Barack Obama is running as fast and as far away from his association with the radical group ACORN as he can, but he can’t hide from the facts of his close relationship with the organization.
ACORN, or Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, describes itself as a “non-partisan” group devoted to helping the poor and to registering millions to vote. Critics accuse ACORN of involvement vote fraud, voter intimidation, shakedowns against businesses, and the promotion of socialist class hatred and class warfare.
Apparently worried by the connection between Obama and the group, his campaign has put claims of his ties to ACORN as the lead item on its “Fight The Smears” Web site — a site the Obama campaign created to counter what they claim are partisan lies made up against their candidate.
The release on the Obama site reads: “When Obama met with ACORN leaders in November, he reminded them of his history with ACORN and his beginnings in Illinois as a Project Vote organizer, a nonprofit focused on voter rights and education. Senator Obama said, ‘I come out of a grassroots organizing background. That's what I did for three and half years before I went to law school. That's the reason I moved to Chicago was to organize.
“So this is something that I know personally, the work you do, the importance of it. I've been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drive in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.”
Indeed, Obama was being far too modest. The 2008 Democratic presidential nominee had worked not just alongside ACORN, but also as a key operative for the organization.
He was its lawyer in several pivotal ACORN cases.
Obama funded a number of its activities, as well. When he sat on the board of the prestigious Woods Fund for Chicago alongside former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers, he oversaw and approved many grants for ACORN.
As the National Review’s Stanley Kurtz reported, one Woods committee report boasted that the fund’s “non-ideological” public image “enabled the Trustees to make grants to organizations that use confrontational tactics against the business and government ‘establishments’ without undue risk of being accused of partisanship.”
Obama was the Illinois director of ACORN’s controversial voter registration operation, and he trained the group’s leaders in the ways of radical, sometimes illegal, confrontational politics.
He also paid ACORN affiliates during his recent Democratic primary contest. For example, leading up to the 2008 Ohio Democratic Primary, Obama’s campaign between Feb. 25 and March 17 paid Citizens Services, Inc., a subsidiary of ACORN, $832,598, apparently for get-out-the-vote activities.
Obama’s mysterious, shrouded past as a “community organizer” is closely tied to ACORN, a group that supplies a large share of the Democratic Party political shock troops responsible for the party’s recapture of Congress in 2006.
ACORN has at least 350,000 dues-paying member families, and more than 800 chapters spread among at least 104 U.S. cities as well as in Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and Peru.
To outsiders, Obama’s “long service with ACORN led many of its members to serve as the voluntary shock troops of Obama’s early political campaigns — his initial 1996 State Senate campaign, and his failed bid for Congress in 2000,” wrote Kurtz. “With Obama having personally helped train a new cadre of Chicago ACORN leaders, by the time of Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, Obama and ACORN were ‘old friends.’”
ACORN’s Radical Roots
ACORN’s four co-founders were 1960s New Leftists. One was George Wiley, whose National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) members practiced confrontation politics, e.g., swarming into welfare offices and bullying social workers. The second ACORN co-founder was NWRO organizer Gary Delgado.
Wiley made no secret that he followed the radical tactics proposed in the far-left The Nation Magazine by socialist Columbia University scholars Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, who argued that American capitalism could be bankrupted and destroyed by overloading our system with ever-rising costs and bureaucratic demands. (In 1996, President Bill Clinton invited Cloward and Piven to the White House as honored guests.)
ACORN’s other founders and longtime bosses were former Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) activist Wade Rathke, a close NWRO ally, and his brother Dale.
“We are the majority, forged from all minorities,” proclaimed ACORN’s founding 1970 “People’s Platform” manifesto. “We are the masses of many, not the forces of few…. We will wait no longer for the crumbs at America’s door. We will not be meek, but mighty.”
In ACORN, the Rathkes replaced Cloward-Piven tactics designed to overthrow capitalist America with the confrontational-but-compromising tactics of Chicago socialist Saul Alinsky.
“Instead of trying to overturn ‘the system — to blow it up, as Wiley wanted to do, ACORN burrows deep within the system,” wrote Manhattan Institute scholar Sol Stern, adding, “taking over its power and using its institutions for its own purposes, like a political ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’”
The Rathkes first established ACORN as the Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now and struck a personal deal with that state’s liberal Republican then-Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, who reportedly paid the newly-sprouted ACORN $5,000 in cash to register voters. “Of course, they thought we were going to register Republicans,” Delgado later boasted. “We did not register a single Republican voter in that election. However, we did use those resources early on to build the organization.”
Obama, ACORN, and Vote Fraud
Selectively adding millions of Democratic names to the voter rolls remains one of ACORN’s most lucrative activities, for which this organization has been given millions of dollars by organized labor, non-profit foundations, and Democratic-controlled government agencies.
