Frankly, my dear, I didn’t give a damn about ACORN’s community organizing for the impoverished until I saw the videos on You Tube obtained by a self-described nerd who is more of an icon-shattering crusader than staunch conservative as some would have us believe. That caught me attention.
In case you missed it the edited snippets show low-level ACORN representatives telling the filmmakers how to obtain a loan to finance a house of prostitution featuring teenage girls from Third World countries.
ACORN is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and has dozens of affiliated entities, from a home-buying assistance corporation to community radio stations to liberal research and training institutes and voter registration drives. It is so far flung the left hand seldom knows what the right hand is doing.
The filmmaker is James E. O’Keefe III, 25, a Rutgers University grad student who with a friend, 20-year-old Hannah Giles, shocked the nation to such an extent that both Houses of Congress voted this past week to jerk all federal funding to ACORN.
That’s what got me thinking. The legislation doesn’t say how many federal dollars are at stake and the estimates are about as far apart as the crowd count at last weekend’s 9/12 rally in Washington D.C. Liberal moderators such as those on MSNBC claim it’s only several million dollars. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., claims it’s in the neighborhood of $53 million.
But the votes in Congress weren’t even close. The House was 345-75 and the Senate 85-11. Who says bipartisanship in Congress is dead?
The best I could find in Googling searches was an October 2008 report by NPR on ACORN funding.
First, government grants:
The Department of Housing and Urban Development gave $8.2 million to ACORN Housing Corp. between 2003 and 2006. HUD gave another $1.6 million since 2003 to other ACORN affiliates. The Environmental Protection Agency granted $100,000 in 2004 to rid homes of lead. The Justice Department gave $138,000 for a juvenile delinquency prevention program in New York City.
No money to ACORN in the 2009 stimulus bill has been allocated.
The Service Employees International Union gave more than $4 million in 2006-2007.
Liberal groups such as the Bauman Family Foundation $350,000, George Soros’ Open Society Institute $300,000 and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation $1.8 million. Large mainstream corporations include JP Morgan Chase $2.4 million, Bank of America Charitable Foundation $1.4 million, Citigroup $1.5 million, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation $1.4 million, the Ford Foundation $1.3 million and foundations affiliated with the late founder of United Parcel Service a combined $6.4 million.
Contributions from individuals are almost impossible to track but the NPR report listed an aggregate exceeding $500,000 including $200,000 from Soros.
ACORN is accustomed to scandals since its founding in Louisiana in 1970 and has been a pain in the butt to conservatives because of the taxpayer money involved and the group’s voter registration unit that helped the election of Barack Obama, who once represented ACORN as an attorney.
The Los Angeles Times reports today:
Amy Schur, ACORN’s head organizer for California, acknowledged that the organization has had a tough year,
but said that the state’s 12 offices would survive. Membership is up, and funding has been stable, she said.
“Our organization is under attack,” she said. “But we’re going to come out of this just fine.”
Schur said that the decentralized nature of ACORN ensures that if an office in one part of the country founders, it won’t necessarily affect those in the rest of the country.
Still, Schur said, she has taken steps to quell any public uneasiness. Schur said that the organization had hired an independent auditor to review the finances of the state’s programs, and that the group would require more training for staff.
As many as 40% of its entities have shut down in the past year and no new clients are being signed up, said national spokesman Brian Kettenring, while the group conducts an internal investigation into how its business is conducted.
There are criminal investigations in at least seven states by the Justice Department and three states have launched investigation to cut off funding.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will ask its chief administrator to investigate ACORN’s list of 26,000 newly registered voters in that county in which some applications failed to be filled out properly.
According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the undercover filmmakers’ video of a National City ACORN office employee giving advise about illegal border crossings “rocked” the community. That employee was fired Thursday.
A New York Times profile today on O’Keefe quotes him as surprised by the hellstorm his ACORN videos created.
In a telephone interview on Thursday night — when he was editing still more ACORN footage — O’Keefe said that when he accepted Giles’s idea that they take on ACORN, “I thought we’d get some snippets” worth posting to the Web. “I’m a skinny nerd, the least convincing pimp in the world,” he said.
Instead, a succession of ACORN workers advised the pair on how to smuggle Salvadoran girls into the country, falsify a loan application to buy a house for use as a brothel and even claim the under-age prostitutes as dependents for tax purposes.
“It was an absolute revelation,” O’Keefe said. But it was a familiar pattern in his outlandish sting operations, he said: “People say to me, ‘They’re never going to say yes,’ but they always do.” Repeatedly, his requests have been met with credulous, clueless or incriminating answers, making for a riveting few minutes on the Web.
ACORN’S national chief executive officer Bertha Lewis will appear on Fox’s Sunday show. Chris Wallace, whose Fox network first broadcast the videos, will do the interview.
That might be worth watching.
Jerry Remmers worked 26 years in the newspaper business. His last 23 years was with the Evening Tribune in San Diego where assignments included reporter, assistant city editor, county and politics editor.