Time to Get Real About the ACORN "Controversy"--and Republican Double Standards

The Right wing has always hated ACORN. Partially that's because the organization has been so effective at allowing poor people to vote. The Right hates it when poor people vote.
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It's time to get real about the Republican distraction de jour - the great ACORN controversy.

The bottom line is this: if the same standard used to prevent ACORN from receiving federal contracts were applied to many large corporations -- Boeing, financial institutions like AIG and CitiCorp, not to speak of private military contractors like Blackwater -- they would all have been barred as federal contractors long ago. But instead of being blacklisted, many of them actually received billions of taxpayer dollars to bail them out.

ACORN has worked for decades to organize a nationwide grass roots community organization with a mission of empowering poor and moderate income people. ACORN has never been one of those outfits that seeks just to "represent" the interests of the poor. Since its inception it has been made up of poor and moderate income people themselves. Its members pay dues, elect their leadership and choose the battles that they fight. Its executives don't make huge salaries and - in my experience - most of its organizers and staff are true believers who really care about the battle for social justice.

The Right wing has always hated ACORN. Partially that's because the organization has been effective - especially when it comes to its battles for better housing and its campaigns to empower the poor the way we should do it in a democracy - registering people to vote. The Right wing hates it when poor people vote.

During last year's election campaign the Republicans did everything they could to discredit ACORN by exposing "irregularities" in some of its voter registration programs. They pointed to a number of instances when ACORN canvassers - who were being paid to register people to vote - registered non-existent voters like "Mickey Mouse".

It was absolutely wrong for some ACORN employees to fake registrations to meet their quotas and keep their jobs. And ACORN's voter registration operation should have caught these fake registrations with better quality control. But there was never any danger that there would be a parade of cartoon characters out of Disney World and "Mickey Mouse" or "Donald Duck" were going to show up at a polling place and cast a ballot. To hear the right wing media tell it, ACORN was engaged in a great voter fraud scheme. In reality, a handfull of its canvassers were defrauding the organization itself - and also creating a public relations nightmare.

The Republicans knew full well that there was no danger of "Mickey Mouse" voting. But they milked the "controversy" for every ounce of bad publicity they could deliver - and did their best to paint the former community organizer Barack Obama with the same brush.

Now we have a new controversy created when two aspiring Right Wing "journalists" posed as a pimp and a hooker and toured the country trying to coax an ACORN mortgage counselor to say something outrageous for their hidden camera. Their motive was not to expose any "bad advice" being doled out by the mortgage counselors. They admit it was to "bring down" ACORN. They failed in their quest at most ACORN offices. In one, the mortgage counselor actually called the police when they asked for help figuring out how to create a scheme to get tax deductions for fictitious underage prostitutes. But they finally hit the jackpot in Baltimore, where the local credit counselor gave them - and their camera -- unbelievably stupid advice.

As soon as the behavior of their employees came to light, ACORN fired the offending employees and soon thereafter closed ACORN counseling offices for several days of retraining to prevent a similar infraction in the future.

Bear in mind, as outrageous as the employee's conduct was, no one was injured, no money was stolen, no deal was fixed. There was no victim of their acts. No matter, within days the Right Wing noise machine went into full "fury" mode. Republicans used their procedural prerogatives in Congress to force votes cutting off any federal funding for ACORN. Enough Democrats went along, and the motions passed both Houses.

Compare that to what happened when Boeing was caught fixing bids for a giant tanker project, or AIG created the massive Credit Default Swap scheme that helped sink the entire financial system, or the greed of traders who received tens of millions in personal compensation caused millions of retirees to loose half of their 401K plans. Remember the hundreds of millions of dollars in overcharges for fuel in Iraq by KBR, the subsidiary of Haliburton. Or compare it to what happened to the security contractor Blackwater when its personnel opened fire and killed 14 civilians in Nisoor Square in Baghdad.

No Republican demanded that these firms be "defunded" by Congress. No, instead AIG and the banks that were "too big to fail" received billions in bail-out money. The brilliant traders who sunk AIG got multi-million dollar bonuses. KBR, Haliburton, Boeing and even Blackwater still have huge government contracts.

Think about it. An amateur Right Wing journalist finally finds an ACORN employee who provides him and his faux hooker cohort with some outrageous advice, and the Republicans get Congress to pass legislation cutting off funding in little more than a week. Blackwater employees kill 14 Iraqi civilians, endangering America's mission in Iraq and the Republicans don't utter a peep.

Then again, what do you expect from the political party that last week promoted a "values summit" and is lead by philanderers like former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator David Vitter, Governor Mark Sanford, and Senator John Ensign. The Republicans have always been the kings of the double standard.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on amazon.com.

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