to conform to a Chicago pol's abstract notion of how much wealth everybody else should have.

- The Editors


Teamsters picket UPS airlines

More Teamsters stories: here

Militant union in Chicago-area bargaining stunt

Several dozen members and supporters of the union that represents UPS airline mechanics are picketing outside the company’s offices on N. Hurstbourne Parkway to publicize a contract dispute. As many as 100 members of Teamsters Local 2727 were expected to protest, said Nancy Shircliff, the union’s office manager.

Close to 1,400 union members are involved in the contract dispute, which according to the Teamsters hinges on reduced health benefits and shifting some jobs overseas.

“UPS has been and continues to be an enormously profitable company. Attempting to outsource jobs and take benefits away from the very people whose labor earned those profits is not acceptable,” Teamster Local 2727 President Bob Combine said in a statement.

The mechanics earn base pay of $43 an hour, receive free health insurance and have a company pension and 401(k) retirement plan, company spokesman Mike Mangeot said. Claims that UPS is moving jobs overseas are inaccurate, he said, and any new mechanic work added outside the U.S. would be done simply to meet the company's future needs.

"These guys have, without a doubt, the best jobs in their career field and the most secure airline on the planet," Mangeot said of the mechanics. “The only place to make progress in labor negotiations is at the bargaining table, and we’re bargaining in good faith.”

The picket is taking place at 1400 N. Hurstbourne Parkway, the headquarters for UPS Airlines. UPS has about 20,500 employees in the metro area. It isn't discussing particulars of the negotiations in public, but it doesn't believe the contract disagreements pose a threat to holiday deliveries.

Mangeot said the picket won't threaten day-to-day operations, and the mediation process between the two parties prevents a legal strike.


ACORN probes to continue post-election

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Keystone State takes union-backed voter fraud seriously

The Allegheny County District Attorney said an investigation into voter registration fraud will not prevent any registered voters from casting ballots Tuesday.

Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said Friday that detectives from his office and county police continue to investigate nearly 100 suspicious voter registrations submitted in the Pittsburgh area. They also are reviewing voter registration applications from the past 45 days.

"We recognize how important this election is and no one will be prevented from voting as a result of this investigation," Zappala said. "The worst thing that might happen is that someone may have to cast a provisional ballot until we sort out all the details."

Some but not all of the questionable applications came from canvassers working for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, also known as ACORN, which faces scrutiny in at least seven other states for accusations of filing fake voter registrations.

"Some of these may fall under violations of the election code or forgery, but if there was, it's a relatively small number compared to the large amount of new registrations we've had in Allegheny County," Zappala said. "And if we thought there was widespread, rampant fraud, we would have acted on it."

Elections Division Chief Mark Wolosik said Allegheny County has reached a record number of registered voters this year, with 42,486 new registrants since the spring primary.

Violations of election laws are generally charged as misdemeanors, but forging a signature on an official document could be charged as a felony and carry up to 10 years in prison.

Wolosik said his office found registration cards where critical information was missing or signatures did not match what was on file. He then referred the cases to county police last month.

Zappala said it will be weeks before he will know whether his office plans to pursue charges.


Get in ACORN's face

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Obama needs his union-backed voter fraud group, ACORN, cracked

The “Community Organization” that Sen. Barack Obama worked for and defended as its legal counsel, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, is finally having light shined on its corrupt practices. By the way, ACORN has endorsed Sen. Obama, as if that is a surprise to anyone.

The FBI and state prosecutors are currently investigating ACORN for fraudulent voter registration in at least 14 states. We’re not talking about a few wayward voter registration cards being filed, but a systematic pattern of thousands of them being obviously fraudulent. Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy, Jive Turkey and the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys have all been registered to vote by ACORN employees.

Wouldn’t you think that if you’re goal is to fraudulently register unqualified or non-existent voters, you would at least be smart enough to select legitimate sounding names? This illustrates the character and mores of many of Sen. Obama’s most adamant supporters.

I’m guessing ACORN’s voter registration thug’s imaginations ran dry for names, so they began to harass and bribe real living people to register themselves multiple times. The New York Post reported that one young man in Cincinnati alone admitted to filing voter registration cards 72 times. "Sometimes, they come up and bribe me with a cigarette, or they'll give me a dollar to sign up," said the 19-year-old black man who wore a backwards baseball cap. The man told ACORN representatives that he had already registered, but this didn’t stop them from continuing to solicit him to register again.

