La prensa
Uber banner

Stop the vendetta against ACORN

Author: John Buell
Created: 13 November, 2009
Updated: 13 September, 2023
3 min read


 The double standard on ACORN exposes the real underside of American politics: Our democracy is skewed against the voices of the poor.

 Some of my best friends have worked for ACORN. They are honest, dedicated and moral individuals who appreciated the mission of this group, which has done so much good for some of our poorest citizens.

 So I take it personally when Congress reduces ACORN to an object lesson about the purported immorality of some community organizers.

 ACORN isn’t perfect.

 Both its loose organizational supervision and occasional zealotry of its organizers have led to abuses.

 But Congress has been extremely hypocritical and biased in cutting off federal funds.

 When two conservative activists posed as a pimp and a prostitute and with a hidden camera went to a number of ACORN’s tax preparation offices seeking tax counseling, they managed to find a couple of staffers who gave foolish and unprofessional advice. ACORN has since fired those employees.

 But that wasn’t enough for Congress. Absent any attempt to assess how widespread such practices are or whether ACORN is striving to monitor its organizers more closely, Congress acted with unprecedented speed and zeroed out ACORN’s funding.

 Yet as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., one of only seven senators to oppose this rush to judgment, pointed out, Congress has no trouble lavishly funding many corporate felons.

 The Brattleboro Reformer, a Vermont newspaper, recently observed that Blackwater, a company that has five of its employees facing murder charges in a massacre of Iraqi civilians in 2007, received a $217 million contract from the Obama administration to provide security in Iraq.

 In addition, former Halliburton subsidiary KBR got $80 million in contract bonuses to provide electrical wiring in Iraq — wiring that electrocuted 16 soldiers and two contractors.

 Nonetheless, Congress has not defunded it.

 In order to even the scales of justice, Sanders has proposed legislation to require the Department of Defense to calculate how much it pays companies that commit fraud, and also to make the Pentagon recommend how to penalize contractors that repeatedly cheat the government.

 But Republicans still won’t let go of the ACORN bone. On Oct. 26, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said, “Let’s not pretend that ACORN is gone.” And he warned that some of the organization’s affiliates might try to pull a fast one and change their names.

 I haven’t heard Issa complain about Blackwater or Halliburton.

 The double standard on ACORN exposes the real underside of American politics: Our democracy is skewed against the voices of the poor.

 Fordham political scientist Thomas DeLuca points out: “Elections are flawed by the role of money in politics, unwieldy voter registration, holding elections on work days and limiting our choices to only two political parties.” The consequence of these intertwined and reinforcing practices is gaping class inequalities in voter turnout.

 Today citizens in the bottom fifth of the income distribution are almost twice as unlikely to vote as those in the top fifth. And increasing voter participation by the poor is one of the goals of ACORN.

 If your group is trying to redress vast inequalities in our society, and someone in your group does something wrong, then you’re toast. But if you’re a corporate criminal, our government doesn’t care. In fact, it will reward you with multimillion-dollar contracts.

 ACORN’s real mistake was not being a military contractor. Then it would still be getting public money.