OBAMA, ACORN, LA CRISIS BANCARIA Y EL FRAUDE ELECTORAL
ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS FOR REFORM NOW (ACORN)
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Largest radical group in America, with more than 400,000 dues-paying member families and more than 1,200 chapters in 110 U.S. cities, was implicated in numerous reports of fraudulent voter registration, vote-rigging, voter intimidation, and vote-for-pay scams during recent election cycles
Pressured banks to lend money to underqualified minority borrowers
Maintains close ties to organized labor
Calls for more government control over citizens and the economy
Favors a government monopoly in healthcare
Advocates an open-door immigration policy.
As this profile will demonstrate, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) was a leading player in the push, throughout the 1990s, to force banks to increase — by any means necessary — the number of mortgage loans that they made to undercapitalized racial minorities. As such, ACORN played a major role in sowing the seeds for the housing bust and the current economic crisis. But in its literature, ACORN does not draw this connection. Instead it depicts itself as a champion of the poor, while directing all blame to so-called “predatory lenders.” Says ACORN:
“Predatory lending has ignited a wildfire of foreclosures across the United States. Foreclosures don’t just hurt individuals and families, they hurt entire neighborhoods and communities, leaving homes abandoned and vulnerable to vagrancy and crime. No other organization has fought harder to increase access to credit for low-income and minority families than ACORN, but predatory lending is threatening to reverse the progress we have made.”
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is a grassroots political organization that grew out of George Wiley’s National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), whose members in the late 1960s and early 1970s invaded welfare offices across the U.S. — often violently — bullying social workers and loudly demanding every penny to which the law “entitled” them. In the late Sixties, ACORN co-founder Wade Rathke was an NWRO organizer and a protegé of Wiley. Rathke also organized a draft-resistance campaign for the militant group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) during the same period.
In 1970 Rathke — along with the aforementioned Wiley (who was best known for his effective use of the so-called “Cloward-Piven strategy”) and Gary Delgado (a lead organizer for Wiley’s NWRO) — formed a new entity called Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The group’s name was later changed to Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, but the acronym ACORN remained. Instead of focusing only on welfare recipients, ACORN’s mandate now included all issues touching low-income and working-class people. Foundation Watch editor Matthew Vadum explains specifically what ACORN has done ever since its inception:
“ACORN ... organizes crude protests against businesspeople and public officials. Opposed to the profit motive and capitalism in general, it pushes for more government control over citizens and the economy. ACORN supports gun control, a government monopoly in healthcare and an open door immigration policy. It supports a big raise in the federal minimum wage and so-called ‘living-wage’ laws enacted by states and cities. ACORN wants more funding for urban public schools, and wants federal and state laws enacted guaranteeing paid sick leave for all full-time workers. The group claims to fight for affordable housing and it rails against foreclosures and so-called ‘predatory’ lending, even though it demands that banks make loans [to underqualified borrowers] destined to default.”
Manhattan Institute scholar Sol Stern writes that ACORN, professing its dedication to “the poor and powerless,” in fact “promotes a 1960s-bred agenda of anti-capitalism, central planning, victimology, and government handouts to the poor.” ACORN, Stern elaborates, organizes people “to push for ever
more government control of the economy” and to pursue “the ultra-Left’s familiar anti-capitalist redistributionism.” This agenda is made plain in ACORN’s own “People’s Platform,” which says: “We are the majority, forged from all the minorities. We will continue our fight … until we have shared the wealth …”
In the early Seventies, Wade Rathke and his ACORN co-founders enlisted civil-rights workers and trained them in a program (at Syracuse University) patterned after Saul Alinsky’s activist tactics. Often those tactics were subtle, featuring the quiet infiltration of political, educational, and financial infrastructures by ACORN members. In other cases, the methods were brazenly confrontational. As Carl Horowitz of the National Legal and Policy Center notes:
“In July 1997 … roughly 200 ACORN protestors stormed a session of the Chicago City Council (which was discussing “living wage” issues at that time), pushing over the metal detector and table used to screen visitors, backing police against doors, and blocking entrance to the room by late-arriving alderman and staff; six persons were arrested in the fracas.”
On another occasion, ACORN dispatched four busloads of protesters to the site of Baltimore mayor Martin O’Malley’s home, where they screamed profanities at the mayor and his family. Additional ACORN members, meanwhile, piled mounds of garbage in front of Baltimore’s City Hall to protest the alleged paucity of services in the area’s poor neighborhoods. “We’re up in their face,” an ACORN representative said proudly.
