In the last few days the blog world has gone crazy about a little known group called ACORN. ACORN has for the last 38 years been the nation’s most successful community organizing group. They have focused on mobilizing low-income Americans to fight for social justice, challenging powerful banks, corporations, and government officials around such issues as wages for the working poor, predatory lending and foreclosures, welfare reform, public education, affordable housing, and voting rights. The whole ruckus started due to an article in the New York Times last Wednesday.
Apparently the organization’s founder, Wade Rathke, covered up the fact that his brother Dale Rathke allegedly embezzled almost $1 million from Acorn between 1999 and 2000. Now Wade claims that they handled the matter internally, and reached an agreement with his brother to fully pay back the organization for the total amount of money that was missing under his watch.
Certainly, this alone is a pretty serious issue for the organization; however more reports are coming out of other concerns with Acorn. Some of these allegations are:
1) Four people have been indicted on charges of voter fraud in Kansas City; all were employed by ACORN as voter registration recruiters. 35K questionable voter registration forms were submitted.
2) A former ACORN worker in Florida claimed that Acorn deliberately threw out Republican registration forms and paid workers to get Democratic registrations.
3) The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that ACORN’s voter registration activities in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, are under investigation. Acorn distanced themselves by stating, “While we don’t think the intent or the result of his action was to allow any ineligible person to vote, this employee defrauded ACORN and the American public”
4) In 1994, a $1.1 million grant by AmeriCorps, the federal volunteer agency, was awarded to Acorn Housing Corporation. The grant was terminated after an inspector-general found the nonprofit had improperly used AmeriCorps recruits for political purposes.
5) Colorado ACORN worker gathering faked voter registrations was convicted in 2005
A simple Google search for “ACORN Under Investigation” will return 100’s of results documenting these and other allegations.
What do I make of this? I am not prepared to say that Acorn willing encouraged their employees to falsify voter registrations, however it is clear that paying individuals to sign-up voters, and paying them bonuses to reach certain quotas is a very dangerous practice. Common sense tells you that people will rig the process so that they can make a couple extra bucks. Overly aggressive voter registration drives are susceptible to corruption, and both parties, Republicans and Democrats, should take a stand on eliminating the practice.
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