Because Obama had worked closely with one of its leaders, Madeline Talbott, ACORN, in 1995, specifically sought out this radical young lawyer to help craft its lawsuit to impose President Bill Clinton’s 1993 National Voter Registration Act, nicknamed “Motor Voter,” according to Chicago ACORN leader Toni Foulkes.
Obama’s ACORN lawsuit won, thereby slapping aside state officials who resisted Motor Voter because of what it soon proved to be: a 12-lane superhighway to massive vote fraud.
The Motor Voter law required bureaucrats at welfare offices, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and other government offices to register as voters those who used their services. “Examiners were under orders not to ask anyone for identification or proof of citizenship,” wrote Wall Street Journal reporter John Fund in his book “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.” “States also had to permit mail-in voter registrations, which allowed anyone to register without any personal contact with a registrar or election official.”
Those who took advantage of government services such as welfare were disproportionately likely to vote for the Big Government party. Motor Voter also made it more difficult to purge voter rolls of fraudulent registrations.
Motor Voter, wrote Fund, “fueled an explosion of phantom voters.” But in Barack Obama’s Democrat-ruled Chicago, phantom voters and voting graveyards are nothing new.
Motor Voter was the Clinton administration’s attempt permanently to tilt voter rolls in favor of the Democratic Party. And Obama, working for ACORN, played a key role in imposing this law.
Perhaps thanks to ACORN’s and Motor Voter’s influence, of the 19 foreign terrorists who attacked America on 9/11, at least six were registered to vote.
In 1992, Obama took time off as a lawyer to direct Project Vote, ACORN’s voter mobilization entity, statewide in Illinois. Project Vote added an estimated 125,000 names to voter rolls, which helped propel Democrat Carol Moseley Braun into the same U.S. Senate seat Obama now holds.
Nationwide, ACORN’s Project Vote claims to have helped register more than 4 million voters in low-income and minority neighborhoods. Project Vote’s tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status prohibits its involvement in partisan political activity, but one of its leaders told Foundation Watch that “lots of grass-roots members” are assisting the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.
ACORN, wrote Foundation Watch investigators Elias Crim and Matthew Vadum last June, has a “record of highly-publicized voter fraud allegations” lodged against it “in Ohio (2004), Wisconsin (2004), Florida (2004), New Mexico (2004), Colorado (2005), Missouri (2006), and Washington State (2007).” They could have named other states as well.
In 2006, in Missouri’s U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent James Talent lost by about 50,000 votes to Democrat Claire McCaskill.
“A sizeable portion of that margin,” wrote columnist Carl Horowitz, “was attributable to ACORN organizers submitting phony or at least suspicious voter-registration cards to election officials in the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas. Several ACORN members in Kansas City were indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office just prior to Election Day, and eventually pleaded guilty. [Wade] Rathke, not one for subtlety, called City of St. Louis election officials ‘slop buckets’ when they questioned the veracity of ACORN-submitted forms.”
And who was Missouri state auditor during 2006, responsible at a statewide level for overseeing the honesty of voter registration? “That,” wrote Horowitz, “would be Claire McCaskill.” And Sen. McCaskill is one of Obama’s most ardent supporters.
In Florida, ACORN’s 2004 Miami-Dade field director, Mac Stuart, according to David Horowitz’s DiscoverTheNetworks.org investigation, “has testified that fraud is standard procedure for ACORN/Project Vote canvassers — behavior that is not only tolerated, but encouraged by supervisors.” Stuart reportedly told investigators: “[T]he voter registration project has been operating illegally since it started.”
In 2005, Virginia authorities sampled Project Vote registrations and rejected 83 percent of them for containing false or questionable information.
In Washington state, five ACORN employees were convicted in 2007 in what its Secretary of State Sam Reed called “the worst case of election fraud in our state’s history. It was an outrage.”
In this state the current Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire was elected literally by a handful of votes, but 450 apparently fictitious names were found registered to vote as Democrats at a single address. At least 1,700 ACORN voter registrations — using the names of Harry Reid, Dennis Hastert, and movie and sports stars — were later revoked in just one county of the state.
In Nevada, the state most likely to decide the 2008 presidential election, the Las Vegas Review-Journal last July 7 reported that a Clark County official “sees rampant fraud in the 2,000 to 3,000 registrations ACORN turns in every week.”
ACORN, of course, blames a handful of overzealous activists or mercenaries for acts of voter registration fraud. ACORN denies that it condones or encourages any illegal behavior.
Incidentally, Obama’s ACORN comrade Madeline Talbott, according to Kurtz, “was so impressed by Obama’s organizing skills that she invited him to help train her own staff.” In 1997, notes Kurtz, Talbott was “a key leader” of 200 ACORN protestors who on July 31 tried to storm a Chicago City Council session.