Wouldn’t you think that if your goal was to boost the numbers of Democrats in a particular voting district, you might get caught if you register the same person 72 times? This illustrates the brainpower of many Sen. Obama supporters.

According to the same article, there was a case in Connecticut where a seven year old girl was registered to vote.

Wouldn’t you think that an election official at a polling place might question the legitimacy of someone, obviously under the age of 18, if she showed up to vote? This tells me that ACORN has succeeded in registering every adult Sen. Obama supporter and cartoon character there is as Democrats. There’s no one left to bribe or intimidate.

Last April, eight ACORN workers in St. Louis city and county plead guilty to federal election fraud for submitting false registration cards for the 2006 election. Jess Ordower, ACORN’s Midwest director said “It's par for the course. When you're doing more registrations than anyone else in the country, some don't want low-income people being empowered to vote. There are pretty targeted attacks on us, but we're proud to be out there doing the patriotic thing getting people registered to vote." I hate to be the one to break it to Mr. Ordower, but committing voter fraud and stealing elections are not things patriots do.

Mr. Ordower said that ACORN registered about 53,500 people in Missouri this year. That’s a pretty scary thought, considering the organization’s well deserved reputation for engaging in voter fraud. If you divide 53,500 by 72, the amount of times the guy in New York registered, you would only need 743 people willing to do the same thing. It would probably take 15 minutes and 38 cartons of cigarettes to find those many people willing to complete multiple Missouri voter registration cards.

All of this exemplifies the need for a federal uniform standard for voter registration; one that can be crosschecked among states. Besides being at least 18 years old, a person needs to personally appear at a voter registration office, present valid government identification, prove citizenship, and have his photo taken so it can appear in a voter registration data base for later comparison. No more same day, motor-voter or registering by mail or by special interest groups. No more paid ACORN employees standing in front of liquor stores, signing up thousands of people, and then dumping all of the registration cards on the registrar of voters office at 4 PM the last day they are accepted for an upcoming election. For the convenience of our “low-income” community, mobile registration vans could visit these areas of their jurisdiction to facilitate the process. No one would be left out or disenfranchised except the frauds.

ACORN has been around 30 years and claims to be non-partisan. Democratic politicians have funneled tax money to it all this time to help fund its Left wing agenda. ACORN’s involvement in the subprime mortgage lending mess has not yet been fully uncovered.

ACORN is a nut that needs to be cracked and fed to the birds.

- Contributing Editor Gregory D. Lee is a retired DEA Supervisory SpecialAgent.


Update on FBI's ACORN investigation

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Michigan AG speaks out on voter-fraud

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

ACORN rules Ohio elections office

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Ohio Secretary of State Linked to ACORN, Project Vote

The national development director for Project Vote, an affiliated organization of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, has been linked to embattled Ohio Secretary of State, Democrat Jennifer Brunner. Karyn Gillette of Project Vote was a campaign consultant for the Brunner campaign, according to information found in a post made by Rick Brunner on April 11, 2006 on the secretary of state’s own blog.

“Our candidate had gone earlier in the day to have some meetings and work out of Karyn Gillette's office, but when your correspondent arrived in his S-10 pickup truck, our staff person, Lauren, drove that back to Columbus, while we continued on to dinner with Craig Bashiene and John Lancione. We were accompanied by our consultant, Karyn Gillette. Karyn and her business partner, Mary Grace, have been very helpful to the campaign.”

The links between Gillette and Brunner do not end there.

According to a court filing in Ohio alleging ACORN violated state Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, “Project Vote, regularly advises Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (hereinafter “Secretary Brunner”) on election strategy, and recently issuing a news release claiming credit for Secretary Brunner’s directive restricting challenges to suspected unlawful voter registrations.”

Maurice Thompson, the attorney handling the Ohio RICO action, told me late yesterday, “Evidence of collusion amongst ACORN, Project Vote, the Obama Campaign and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner comes as no surprise to us -- these supposedly separate entities appear to have been comingling funds, trading political tips, and helping each other gain power for years now. Those who think this is merely a complex transactional matter should think again -- these shell games are being played with taxpayer dollars and have a corrupting influence on our elections.”