In 1995 ACORN protested what it characterized as the Republican-led Congress’ proposed “spending cuts” on welfare programs. (In actuality, no cuts were being proposed; the Republicans were calling for an increase in welfare spending, but it was a smaller increase than ACORN wanted.) The New York Post describes the scene of this ACORN demonstration:
“House Speaker Newt Gingrich was scheduled to address a meeting of county commissioners at the Washington Hilton. But, first, some 500 protesters from [ACORN] poured into the ballroom from both the kitchen and the main entrance. Hotel staffers who tried to block them were quickly overwhelmed by demonstrators chanting, ‘Nuke Newt!’ and ‘We want Newt!’ Jamming the aisles, carrying bullhorns and taunting the assembled county commissioners, demonstrators swiftly took over the head table and commandeered the microphone, sending two members of Congress scurrying. The demonstrators’ target, Gingrich, hadn’t yet arrived — and his speech was cancelled. When the cancellation was announced, ACORN’s foot soldiers cheered.”
Publicado: 06-09-2009 12:26 PM
As of May 2009, ACORN claimed more than 400,000 dues-paying member families and more than 1,200 chapters in 110 U.S. cities. (The organization is also active in Canada and Mexico). It owns two radio stations, a housing corporation, and a law office, and maintains affiliate relationships with a host of trade-union locals. In addition, ACORN runs schools where children are trained in class-consciousness (New York City’s Bread and Roses High School and the ACORN High School for Social Justice); a network of “boot camps” for the training of street activists; and operations that extort contributions from banks and other businesses under threat of racial violence and trumped-up civil-rights charges.
In 1998 in New York, ACORN founded the Working Families Party (WFP), which endorses candidates for political office. WFP endorsed Hillary Clinton in her 2000 Senate race. Canvassers from ACORN and its sister groups launched a statewide voter-mobilization drive that proved influential in Clinton’s victory. In November 2001, a coalition of radical politicians led by ACORN-sponsored candidates running on the WFP ticket won a veto-proof majority on the New York City Council, giving ACORN de facto control of the New York City government.
ACORN’s current platform in New York calls for a rollback of welfare reforms; a crackdown on NYC police, including a ban on “racial and ethnic profiling”; and the appointment of a politicized Civilian Review Board newly empowered to prosecute police officers. ACORN also seeks to use its influence to raise corporate taxes, increase regulation, and empower unions with an array of new rights. Moreover, ACORN aims to prevent any corporation from being free to leave New York without first obtaining an “exit visa” from the City Council.
ACORN makes a great deal of money from its “community organizing” campaigns, and shows little tolerance for rival leftist groups infringing on its turf. For instance, when ACORN set up shop in San Francisco in May 2002, it discovered that many of its potential recruits — low-income blacks and Hispanics — were networked with the Outer Mission Resident’s Association (OMRA). The San Francisco Examiner reports, “ACORN soon began a process of intimidation by busing in activists from Oakland to disrupt OMRA events. ACORN members then began showing up at some neighbors’ homes, and in one case jabbed a person in the chest.”
Since ACORN is a private corporation, it does not divulge its finances. Complicating any effort to calculate ACORN’s income is the fact that the organization operates an enormous number of front groups, many of which conceal their relationship to ACORN. As of October 2008, there were at least 294 front groups, nonprofits, and businesses related to ACORN, the vast majority of which listed their headquarters as: 1024 Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana — the site of a now-defunct funeral home.
But we can gain some idea of ACORN’s revenues by multiplying the organization’s 400,000+ member families by the $120 annual membership fee, which yields a total of approximately $48 million. According to ACORN’s website, “Membership dues and a host of grassroots and chapter-based fundraising programs pay for 70 to 75 percent of the entire organization’s budget.” If that is the case, ACORN’s annual revenues are at least $64 million. Some of those revenues come in the form of taxpayer dollars furnished by the federal government: Between 1994 and 2008, ACORN received a total of $53 million in federal funds earmarked for so-called “community organizations.”
In a November 2008 expose about ACORN, Matthew Vadum observes that although the organization has soaked up many millions of taxpayer dollars while agitating for ever-higher tax rates on American workers, it has failed to address its own tax obligations:
“Ironically, ACORN and its affiliates, all reliable cheerleaders for higher taxes, are longtime tax deadbeats. A search of public records found more than 200 federal, state, and local tax liens adding up to more than $3.7 million that are associated with groups that share ACORN’s address on Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans…. It is unclear what kinds of taxes ACORN and its affiliates failed to pay, but because almost all ACORN affiliates are exempted from paying most or all taxes, it seems likely that the liens were issued for non-payment of employees’ payroll taxes. If so, this would be ironic because payroll taxes fund the social and wealth-distribution programs that ACORN so staunchly supports.”
In addition to membership fees and government grants, ACORN (and its partner group the ACORN Institute) also have received large donations from a number of charitable foundations, including but not limited to the Annie E. Casey Foundation; the Minneapolis Foundation; the Open Society Institute; the Public Welfare Foundation; the Surdna Foundation; the Woods Fund of Chicago; the Scherman Foundation; the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation; the Marguerite Casey Foundation; the Robin Hood Foundation; the Beldon Fund; the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation; the Haymarket People’s Fund; the Streisand Foundation; the Union Bank of California Foundation; the Provident Bank Foundation; the JP Morgan Chase Foundation; the Bank of America Charitable Foundation; the US Bancorp Foundation; the PNC Foundation; the Wachovia Foundation; the Roseanne [Barr] Foundation; the Carnegie Corporation of New York; the Lear Family Foundation; the Starbucks Foundation; the Arca Foundation; the Tides Foundation; the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Trust; the Needmor Fund; the Citigroup Foundation; and the Democracy Alliance.
