04.12.2010 0

ACORN’s Partisan Activities on Behalf of Obama should be Re-Examined

By Kevin Mooney –

ACORN’s questionable financial transactions and political activity were explored by the New York Times in the months leading up to the 2008 presidential election. But this reporting was abruptly cut off. Now would be a good time to reactivate the investigation since the organization is supposedly disbanding.

Just a few months ago, ACORN denied that it would be changing its name and reconstituting itself. But that process is now in motion as various nationwide affiliates assume more generic labels.

As of April 1st, the organization was discontinuing operations and disbanding in response to financial shortfalls and ongoing scandals. But policy analysts who are familiar with ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now are convinced the news media has been duped and that the nationwide network liberal activists are merely reconstituting themselves.

Even as the organization supposedly melts away, state chapters are obtaining nonprofit status on their own as advocacy groups under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, according to Matthew Vadum, a senior analyst and editor with the Capital Research Center (CRC). This is significant because 501c4 status makes it possible for the new entities to conceal their financial activities.

There is some history here where The New York Times is concerned. In the months leading up to the 2008 presidential election, former ACORN insider Anita MonCrief served as a confidential source to Stephanie Strom, a Times reporter. She wrote the following reports based on information furnished by MonCrief:

“1.) ‘Funds Misappropriated at Two Nonprofit Groups’ July 9, 2008; 2.) ‘Head of Foundation Bailed Out Nonprofit Group After Is Funds Were Embezzled’ August 16, 2008; 3.) ’Lawsuit Add to Turmoil for Community Group’ September 9, 2008; 4.) ‘On Obama, ACORN and Voter Registration’ October 10, 2008; 5.) ‘ACORN Working on Deal to Sever Ties with Founder’ October 15, 2008; and 6.) ‘ACORN Report Raises Issues of Legality’ October 21, 2008.”

But the exposure of ACORN came to an abrupt halt when MonCrief provided hard proof of the close connection between the controversial, self-described community group and the Obama campaign, Heather Heidelbaugh, a Pennsylvania attorney explained in testimony.

“The New York Times articles stopped when Ms. Moncrief, who is a Democrat and a supporter of the President, revealed that the Obama Presidential Campaign had sent its maxed out donor list to Karen Gillette of the Washington, DC ACORN office and asked Gillette and Ms. Moncrief to reach out to the maxed out donors and solicit donations from them for Get Out the Vote efforts to be run by ACORN,” Heidelbaugh said in her testimony.

Heidelbaugh continued, “Upon learning this information and receiving the list of donors from the Obama Campaign, Ms. Strom reported to Ms. Moncrief that her editors at the New York Times wanted her to kill the story because, and I quote, `it was a game changer.’ That’s when Ms. Moncrief telephoned me on October 21, 2008. Ms. Strom never wrote another article about ACORN for the New York Times for the remainder of the period before Election Day, i.e. November 4, 2008.”

Heidelbaugh who served on the executive committee of the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA), filed an injunction against ACORN on voter registration fraud allegations in Harrisburg, Pa. in 2008. MonCrief, a former employee of ACORN’s Project Vote affiliate, provided offered her own testimony at the injunction hearing. It is evident from MonCrief’s remarks that ACORN and Project Vote may have violated federal laws, according to legal experts familiar with her testimony.

It was revealed, for instance, that the Obama campaign paid the ACORN affiliate Citizens Services International (“CSI”) almost $900,000 for voter registration, voter identification, turnout and get-out-the-vote services. The Obama campaign reported to the FEC that the expenditure was for “sound and lighting equipment,” which does not exist, according to the testimony.

Most recently, The Times ran a piece focusing on the “path forward” for the revamped ACORN organization. Apparently, a letter has been released just to The New York Times that reaffirms the leadership’s commitment to various liberal causes. Here’s how it is reported: “You will continue to hear from Acorn — in the mail, on the Web, and in the media,” says the letter, a draft of which was provided to The New York Times. “And we need your continued support to counter the vicious antifamily, anti-minority, anti-immigrant attacks of the Republican right.”

The new affiliates operating without the ACORN name will persist in working for health care reform, immigration reform and affordable housing, according to the letter, which has been dispersed to the approximately 120,000 members on ACORN’s email list, the report says.

Going forward, reports should challenge some assertions made in the “internal document” that The Times has acquired. These new organizations are making a clean break from ACORN in that they will not be using any ACORN money and will be comprised of lawyers and accountants untouched by the previous entity.

As it was, there were always dozens of affiliates and allied organizations pushing a far-left agenda that did not use the ACORN label.

The Times should activate the investigations that were underway in the months leading up the 2008 election and carefully examine how taxpayer funds were allocated between organizations that were precluded by law from participating in partisan policy activity.

Kevin Mooney is the Executive Editor of TimesCheck.com and a contributing editor to ALG News Bureau.

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