Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention infuriated the left for many reasons, but one of the barbs that seemed to upset them the most was her extended attack on community organizers. Weeks later, liberals settled on a retort to Palin that Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) voiced from the House floor: “Jesus was a community organizer. Pontius Pilate was a governor.” We’ll let Palin explain why she is no Pilate, but rest assured, comparing today’s “community organizers” to Jesus is an insult to Christians everywhere.
Community organizing might sound like pauper’s work, but in today’s professionalized advocacy world, it is not. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), had an operating budget of $37 million in 2006. ACORN is spending $16 million this year alone to register new Democrats nationwide. In today’s world, community organizing is big business, and that business is extortion. ACORN’s scam works like this: 1) identify deep pocket corporation; 2) protest that corporation; 3) sign a partnership with the corporation to end protest in exchange for money. From 2004 through 2006, ACORN won six-figure payments from Ameriquest Mortgage, Citibank, Washington Mutual and M&T Bank. It even won million-dollar payments from JP Morgan and Bank of America.
When ACORN is not extorting money from corporations, it is pressuring politicians for taxpayer dollars. ACORN has been winning federal money since the Carter administration, and the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) estimates ACORN has received $16 million in federal tax dollars since 1997. In the 1990s, ACORN began shaking down local business communities and has established local “Housing Trust Funds” in more than 300 counties, cities and towns. The funds funnel money through groups like ACORN to produce new homes and refurbish existing ones. The holy grail for ACORN has been the establishment of a National Housing Trust Fund, and when the federal government was forced to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac this summer, ACORN’s allies in Congress succeeded in making that slush fund part of the deal.
In addition to the extortion and swindling of taxpayers, ACORN also practices outright fraud. In 1986 a dozen ACORN members were convicted of vote fraud. In 2007, eight ACORN employees pleaded guilty to election fraud. This year ACORN has outdone itself. It is under investigation for vote fraud in a dozen states, including Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.
Last but not least, let’s not forget the hypocrisy. In 2001, when ACORN members tried to turn the group’s tactics on itself and organize its employees, the upstart members were summarily fired. And ACORN is not the only suspect community organizer. Just this past summer federal investigators raided a city-chartered nonprofit agency accused of abusing a federally financed program that was created to clean up houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The agency had been hired by the city to run a $3.6 million program intended to help elderly and poor New Orleans residents gut and board up their storm-damaged houses. Instead, the money appears to have gone to politically connected contractors who did little or no work on the houses. Is this how community organizers want to be known? Fraud, extortion and hypocrisy — all on the taxpayers’ dime.
- Judge Robert Bork will be the inaugural speaker of Heritage’s Joseph Story Distinguished Lecture Series at 5 p.m. ET today.
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