As noted above, housing activism is a major priority for ACORN, which has formed housing collectives in a host of targeted areas. These collectives pressure local authorities to place them (the collectives) in charge of renovating and managing abandoned or dilapidated properties for poor tenants. In turn, the local authorities provide money for renovation — much of which ends up in ACORN bank accounts. The tenants are compelled to “earn” their new homes by investing “sweat equity”; i.e., working without pay on renovating the properties. ACORN or its designated “housing collective” retains title to the land on which these buildings stand. If the tenants decide to move out, they are required to sell their property back to ACORN, at cost, no matter what the market value of the property.
Another of ACORN’s chief objectives has been to enact “living wage” ordinances at the local, state and federal levels. It has succeeded in getting many such laws passed. ACORN’s model legislation contains a clause that exempts unionized businesses from having to pay the minimum wage. As a result, companies that stubbornly resist unionizing struggle and, in many cases, go bankrupt. By contrast, those that unionize thrive, thereby providing an ever-expanding membership base for union recruiting. This is the main reason that unions such as AFSCME and the SEIU contribute so generously to ACORN.
But ACORN, exhibiting a dissonance similar to that which it demonstrates (as discussed earlier) with regard to taxes, has displayed an unwillingness to abide by the same demands it imposes on others. Carl Horowitz explains:
“ACORN doesn’t even like paying the minimum wage, let alone a ‘living’ one set several dollars an hour higher. In 1995, ACORN’s California chapter went to court seeking an exemption from having to pay its workers the state minimum, at the time $4.25 an hour. The group lost. In its unsuccessful appeal, ACORN argued that being forced to pay its workers the minimum wage would violate its First Amendment rights. The presiding judge termed the argument ‘absurd.’ Welcome to the real world of employment.”
The Capital Research Center (CRC) provides a more up-to-date look at ACORN’s payroll and employment practices:
“A 2003 study of ACORN by the Employment Policies Institute found the group paid a wage of $5.67 per hour, which was ‘less than half the level demanded by many proposed living-wage ordinances that ACORN supports.’ Although it demands all workers be allowed to organize unions, ACORN doesn’t like it when its own workers try to organize. It has tried to block its own employees from signing up with unions, and in 2003 the
National Labor Relations Board determined it had unlawfully blocked its workers from organizing.”
ACORN’s close ties to big unions are noted further by CRC researchers Matthew Vadum and Jeremy Lott:
“Organized labor is both a client and ally of ACORN. ACORN (including its affiliates) took in almost $3 million [in 2007] from unions to assist their anti-corporate campaigns, provide strike support, and help with research and staffing, among other things…. ACORN and union interests are tightly intertwined. ACORN founder and deposed former president Wade Rathke continues to serve as chief organizer of the New Orleans local of the Service Employees International Union. And as unions spend hundreds of millions of dollars this year  to get out the vote for a more pro-union Congress and White House, they are counting on the officially nonpartisan ACORN to work feverishly to register pro-union voters and get them to the polls.”
Publicado: 06-09-2009 12:27 PM
This effort to persuade union members to vote dovetails with another of ACORN’s top priorities: to register as many new voters as possible. ACORN claims that its voter-registration drives leading up to the 2004 and 2006 elections resulted in the registration of more than 1.68 million people.
Subsequently, at a March 2008 “Take Back America” conference sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF), ACORN joined CAF and five additional leftist organizations in announcing plans for “the most expensive [$350 million get-out-the-vote] mobilization in history this election season.” Other members of the coalition included MoveOn.org, Rock the Vote, the National Council of La Raza, the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, and the AFL-CIO. During the 2008 election cycle, ACORN registered, by its own count, 1.3 million people in 26 states across the U.S.
These impressive numbers are tarnished, however, by the fact that ACORN and its affiliates (most notably Project Vote, which is ACORN’s voter-mobilization arm) have engaged in massive campaigns of voter-registration fraud. Untold numbers of the registration forms that ACORN has submitted to election boards across the United States were fraudulent. The organization’s get-out-the-vote activists have been implicated in schemes involving the falsification and destruction of registration forms, the forging of signatures, the registration of dead or non-existent people, the registration of the same individuals multiple times, and the registration of convicted felons even in states where felons are ineligible to In 2008, election officials in several states said that fully half of ACORN voter registrations were fraudulent. As of October of that year, ACORN was under investigation for voter-registration fraud in 13 states — Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, vote.
Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Some of ACORN’s more notable election-related transgressions in recent years include the following:
In 2003 ACORN submitted 5,379 voter-registration cards to St. Louis, Missouri election-board officials, who later determined that only 2,013 of the cards appeared to be valid.
In 2006 approximately 20,000 questionable voter-registration forms were turned in by ACORN officials in Missouri — virtually all in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas, where ACORN professed a commitment to empowering the “disenfranchised” minorities living there.
Between March 23 and October 1, 2008, ACORN and other “get-out-the-vote” groups submitted at least 252,595 registrations to the Philadelphia County Election Board; of those, 57,435 were rejected for faulty information. Most of the fraudulent forms — which featured fake social security numbers, incorrect birthdates, forged or duplicate signatures, and non-existent addresses — were submitted by ACORN.
In Centre County, Pennsylvania — the home of Penn State University and its 40,000 students — former state Supreme Court Justice Sandra Newman complained in 2008 about a “massive effort” to fraudulently register those students. “I am not confident we can get a fair election,” Newman said.
In Erie County, Pennsylvania in 2008, students at local colleges were targeted in “student registration drives” designed to register voters multiple times. The county’s director of elections reported that the “same handwriting” appeared on a large number of applications.
In October 2008, Philadelphia’s City Commissioners voted unanimously to present to the U.S. Attorney some 50,663 fraudulent voter-registration forms submitted by ACORN. These included 35,888 duplicates; 689 that were filled out by people too young to vote; 2,108 with missing signatures; 5,093 with phony addresses; and 6,161 not eligible because they were missing a valid HAVA (Help America Vote Act) number.
In 2004 a Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman said that ACORN had been “singled out” among suspected voter-registration groups as “the common thread” in the agency’s statewide fraud investigations.
In 2004 Mark Wilson, vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said that efforts to register felons and to submit fraudulent voter-registration forms were “so widespread” that “[i]t just seems to be a systemic approach to take advantage of our lax registration laws.”
Publicado: 06-09-2009 12:29 PM
In late 2008, Nevada criminal investigator Colin Hayes of the Secretary of State’s office said that 59 prison inmates had worked for ACORN from early March through late July of that year. According to the Las Vegas Sun, “One ex-employee of ACORN, Jason Anderson, rose to the rank of a supervisor in the voter registration program although he was a convicted felon and an inmate at Casa Grande at the time.”
In 2004, New Mexico state representative Joe Thompson accused ACORN of “manufacturing voters” throughout his state. The following year, ACORN employees forged thousands of signatures in a campaign to put a wage initiative on the ballot in Albuquerque.
In Seattle, Washington in 2007, ACORN workers filled out 1,805 registration forms with phony names, addresses, and Social Security numbers. Of the 1,805 applications, only 9 were confirmed to be valid. Washington secretary of state Sam Reed called it the “worst case of voter-registration fraud in the history” of the state.
That same year, seven ACORN workers in Washington were indicted for having submitted nearly 3,400 fraudulent forms in King and Pierce Counties. Three of the suspects eventually pled guilty and ACORN was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.
In Oakland County, Michigan in 2008, election officials discovered more than 33,000 duplicate voter-registration applications, most of which had been submitted by ACORN workers.
Between January and October 2008 in North Carolina, where ACORN was particularly active, the number of newly registered Democrats exceeded newly registered Republicans by 218,749 to 38,337. This imbalance was evident even in the Charlotte-area county, where in previous election years new Republicans had consistently outnumbered new Democrats by a 2-to-1 margin. One ACORN worker in Charlotte was found to have forged approximately 70 registrations.
In 2004 ACORN and its affiliate, Project Vote, submitted a large number of voter-registration cards to the election board in Cuyahoga County, Ohio (which is part of greater Cleveland). These cards had a 15-percent error rate (i.e., mistaken names, addresses, birth dates, etc.) — higher than the corresponding rate among cards filed by any other group.
That same year, the Franklin County, Ohio board of election supervisors said that ACORN and Project Vote had submitted hundreds of “blatantly false” forms.
According to the Wall Street Journal: “During a congressional hearing in Ohio in the aftermath of the 2004 election, officials from several counties in the state explained ACORN’s practice of dumping thousands of registration forms in their lap on the submission deadline, even though the forms had been collected months earlier.” Reflecting on that practice, Thor Hearne of the American Center for Voting Rights remarked, “You have to wonder what’s the point of that, if not to overwhelm the system and get phony registrations on the voter rolls.”
In 2008 the Cuyahoga County board of elections openly accused ACORN of fraud.
In 2008, approximately 8,000 of the 72,000 new applications submitted by ACORN in Ohio appeared to be fraudulent.
In 2004 in Colorado, ACORN filed hundreds of suspicious voter-registration forms in at least four Denver metro-area counties.