Gillette’s problems do not end there.

In testimony Wednesday in the lawsuit brought by the Pennsylvania GOP against Project Vote, former D.C. ACORN staffer Anita Moncrief stated under oath that in November 2007, in ACORN’s D.C. offices, Gillette gave Moncrief an Excel file of donors Gillette said she had gotten from the Obama campaign, told Moncrief to de-dupe the file and identify the campaign’s maxed-out donors to call for “get out the vote” contributions. Attorney Heather Heidelbaugh told me in an interview yesterday, “… before we started the hearing, ACORN’s attorney, Catherine Simpson -- again before we started the hearing -- said one of her witnesses was going to be Karyn Gillette, Anita’s supervisor. After Anita said on the stand that Obama’s campaign contacted Karyn Gillette -- Karyn Gillette was gone. She wasn’t in the courtroom. She wasn’t put up on the stand. Why? Because I would have asked her and she would have been under oath and she would have had to answer.”

Heidelbaugh also asked the court to order ACORN not to destroy evidence. “Anita testified on the stand that they were destroying evidence pursuant to other legal matters that they had,” she said.

Unraveling this massive organization’s activities will take a Herculean effort.

According to written testimony of James Terry of the Consumer Rights League, a group that acts as an ACORN watchdog, to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution last month, “ACORN’s massive enterprise includes as many as 150 subsidiary organizations, according to a recent legal filing by members of its board of directors. The list includes two affiliated labor union locals, TV and radio broadcast operations, immense housing counseling operations, and a number of lobbying and political entities. In all, ACORN’s total operation this year has an estimated budget of $110 million. That’s big business.”

The Congressional testimony goes on to address juggling of funds and blame between entities to cause confusion and affirms, “… the non-profit organization known as Project Vote and the political operative organization known as Citizens Services Inc. are wholly owned subsidiaries of the ACORN web of organizations. There should be no distinction between crimes or alleged crimes perpetrated by personnel from Project Vote and those from ACORN.”

- Connie Hair is a freelance writer, a former speechwriter for Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and a former media and coalitions advisor to the Senate Republican Conference.


ACORN still on the Connecticut hot seat

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Union-backed voter fraud group rules over 2008 election

The controversy is still brewing. Was it a criminal conspiracy to steal votes or a process that worked? Was it just 400 bad voter registration applications that ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, collected in Connecticut, or was it nearly 6,000 as Bridgeport and Stamford voter registrars claim?

Should there be a ban on organizations paying their people to register voters, or the implementation of some kind of automatic system that puts all eligible citizens on the poll? And should all polling places require a photo identification before allowing a person to vote in Connecticut?

All of these questions are begging answers as the State Elections Enforcement Commission investigates allegations of wrongdoing in the voter registration"'process and the investigation appears headed to the FBI.

"Why aren't we vigorously investigating this?" asked State Rep. John Hetherington, a Republican whose 125th District includes New Caanan and Wilton.

"I wish Attorney General [Richard] Blumenthal would get involved to determine if there was a criminal conspiracy or if what ACORN did was fine?"

Hetherington and State Sen. Judith G. Friedman, whose 26th District includes Westport, Wilton and Weston, recently called upon the General Assembly's Government Administration and Elections Committee to conduct a public hearing on the matter.

But Bridgeport State Rep. Christopher Caruso, who co-chairs the committee

with State Sen. Gayle Slossberg of Milford, believes the best approach is to let the Elections Enforcement Commission complete its probe and submit any legislative recommendations.

"We're not an investigative body," said Caruso. "We don't have staff. That's what Elections Enforcement and the Attorney General's Office are for."

Still Caruso concedes their findings may be cause to enact a state law that bars paid 'volunteers' from registering new voters.

"Maybe this is something we need to look at," Caruso said recently.

"Whenever money is injected into any process there's always the opportunity for scandal and wrongdoing. There's always room for abuse when a process is driven by money."

While that's a start, Hetherington also would like to see the committee make photo identification the standard means for identifying a voter at a polling place.

