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Sunday, October 26, 2008

ACORN's chief organizer lies about ACORN

Cross posted from The Next Right.

By Soren Dayton, October 25, 2008

OpenLeft, a must read of lefty blogs and infrastructure, somewhat uncharacteristically invites Bertha Lewis, who runs a clearly opaque and un-Open organization, ACORN to defend her organization.

Lewis's statement is simply full of lies, many of which are refutable with recent statements by ACORN officials and recent media reports from right-wing hit-job press like the New York Times.

She starts the substance of her piece with:
Let’s be clear about one very important thing. The reason ACORN is the focal point of the combined national efforts of the Republicans is because we recently completed the largest non-partisan voter registration drive in U.S. history. We helped 1.3 million low-income people, people of color, and young people complete voter registration applications.

No. They filed 1.3 million forms. The New York Times gets the breakdown right, according to an ACORN official:

On Oct. 6, the community organizing group Acorn and an affiliated charity called Project Vote announced with jubilation that they had registered 1.3 million new voters. But it turns out the claim was a wild exaggeration, and the real number of newly registered voters nationwide is closer to 450,000, Project Vote’s executive director, Michael Slater, said in an interview.

Don't let the "Project Vote" name fool you. They are essentially the same organization. A NYT story from two days before noted that Mr. Slater's predecessor would have reported directly to ... ACORN's Chief Organizer: 

She wrote that the same people appeared to be deciding which regions to focus on for increased voter engagement for Acorn and Project Vote. Zach Pollett, for instance, was Project Vote’s executive director and Acorn’s political director, until July, when he relinquished the former title. Mr. Pollett continues to work as a consultant for Project Vote through another Acorn affiliate.

 Back to Bertha... She argues that they have good integrity checks: 
The attacks on ACORN are spurious to say the least. Here a few key facts that our accusers aren’t telling you.
 ACORN has implemented the most sophisticated quality-control system in the voter engagement field but in almost every state we are required to turn in ALL completed applications, even the ones we know to be problematic.
ACORN flags in writing incomplete, problem, or suspicious cards when we turn them in. Unfortunately, some of these same officials then come back weeks or months later and accuse us of deliberately turning in phony cards. In many cases, we can actually prove that these are the same cards we called to their attention.

Again... Not so much. That's not what ACORN told the Cuyahoga County, Ohio Board of Elections. From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Local representatives of the organization told Cuyahoga board members that they don't have the resources to identify fraudulent cards turned in by paid canvassers who are told to register low- and moderate-income voters. [...]
"This is not something you can catch with your internal controls, apparently," said board member Sandy McNair at the meeting.
"Not perfectly, no," replied Mari Engelhardt, ACORN political director for Ohio.
That's ACORN. They lie about their numbers. They lie about their processes. According to their own attorney's they even lie publicly about embezzlement that they knew occurred:
The June 18 report, written by Elizabeth Kingsley, a Washington lawyer, spells out her concerns about potentially improper use of charitable dollars for political purposes; money transfers among the affiliates; and potential conflicts created by employees working for multiple affiliates, among other things.
It also offers a different account of the embezzlement of almost $1 million by the brother of Acorn’s founder, Wade Rathke, than the one the organization gave in July, when word of the theft became public.

This is a criminal organization. Bertha Lewis is the chief of the organization. And OpenLeft is providing a forum for defenses that are simply saturated with lies about the most basic facts that are already disproven by statements by their own organization.