In November 2008, investigative reporter Matthew Vadum observed that “[c]urrent and former ACORN employees say ACORN makes no effort to remove bogus voter registrations.” “There’s no quality control on purpose, no checks and balances,” said former Missouri ACORN worker Nate Toler. “The internal motto is ‘We don’t care if it’s a lie, just so long as it stirs up the conversation.” According to Vadum:
“ACORN always resists accepting blame for the systemic electoral fraud that is its forte. It’s never their fault. Not surprisingly, the group said [in October 2008] that rogue operators—not ACORN officials at the top—were responsible for the invalid voter registrations. ACORN said it had to fire 829 of the 10,000 canvassers it hired during the election for problems such as falsifying registration forms.”
The American Thinker has observed that “ACORN’s voter rights tactics follow the Cloward-Piven Strategy” by employing the following tactics:
1. Register as many Democrat voters as possible, legal or otherwise and help them vote, multiple times if possible.
2. Overwhelm the system with fraudulent registrations using multiple entries of the same name, names of deceased, names from the phone book, even contrived names.
3. Make the system difficult to police by lobbying for minimal identification standards.
Just as ACORN was heavily involved in voter-registration fraud, so was it a key player in the chain of events and policies that led to the housing and banking crash of 2008. That crisis had its roots in the 1977 passage of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a federal law that outlawed “redlining” (the refusal of banks to lend money to borrowers located in areas known for their high default rates on loans). The CRA required banks to extend credit to undercapitalized, high-risk borrowers in low-income, mostly-minority areas. The Act also established extensive government oversight to monitor how well banks were complying with its mandates.
Under CRA guidelines, any bank wishing to expand or to merge with another financial institution would be required to first demonstrate that it had complied with all CRA rules. Final approval for expansions or mergers could be stalled, or derailed entirely, if “community groups” like ACORN were to accuse a bank — however frivolously or unjustly — of having violated the mandates of CRA.
In the early 1990s ACORN, thus empowered by the CRA, insisted that banks demonstrate their commitment to minority lending by drastically lowering their standards on down-payments and underwriting, and by making loans even to borrowers — especially nonwhite minorities — with bad credit histories. If banks expressed reluctance to do so, ACORN intimidated them into compliance by threatening to sue them, to smear them in the media with negative-publicity campaigns (accusing them of racist and anti-immigrant lending practices), and to block any mergers which the banks might seek in the future. These threats were often accompanied by rowdy crowds of ACORN demonstrators swarming bank offices and lobbies.
In response, terrified bank executives routinely agreed to appoint ACORN as their official “advisor” on CRA compliance, thereby giving the group carte blanche to channel loans to its own hand-picked recipients. One ACORN leader boasted that her organization had become proficient at dragging banks “kicking and screaming” into high-risk loans for low-income people with shady credit histories. By September 1992, ACORN was issuing fact sheets broadcasting its success in having forced lenders to lower their credit standards on behalf of minorities. Ultimately, ACORN proudly claimed “credit for saving the CRA.”
The New York Post explains what happened next:
“As ACORN ran its campaigns against local banks, it quickly hit a roadblock. Banks would tell ACORN they could afford to reduce their credit standards by only a little — since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal mortgage giants, refused to buy up those risky loans for sale on the ‘secondary market.’
“That is, the CRA wasn’t enough. Unless Fannie and Freddie were willing to relax their credit standards as well, local banks would never make home loans to customers with bad credit histories or with too little money for a down-payment.
“So ACORN’s Democratic friends in Congress moved to force Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to dispense with normal credit standards. Throughout the early ‘90s, they imposed ever-increasing subprime-lending quotas on Fannie and Freddie….
Publicado: 06-09-2009 12:31 PM
“ACORN’s intimidation tactics, and its alliance with Democrats in Congress, triumphed. Despite their 1994 takeover of Congress, Republicans’ attempts to pare back the CRA were stymied….
“ACORN had come to Congress not only to protect the CRA from GOP [Republican] reforms but also to expand the reach of quota-based lending to Fannie, Freddie and beyond….
“[In June 1995] the Clinton administration announced a comprehensive strategy to push homeownership in America to new heights — regardless of the compromise in credit standards that the task would require. Fannie and Freddie were assigned massive subprime lending quotas, which would rise to about half of their total business by the end of the decade.”
This strengthening of the CRA’s loan mandates, coupled with the authority that ACORN and other “community organizations” were given to intervene at yearly bank reviews, placed ACORN and likeminded activist groups of great influence. Banks, eager to receive good reports from these groups (in order to avoid having their merger plans blocked or their lending practices challenged by the Justice Department), funneled immense sums of money to ACORN, et al. As the New York Post puts it, “intimidation tactics, public charges of racism and threats to use CRA to block business expansion have enabled ACORN to extract hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and contributions from America’s financial institutions.”
One financial-industry consultant explains, with resignation: “The banks know they are being held up, but they are not going to fight over this. They look at it as a cost of doing business.”