"If we can't stop fraud at the solicitation level, we should do it at the polling place," he said. "If every voter could be identified with some level of certainty that would go a long way to curing these issues."

Hetherington said some polling places require a photo identification, others let people vote by just showing a utility bill.

"A democracy rests on people having confidence in it," Hetherington continued. "When people start to doubt the integrity of the election process, that is the beginning of the end of democracy."

To that end, the state Elections Enforcement Commission will have a telephone hotline set-up to receive calls of alleged fraud or abuse of rights during Election Day Tuesday.

The number is 1-866-733-2463.

Acting U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy said members of her office and the FBI will be in contact with the commission.

So far the scope of the Elections Enforcement Commission probe has been limited to Bridgeport where Joseph Borges, the Republican registrar of voters, claims his office received as many as 5,000 suspicious applications and Stamford where Lucille Corelli, the Republican registrar, said she turned over nearly 600.

"I walked into a Chinese restaurant and an ACORN representative was sitting there handing out applications to everyone who walked in," said Borges. "I had to leave before I blew up."

He said he had "piles and piles" of bad applications. One applicant he found was a 7-year-old girl. Another is from a man who claims he was incarcerated at the time someone completed the form in his name.

But Nicholas Graber-Grace, an ACORN official in Connecticut, said the numbers are much lower -- 100 in Bridgeport and 300 in Stamford.

"ACORN's saying 100 -- in their dreams," said Borges. "The FBI should be interested in this."

Graber-Grace further said his organization, through cross-checking and quality control, flagged many of the problem applications before turning them in.

"We can't force people to provide all the information on the form," he said. "But we do our best to verify the information."

He said ACORN officials call the applicants to check on the information. From there they go to a quality control group that re-checks them and flags any that are "problematic."

"We're not the Registrar of Voters office," he said. "We don't have the data base they do to cross-check information. But we would catch and fire anybody who intentionally submits falsified applications."

The FBI in Connecticut referred comment on any ACORN voter registration probe to the U. S. Justice Department in Washington.

A spokesman for the U. S. Justice Department in Washington, Laura Sweeney, declined comment.

Nationally, there have been published reports that the FBI is looking into ACORNS tactics.

One of the allegations is ACORN paid its people by the number of applications they returned. Graber-Grace denies this.

"We never paid by the number of cards," he said. "We pay by the hour."

He said ACORN registered about 20,000 Connecticut voters during the spring and summer, focusing mostly on Latinos and blacks in inner city areas, who otherwise might not vote.

"These are the folks who are under-represented in the electoral process," he said.

Graber-Grace also is opposed to any law that would restrict organizations that pay their people to register voters.

"What I would support is an affirmative action program implemented that would automatically register eligible voters," he said.

"I can think of a lot of other things we could be doing as an organization other than registering people to vote."


ACORN: Corrupt class warfare racketeers

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Union-backed voter fraud group a partisan front

When Sir Walter Scott wrote in 1808, "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive," he wasn't writing about ACORN, but he might as well have been.

In 2008, the activities of the radical, corrupt left-wing Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which has tangled itself up in an infinitely complex web of deceit, thuggery, and questionable financial dealings, is long overdue for a RICO probe.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which was created to prosecute organized crime, allows the federal government to go after individuals who commit any two RICO-related crimes over a decade. The law allows courts to convict persons if it can be shown that they committed those crimes as part of an illegal enterprise and can order disgorgement of their ill-gotten gains from the enterprise.

The Ohio-based Buckeye Institute isn't waiting for the feds to act. It filed a civil action under a state racketeering law, arguing ACORN has engaged in a pattern of corrupt activity that amounts to organized crime. It seeks ACORN's dissolution as a legal entity, the revocation of any licenses it holds in Ohio, and an injunction against fraudulent voter registration and other illegal activities.

The Buckeye Institute said in a press release that the suit, filed on behalf of two voters, alleges that "ACORN's actions deprive them of the right to participate in an honest and effective elections process." The voters "allege fraudulent voter registrations submitted by ACORN dilute the votes of legally registered voters."

The suit also alleges that ACORN's voter-mobilization arm, Project Vote, "regularly advises Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner on election strategy, even recently issuing a news release that claims credit for Brunner's directive restricting challenges to suspected fraudulent voter registrations."