These ACORN demonstrators, wrote Kurtz, reportedly “pushed over a metal detector and table used to screen visitors, backed police against the doors to the council chamber, and blocked late-arriving aldermen and city staff from entering the session….almost certainly a deliberate bit of what radicals call ‘direct action,’ orchestrated by ACORN’s Madeline Talbott,” who was “led away handcuffed, charged with mob action and disorderly conduct.”
Obama has never been led away in handcuffs for radical behavior. But, notes Kurtz, Obama has used groups of ominously angry activists to intimidate and pressure local officials.
A newspaper photo of Obama in his “community organizer” days shows him next to activist group the Developing Communities Project (DCP) posters that read: “It’s a power thing.” The ACORN organizer manual likewise declares, “This is a mass organization directed at political power where might makes right.”
Obama supporters in 2008 have angrily demonstrated against, and shared information intended to disrupt, a radio talk show in Chicago that has had Kurtz as a guest. This could be a foretaste of how intimidation might be used to stifle criticism of a President Obama administration.
By the 1980s, ACORN was expanding its horizons from voter registration to housing.
“In 1985, ACORN illegally seized 25 abandoned buildings owned by New York City and installed squatters as residents,” recounted a New York Post editorial. “A weak-kneed City Hall eventually gave the group title to the buildings — proving that crime can pay.”
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed the Community Redevelopment Act (CRA), which, in retrospect, was the opening wedge for what now threatens to become a government takeover of all housing in America. Under Carter’s administration, the domestic Peace Corps government entity VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America, gave a federal grant of $470,000 to ACORN to train volunteers to help low-income citizens.
A later congressional investigation found that ACORN illegally used this money for labor organizing.
According to ACORN co-founder Delgado, after two of “their own,” Sam Brown and Marjorie Tabankin, became directors of Carter’s ACTION agency and VISTA program, “over 3 million dollars was funneled directly to ACORN” and other left-wing organizations.
After the Clinton administration gave a grant worth more than $1 million to ACORN Housing Corp, an investigation by the inspector general of AmeriCorps found that AHC used government funds to register low-income persons for paid ACORN memberships, in violation of federal law.
Apparently this taxpayer money was given only to those poor people who agreed to pay $60 immediately back to ACORN.
By the infiltration of ideological comrades into positions of power at government agencies, ACORN became the recipient of a flood of taxpayer-funded grants, including some worth millions of dollars. AHC alone between 1997 and 2006 received more than $11,230,000 in public funds.
In 2005 alone, according to Department of Labor disclosure statements, labor leaders reportedly paid more than $2.4 million to ACORN in gifts, grants, and fees for organizing work.
Mandatory family membership dues bring ACORN another $3 million or so per year.
But foundations and churches, boasted Wade Rathke in 2004, account for less than half the revenue ACORN pockets from corporations that had been the targets of successful ACORN protest campaigns.
ACORN and Today’s Credit Crisis
President Carter’s CRA and related laws were repeatedly expanded to require lending institutions to avoid “redlining” policies that denied home loans to those in minority neighborhoods.
Obama was one of many lawyers who profited from successfully suing on grounds that discrimination was the reason an African-American was denied a home loan.
Banks and other lenders needed not only public good will but also the cooperation of government regulators to approve mergers and other business activities. Expanding laws such as CRA meant that if ACORN accused a bank of racial discrimination and unleashed protestors against it, however unjustly, that bank might suddenly face very unfriendly government regulators. Banks were thus set up to be easy victims for ACORN shakedowns, and paying protection money became necessary for bank survival.
“The same corporations that pay ransom to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton pay ransom to ACORN,” said Robert L. Woodson, President of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.
“The 2000 tax return for the ACORN Housing Corporation,” reported the Employment Policies Institute (EPI), “disclosed grants from Bank of America, Fleet Services Corporation, Fannie Mae Foundation, Chase Manhattan Foundation, and Well Fargo Foundation totaling $4,752,198.” And AHC is just one of 100 arms of the ACORN octopus.
“The banks know they are being held up,” one financial industry consultant told EPI researchers, “but they are not going to fight over this. They look at it as a cost of doing business.”
Politicians and left-wing activist groups including ACORN were doing more than shaking down lending institutions for their own profit. They also demanded that lending standards be loosened for those in the underclass who tend to vote Democratic.
With a large political gun aimed at their heads, banks commenced making hundreds of thousands of what they called “Ninja” — no income, no job, no assets — loans to minorities who previously would have been deemed uncreditworthy. Knowing that many of these loans they were coerced to make would go bad, many lending institutions bundled them into new types of investment packages and sold them to shed risk.
The giant quasi-governmental lending institutions Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae, both largely run by Democratic appointees, became sources of funding for groups such as ACORN that aided Democratic politicians — and promoters of high-risk subprime home loans.