Robert L. Woodson, president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (a community-action group that calls for individual responsibility rather than reliance on government handouts), puts it this way: “ACORN knows that corporate America has no starch in their shorts and, therefore, what they try to do is buy peace from groups that agitate against them. The same corporations that pay ransom to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton pay ransom to ACORN.”
Since 1990, Steven Kest has been ACORN’s national Executive Director, and Maude Hurd has been the organization’s President.
On June 2, 2008, Wade Rathke stepped down from his as ACORN’s chief organizer. Shortly thereafter, ACORN publicly acknowledged that Dale Rathke — Wade’s brother — had embezzled nearly $1 million from ACORN and its affiliated groups in 1999 and 2000. ACORN further admitted that for eight years its executives had kept this information secret from almost all of their organization’s board members and from law-enforcement authorities, while Dale remained on ACORN’s payroll. (ACORN’s public admission only came to pass because a group of foundations and private donors had recently learned of Dale Rathke’s crimes and were preparing to go public with them.)
Acording to ACORN president Maude Hurd, “We thought it best at the time to protect the organization, as well as to get the funds back into the organization, to deal with it in-house. It was a judgment call at the time, and looking back, people can agree or disagree with it, but we did what we thought was right.” Wade Rathke, meanwhile, said the decision to keep his brother’s crimes secret was not made to shield the latter from public criticism or legal action, but rather because news of his embezzlement could have been exploited as a “weapon” by ACORN’s detractors.
ACORN supports the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would authorize a federal arbitrator to render a final and binding resolution for any union negotiations that are not settled quickly, meaning that, as journalist Claire Berlinski puts it, “the federal government will gain the power to dictate the terms of a contract and to set wages, benefits, hours, and work rules.” Moreover, the EFCA would make it easier for organizers to intimidate workers into forming new unions.
In the absence of EFCA, employees may choose any of three methods for deciding whether or not to become unionized: (a) a secret ballot wherein they privately and anonymously indicate their preference; (b) a signature drive, where they publicly affirm their wishes; or (c) a “card check” system, which unionizes employees if a majority sign their names on union-authorization cards. The latter two options are far likelier than the first to expose employees to coercion or intimidation by union leaders or organizers; but an employer, if he suspects that union organizers may be pressuring his workers to unionize, can demand a government-supervised secret-ballot vote to settle the matter. The EFCA would eliminate this right.
ACORN also favors the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which was originally instituted in the early days of the Federal Communications Commission “to ensure that all coverage of controversial issues by a broadcast station be balanced and fair.” At that time, the American public had few broadcasting channels from which to select, and each of those conceivably could have held identical positions on various issues of import—thereby precluding people from having access to a spectrum of different viewpoints. But in the current era of the Internet and the proliferation of radio and cable television stations, the situation is much different.
As the conservative political blogger Ed Morrissey writes, the original Fairness Doctrine “did not require broadcasters to present issues in a ‘fair and honest manner’; it required them to turn their stations into ping-ponging punditry if they allowed opinion to appear on the air at all. It created such a complicated formula that most broadcasters simply refused to air any political programming, as it created a liability for station owners for being held hostage to all manner of complaints about lack of balance.” One former Kennedy administration official candidly acknowledged many years ago: “Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass the right-wing broadcasters, and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too costly to continue.”
ACORN is adamantly opposed to school vouchers that would help parents defray the cost of tuition if they wish to send their children to private schools. When Sol Stern, on one occasion, politely suggested to ACORN official Bertha Lewis that ACORN families might benefit by a school-voucher program for students who were failing in public schools, Lewis angrily replied that vouchers were “a hoax to destroy the public schools” and to divide people on the basis of “race and class.” “This is capitalism at its worst,” she shouted. “You always do it on the backs of the poor. It’s all bullshit, and you know it.”
ACORN has had a long, friendly relationship with Hillary Clinton, who was a featured guest speaker at the organization’s 2006 national convention. During her address, the Senator lauded ACORN for working “with people who want to organize unions in order to have a better chance to bargain collectively for pay and benefits.”
Notwithstanding its affinity for Mrs. Clinton, ACORN has even closer, more longstanding ties to Barack Obama. Thus on Feb. 21, 2008, the organization officially endorsed Obama for U.S. President. This endorsement came at the very height of Obama’s hard-fought Democratic primary battle against Hillary Clinton. Welcoming the endorsement, Obama told an audience of ACORN workers and supporters: “I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues that you care about my entire career.”
Tracing ACORN’s historical ties to Obama, columnist Mona Charen writes:
“ACORN attracted Barack Obama in his youthful community organizing days. Madeline Talbott [a Chicago activist who led the aforementioned ACORN effort to storm the Chicago City Council in July 1997] hired him to train her staff — the very people who would later descend on Chicago’s banks as CRA shakedown artists. [Obama] later funneled money to [ACORN] through the Woods Fund, on whose board he sat, and through the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, ditto. Obama was not just sympathetic — he was an ACORN fellow traveler.”