Brunner, a Democrat, has declined to enforce the provisions of the Help America Vote Act that requires her to use a database to allow the verification of 600,000-plus registrations from new Ohio voters. Brunner admits there are "discrepancies" on about 200,000 of the new registrations, but won't give local election officials the registration data they need to verify the validity of the registrations.

It's a recipe for disaster, but that's exactly the way her allies at ACORN like it.

That's because ACORN thrives on confusion. Its nebulous legal status and opaque corporate structure allow it to keep its activities largely hidden from public view.

The social justice entrepreneurs of ACORN sit on the boards of ACORN and of ACORN affiliates.

These "interlocking directorates" create an appearance of conflict of interest. Such arrangements may be widespread and lawful, but they always raise legitimate questions about the quality and independence of board decision-making. The ACORN network claims to be a "family" of organizations embodying the ethos of community organizing, which stresses local action and decentralized authority.

In fact, ACORN is tightly controlled from the top. One intrepid blogger discovered that 294 ACORN affiliates operate out of ACORN's building on Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans.

ACORN's many affiliates have extraordinarily sophisticated financial arrangements that are largely hidden from public view. ACORN uses its system of interlocking boards of directors to oversee its affiliates and make financial mischief.

As Jim Terry of the Consumers Rights League has noted, "ACORN has a long and sordid history of employing convoluted Enron-style accounting to illegally use taxpayer funds for their own political gain."

Look at a person named Donna Pharr. Pharr sits on the boards of at least 22 ACORN affiliates. She's also deputy treasurer of the Minnesota ACORN Political Action Committee and is listed by Michigan as the contact person for Communities Voting Together, a "527" pressure group.

And even now after it was revealed earlier this year that ACORN founder Wade Rathke covered up his brother's nearly $1 million embezzlement, Rathke remains chief organizer of ACORN affiliate SEIU Local 100, president of ACORN International Inc., and president and a director of ACORN affiliate Affiliated Media Foundation Movement Inc.

There are plenty of other examples of directors and officers playing musical chairs throughout the ACORN empire. (See Foundation Watch, November 2008.)

Commenting on ACORN's complex administrative arrangements, Charlotte Allen observes in the Weekly Standard, "The potential for abuse in an interlocking arrangement governed top-down from New Orleans is as obvious as a thicket of 'Change' signs at an Obama rally."

ACORN takes recycling seriously, at least when it comes to money.

My research determined that ACORN affiliate Project Vote paid ACORN $10,861,825 from 2000 through 2006. Project Vote also paid ACORN affiliate Citizens Services Inc. $1,206,942 in 2005 and 2006, and paid $1,266,967 to ACORN affiliate Citizens Consulting Inc. from 2000 through 2004.

Since 2000 the American Institute for Social Justice, Inc. paid ACORN $1,926,831, Citizens Consulting, Inc. $362,464, and ACORN Associates, Inc. $258,593.

On its 2002 tax form, the Institute disclosed a $1,684,184 "community reinvestment" grant to ACORN, along with a $9,637 loan to SEIU Local 100. (On the same document, the Institute also reported receiving a $50,000 interest-free loan from the Tides Foundation for "purchase of equipment," and a $4,000 interest-free loan from Open Society Institute's Progressive America Fund Inc.) In an LM-2 (labor union disclosure) form last year, SEIU Local 880 revealed that it gave $60,118 to ACORN for "membership services."

On its 2006 tax form, the American Institute for Social Justice, Inc. disclosed that it provided a $4,952,288 "community reinvestment" grant to ACORN, the non-tax-exempt Arkansas nonprofit corporation that controls the ACORN network.

ACORN lawyer Elizabeth Kingsley raised the alarm about interlocking directorates and the perilously close ties between ACORN and Project Vote. As reported in the Oct. 22, 2008 New York Times story, Kingsley found:

[T]he tight relationship between Project Vote and Acorn made it impossible to document that Project Vote's money had been used in a strictly nonpartisan manner. Until the embezzlement scandal broke last summer, Project Vote's board was made up entirely of Acorn staff members and Acorn members.

Ms. Kingsley's report raised concerns not only about a lack of documentation to demonstrate that no charitable money was used for political activities but also about which organization controlled strategic decisions.