Democratic executives at these institutions, such as former Clinton administration member and Fannie Mae chair and chief executive officer, Franklin Raines, arranged to have their incomes increase with the amount of lending their institutions did. In six years of recklessly having Fanny Mae assume an astronomical burden of risk, Raines pushed his own income above $90 million.
As former federal prosecutor James H. Walsh recounted in a Sept. 22 Newsmax.com article, Raines was an adviser to Obama until recent national financial problems made Raines too risky to embrace.
[Editor's Note: Read “Obama, Voter Fraud & Mortgage Meltdown” — Go Here Now].
Obama, noted Walsh, had been “the Senate’s second-largest recipient of campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”
Is ACORN troubled by what many are calling a credit meltdown and the likelihood that many minority homeowners may lose their homes? Probably not, because the ideological aim of ACORN’s radical founders was to destroy capitalism and replace it with socialism. In the current financial situation, government will get bigger, free markets will become less free, and vast amounts of capital will shift from private companies to government.
For those like Barack Obama who share ACORN’s ideology, the situation is perfect — heads, government wins; tails, capitalism loses. If people keep their homes, many will naively thank the Democratic politicians and left-wing activists who caused their problems in the first place. If poor people lose their homes, they will be that much easier for ACORN to brainwash with class hatred against evil capitalists.
And lest we forget, the first think that congressional Democrats put into their proposed “bailout package” to solve the financial crisis was a permanent slush fund to be extracted from capitalist institutions that would start growing at more than $20 million. The beneficiaries of this now-deleted slush fund were to have been radical Democrat-allied organizations such as ACORN.
The Rathkes commingled ACORN’s socialist redistribute-the-wealth ideology with their own hypocrisy and personal greed. From ACORN, they spun off approximately 100 other legal entities.
They then created a shell game under which money acquired by one ACORN front group, e.g., Project Vote, would be moved to other ACORN-controlled groups, in some cases to acquire property.
One former Arkansas ACORN chair, Dorothy Perkins, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, described the organization as “building up a land portfolio” that was supposed to “translate to money and power for the national organization.”
But that money was “never seen” by the poor people ACORN claimed to serve, she said, and “all the money ended up” under Wade Rathke’s control. Rathke, she said, ran ACORN “like a Jim Jones cult.”
Relatively little of the redistributed wealth of Rathke’s ACORN conglomerate trickled down to the poor, and comparatively little went to the organization’s thousands of full-time “community organizers.”
Typical pay was $25,000 a year or less, for which ACORN employees were expected to work 54 hours or more per week, weekends included. In 2006, ACORN required many of its workers in Missouri to sign an agreement that they would be “working up to 80 hours over seven days of work.”
ACORN went to court in California, arguing unsuccessfully that it should be exempt from minimum wage laws. But in recent years, ACORN has staged many demonstrations to demand a “living wage,” typically a minimum of $12 or more per hour, for minimum wage workers.
According to Mac Stuart, ACORN collected more than $4 for each completed, and illegally copied, voter registration. Its workers who found people and submitted their registrations were paid only $2, with ACORN and the Rathkes pocketing the difference.
But ACORN had many other sources for its annual $37.5 million budget, including millions in government and foundation grants.
ACORN head Wade Rathke was also chief organizer of a New Orleans local of one of America’s most radical labor unions, the Service Employee’s International Union (SEIU), and ACORN was a close ally of organized labor. Unions sometimes paid ACORN to have its low-paid workers march with picket signs pretending to be striking union members.
When ACORN workers, as well as those in his SEIU union local, tried to form their own unions to bargain for higher wages and shorter hours, Rathke successfully used a wide array of union-busting techniques to stop them — the same kinds of techniques he routinely condemned other businesses for using.
But the Rathkes fell from power in 2008 shortly before The New York Times on July 9 reported that in 1999-2000 Dale Rathke, then ACORN’s chief financial officer, had diverted $948,607 from ACORN and affiliated charitable organization accounts.
Other ACORN officials in 2001 reportedly obtained a restitution agreement from Wade Rathke to repay the missing funds in $30,000 per-year installments.
ACORN, meanwhile, continued to pay Wade Rathke considerably more than $30,000 each year, in effect covering these repayments, while Dale Rathke’s apparent embezzlement of almost a million dollars — in contributions to help the poor — was kept secret from the public and from those funding ACORN.
“How did ACORN handle the crime?” asked a July 13 New York Post editorial. “By disguising it on the books as a loan from one of its contractors….” and only letting Rathke go “when word of his fraud leaked to donors…. most of the people who covered up the embezzlement are still working for ACORN.”
“We thought it best at the time to protect the organizations,” said ACORN President Maude Hurd. “We did what we thought was right.” Or what served the interests of the left.
Welcome to ACORN, the organization that made Barack Obama what he is today, and that may make him president of the United States.
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