The New York Post reports the following about ACORN’s links to Obama:
Publicado: 06-09-2009 12:32 PM
“Chicago ACORN sought out Obama's legal services for a ‘motor voter’ case and partnered with him on his 1992 ‘Project VOTE’ registration drive. In those years, he also conducted leadership-training seminars for ACORN's up-and-coming organizers. That is, Obama was training the army of ACORN organizers who participated in Madeline Talbott's drive against Chicago's banks. More than that, Obama was funding them. As he rose to a leadership role at Chicago's Woods Fund, he became the most powerful voice on the foundation's board for supporting ACORN and other community organizers. In 1995, the Woods Fund substantially expanded its funding of community organizers -- and Obama chaired the committee that urged and managed the shift.
“The Woods Fund report makes it clear Obama was fully aware of the intimidation tactics used by ACORN's Madeline Talbott in her pioneering efforts to force banks to suspend their usual credit standards. Yet he supported Talbott in every conceivable way. He trained her personal staff and other aspiring ACORN leaders, he consulted with her extensively, and he arranged a major boost in foundation funding for her efforts.
"And, as the leader of another charity -- the Chicago Annenberg Challenge -- Obama channeled more funding Talbott's way, ostensibly for education projects but surely supportive of ACORN's overall efforts.
“In return, Talbott proudly announced her support of Obama's first campaign for state Senate [in 1996], saying, ‘We accept and respect him as a kindred spirit, a fellow organizer.’”
In 2008 Obama's presidential campaign demonstrated its solidarity with ACORN by quietly www.univision.com/content/channel.jhtml?chid=1&sch
In November 2008 www.univision.com/content/channel.jhtml?chid=1&sch
“The 2004 article was by Toni Foulkes, a Chicago-based member of the ACORN national board and now a Chicago alderman, and it appeared in a publication of ACORN’s American Institute for Social Justice. Extolling Obama’s political organizing abilities, Foulkes described the close connections between ACORN and its affiliate, Project Vote. She wrote that ACORN ‘invited Obama to our leadership training sessions to run the session on power every year, and, as a result, many of our newly developing leaders got to know him before he ever ran for office.’ So it was only ‘natural for many of us to be active volunteers in his first campaign for State Senate and then his failed bid for U.S. Congress.’ The upshot? ‘By the time he ran for U.S. Senate, we were old friends.’”
Publicado: 06-09-2009 12:35 PM
Fannie & Freddie: The most expensive bailout
Efforts to use the troubled mortgage finance firms to fix housing market problems are likely to push the taxpayer bill for Fannie & Freddie above $100 billion.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The first big government bailout of the financial crisis -- the takeover of mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- is poised to be the most expensive and complicated to complete.
Since Congress essentially wrote a blank check to the Treasury Department in July 2008 to do what needed to be done to inject capital into the two firms, Fannie (FNM, Fortune 500) has received $34.2 billion of direct government support while Freddie (FRE, Fortune 500) has received $51.7 billion.
While that's lower than the $117.5 billion poured into insurer AIG (AIG, Fortune 500) by the Federal Reserve and the $200 billion given to the nation's largest banks through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, the current cost of the Fannie and Freddie bailouts dwarfs original estimates from a year ago
When Congress was debating the bailout of Fannie and Freddie last July, the official estimate from the Congressional Budget Office was that a bailout would most likely cost taxpayers $25 billion, with only a 5% chance of the price tag reaching $100 billion between them.
In addition, both Fannie and Freddie are likely to need billions of dollars more after they report second quarter results in the coming weeks. Experts believe the cost will only continue to rise in the next year.
"We're assuming they each will cross the $100 billion mark fairly soon. They could be hitting the $200 billion barrier by the end of next year," said Bose George, mortgage analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, an investment bank specializing in financial services firms.
The direct government aid has helped keep the two troubled firms solvent. The amount of any additional aid will be determined by their ongoing losses and reserves for future losses on the trillions of dollars in mortgage loans they own or guarantee.
Fannie and Freddie were originally created to help ensure that financing for homes would be available and affordable to more consumers. The two firms buy mortgages from banks and other lenders and bundle them together into securities. They then either hold those securities or sell them to them to investors with a guarantee that they will be paid the money owed by homeowners.
But as more homeowners continue to default on mortgages, the two firms will likely book additional losses well into next year.
Neither firm has given an estimate as to how high losses will reach. But the original limit of $100 billion in losses set in place when the government put Fannie and Freddie into conservatorship, essentially a form of bankruptcy, last September was quickly raised early this year to $200 billion each because of concerns about looming losses.
In return for pumping taxpayer dollars into the two firms, Treasury received preferred stock, which is designed to give the government a healthy 10% to 12% dividend. But few expect that Fannie or Freddie will be able to pay that dividend, let alone return the money handed to the firms to cover their losses..