She wrote that the same people appeared to be deciding which regions to focus on for increased voter engagement for Acorn and Project Vote. Zach Pollett, for instance, was Project Vote's executive director and Acorn's political director, until July, when he relinquished the former title. Mr. Pollett continues to work as a consultant for Project Vote through another Acorn affiliate.

"As a result, we may not be able to prove that 501(c)3 resources are not being directed to specific regions based on impermissible partisan considerations," Ms. Kingsley said, referring to the section of the tax code concerning rules for charities.

She also found problems with governance of Acorn affiliates. "Board meetings are not held, or if they are, minutes are not kept, or if minutes are kept, they never make it into the files," she wrote.

Project Vote, for example, had only one independent director since it received a federal tax exemption in 1994, and he was on the board for less than two years, its tax forms show. Since then, the board has consisted of Acorn staff members and two Acorn members who pay monthly dues.

The newspaper also interviewed George Hampton and Cleo Mata, two former Project Vote board members. Both denied serving on the board and Hampton, who acknowledged he had been an ACORN member, said he had never heard of Project Vote.

Ironically, Rathke condemned interlocking directorates in the corporate world. In 1980, he endorsed the proposed "Corporate Democracy Act" which would have fined directors up to $10,000 per day for "serving more than two corporations" simultaneously. (Heritage Foundation backgrounder, March 11, 1980)

- Matthew Vadum is a senior editor at Capital Research Center, a Washington, D.C. think tank that studies the politics of philanthropy.


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Worker for union-backed fraud group arrested by undercover cop

A Walnut Hills woman is facing prostitution and drug-related charges after allegedly approaching an undercover police officer for sex. Cincinnati police arrested Shari Bell Wednesday night, after she allegedly approached an undercover officer's car in Evanston, and offered him sex for money. Police also say they found a crack pipe in Bell's coat pocket.

Bell told police she worked for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a group that works for progress in low-income communities on issues like housing, education and voter registration, at the time of her arrest.

ACORN head organizer for Cincinnati Amy Teitelman said that Bell did work for the organization as a canvasser, going door to door for four days, but did not show up for work Wednesday, therefore she said they assumed that she had quit.


Community organizers are a riot!

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Does ACORN pay workers in crack?

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'Bin Laden is a community organizer'

NY ACORN Executive Director Betha Lewis appeared on 'The Daily Show' last night in a segment about community organizers that produced some memorable moments, not the least of which came when she hotly rejected GOP allegations that the national organization engaged in massive voter fraud.

The segment includes an interview with Matthew Vadum, of the Washington, D.C.-based Capital Research Center, (who has done quite a bit of ACORN-bashing). Vadum manages with a straight face to say that experience as a community organizer prepares one for a career as "a used car salesman, maybe a trial lawyer, rebel leader in a civil war" or a "very rewarding career in crack cocaine trafficking."

"Bin Laden is a community organizer," Vadum adds while trying to argue that Barack Obama's background hasn't adequately prepared him to be president.

Vadum also says there's a "straight line from community organizing to crack cocaine dealer."

Lewis, when asked whether ACORN has been paying for voter registration forms with crack, hotly replies:
"ACORN doesn't pay peole in crack, never would. If you want to ask me about ACORN, if you wanna ask me about community organizing, fine. But do not ask me about crack again."
Lewis is also co-chair of the Working Families Party, whose executive director, Dan Cantor, urged supporters to watch her on "The Daily Show" last night with the following e-mail (written with his tongue firmly in his cheek, in case you can't tell):
"As some of you may have heard, WFP Co-Chair and Bon Vivant Bertha Lewis has also gotten some notice lately for her role with ACORN."

"For those who are not aware, ACORN is responsible for the fiscal crisis on Wall Street through its long record of forcing mortgage brokers to make extravagant super-jumbo loans to really poor people, and then it mobilized those same low-income Americans to come out swinging for the deregulation of commodities markets and credit-default swaps."

"Not to mention, ACORN has also figured out how to purge the voter files in the battleground states of all country club members. We're talking bad, folks, really really bad."

"But Bertha is getting her say tonight, on The Daily Show. I think it's at 11 o'clock, and I'm hoping to stay awake. I urge you to do the same."

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