Even James Lockhart, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the government body that has overseen the two firms since they were placed into conservatorship, said it will be a challenge for Fannie and Freddie to make their scheduled payments.
"Obviously the 10% dividend is a high rate," he said, but added that this is probably below what private market investors would demand to own preferred shares in the two companies.
Lockhart also agrees with experts who believe that the government will eventually have to write down at least a portion of the money that has been sunk into Fannie and Freddie. He would not estimate how much, saying it will depend upon housing prices in the future.
But Lockhart maintained that the loss of taxpayer money is worth it in the long run because Fannie and Freddie have continued to be vital parts of the housing market during the credit crunch.
"They really have been the backbone of the housing market throughout this period," he said. "The money spent, we can at least say has gone to a good cause -- keeping the housing market much more stable than it would have been [without the bailout]."
And it's precisely for this reason that experts think the ultimate bailout cost will climb much higher. The money allocated for Fannie and Freddie is being used not to simply return the firms to profitability, but to try and fix the broader housing market's problems.
Both the Bush administration and the Obama administration have used government control of Fannie and Freddie to implement various policies to try to address rising home foreclosures and falling prices. The firms are a key part of the Obama administration's efforts to refinance mortgages of at-risk home owners, in some cases making loans for up to 125% of the home's current market value.
"The way to think of the cost is not as a loan," said Phillip Swagel, a professor at Georgetown's business school who was the assistant secretary for economic policy in the final months of the Bush administration. "It's really a way of spending taxpayer money for policy purposes."
In contrast, other companies receiving federal bailout dollars, such as automakers General Motors and Chrysler, money-losing banks and AIG, were given the charge by Treasury Department officials to stem their financial bleeding so they could eventually be returned to full ownership by the private markets.
But unlike the rapid six week bankruptcy process at GM and Chrysler, the conservatorships at Fannie and Freddie won't be coming to a conclusion any time soon. Even as it laid out its plans to reform the nation's financial regulatory system last month, the Obama administration said it would not put forward a permanent plan to fix the mortgage finance firms until February 2010.
After that, it's uncertain how long it will take to get the necessary approval from Congress for any changes to the current structure of Fannie and Freddie. There is a case for maintaining the status quo since Congress and the Obama administration have been able to use the two firms to deal with broader problems in the housing market.
What's clear is that there will continue to be a need for companies like Fannie and Freddie to keep mortgage costs relatively affordable by packaging loans into securities, placing a guarantee on them, and selling them to investors.
Some experts believe that this business can become very profitable again, especially if Fannie and Freddie maintain tight underwriting standards from now on.
Fannie and Freddie "may own the securitization game for the next decade," said Jaret Seiberg, analyst with Concept Capital's Washington Research Group. "They'll have a duopoly, a smaller portfolio and a profitable business model."
But before any of that happens, taxpayers will likely take an even bigger hit on the Fannie and Freddie bailouts first.
Publicado: 07-23-2009 11:36 AM
Dear American liberals, leftists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists and Obama supporters, et al:
We have stuck together since the late 1950’s, but the whole of this latest election process has made me realize that I want a divorce. I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has run its course. Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right so let’s just end it on friendly terms. We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own way.
Here is a model separation agreement:
Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by landmass each taking a portion. That will be the difficult part, but I am sure our two sides can come to a friendly agreement. After that, it should be relatively easy! Our respective representatives can effortlessly divide other assets since both sides have such distinct and disparate tastes.
We don’t like redistributive taxes so you can keep them. You are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU. Since you hate guns and war, we’ll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military. You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O’Donnell (You are, however, responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them).
We’ll keep the capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street. You can have your beloved homeless, homeboys, hippies and illegal aliens.
We’ll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO’s and rednecks. We’ll keep the Bibles and give you NBC and Hollywood .
You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we’ll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us. You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies or our way of life is under assault, we’ll help provide them security.
We’ll keep our Judeo-Christian values.. You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism and Shirley McClain. You can also have the U.N., but we will no longer be paying the bill.
We’ll keep the SUVs, pickup trucks and oversized luxury cars. You can take every Subaru station wagon you can find.
You can give everyone healthcare if you can find any practicing doctors. We’ll continue to believe healthcare is a luxury and not a right.
We’ll keep The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the National Anthem. I’m sure you’ll be happy to substitute: Imagine, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, Kum Ba Ya or We Are the World.
We’ll practice trickle down economics and you can give trickle up poverty your best shot. Since it often so offends you, we’ll keep our history, our name and our flag.
Would you agree to this? If so, please pass it along to other like-minded liberal and conservative patriots and if you do not agree, just hit delete. In the spirit of friendly parting, I’ll bet you ANWAR which one of us will need whose help in 15 years.
John J. Wall
Law Student and an American
P.S. Also, please take Barbara Streisand, Jane Fonda & Nancy Pelosi with you.
Publicado: 07-23-2009 03:15 PM