Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

ACORN: It Isn't What It Seems

Or maybe it is.

I agree with Glenn Greenwald, and I usually don’t, that there’s a double standard here and Blackwater, Halliburton should also be looked at under the same microscope as ACORN, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that they really stepped in it.

…and I agree with Glenn Beck that this organization has a lot of problems.


My story begins last September…in the weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed and the “game changing” Sarah Palin turned into an epic fail, it became clear the election results were going to be a Democratic rout, and October would be unexciting. We needed another a “game changer.” Enter ACORN…ABC was looking to bring them down, hoping that something would be dug up that would stick to the Democrats or Senator Obama and make it a race again.

I was one of the producers sent on a “fact-finding” mission in Camden and Paterson in New Jersey last fall…I found out a lot of shady stuff, stuff that wasn’t done on purpose, but was largely done because of incompetence…money laundering, falsified voter registration (which I have to admit was true).

Among the atrocious things I found out was a story that one of the employees in the Camden office used office money (that came from donations and taxpayer dollars) to buy marijuana and brought it back to the office late at night to share with other employees. Another story I found out had to do with false voter registration…those managing knowingly admitted that many of their registration were false, they stated they encouraged their organizers with quotas and because of the quotas, very often the organizers make up registrations to meet those quotas and get raises that come with them, but that it didn’t matter because “these people aren’t going to show up and vote” or “The state with take care of it”

There were other stories too…of women who were harassed by male employees, people who were mugged going to and from work during late nights…some days organizers would be in Downtown Camden until midnight…and paychecks that never went out or even bounced.

During my investigation, it became clear others knew what I was looking for. I had been contacted and cornered by the campaigns of Dick Zimmer, the Republican running for US Senate in New Jersey last year, and Chris Myers, who was running for the open seat in New Jersey’s Second district…they wanted to know what I knew…I told them I knew nothing and they accused me of covering up for ACORN as part of the “liberal media.” I hate to say they were sort of right.

I told one of the local managers there to watch themselves, because I had information that could really damage them, but because I believed in their mission, I was going to pretend I didn’t see it, but that they’d better shape up because someone is going to find them out and they’re really going to damage their credibility BADLY and give the right wing fodder…luckilly none of the other producers who were “fact-finding” in NYC, Philadelphia and Cleveland picked anything up…I thought maybe it was limited to New Jersey.

Anyway, I came back to ABC and said I had found nothing, but at that point I knew my days there were numbered since layoffs were anticipated that coming January/February so I didn’t care anymore…but I also knew that I was sent on this “fact-finding” mission not because of journalism, but because they were looking for a scandal to report on…so I didn’t really feel bad for what I did.

But as far as ACORN goes, they need a makeover. Yes, they have a great mission and seek to do great thing, but they need to clean house and hopefully being rebuked by Congress today will do just that.


  1. First I head about them was when the GOP election effort went after them, and from my (biased) perspective at least their competence seemed questionable. but their general intentions seemed laudable  It didn’t seem that what was found – like registering Mickey Mouse to vote – actually mattered since on Nov. 4th, Mickey wasn’t going to show up and actually fill in a ballot.  But it seemed obvious that this was not an excitingly solid and well run organization.

    The recent video exposes consistent (A) highly questionable [at least] practices and (B) rank stupidity.  The impression I have now is of an intrinsically slack organization staffed at least in significant part by cynics and therefore likely led by cynics.  I get the feeling (rightly or wrongly) that if I looked closely I would find a lot of people at Acorn who believe that the only way to do some good is to embrace the corrupt methods they believe are rampant in the world, thereby ensuring that the corruption they are cynical about continues to exist.

    I’m with Jon Stewart on this when he asks where the real investigative journalists were.  This was done by a couple nobodies for $3,000 and it should have been done by real journalists long ago.  The story you relate, I hate to say, doesn’t speak well of the integrity of journalism as it exists today, except that you at least share the story now.  Journalism should not be used to cover corruption but to counter it, no matter where it is found.

  2. employed several hundred thousand people. Anyone who thinks you can run an organization that large without having a bunch of bad apples is naive. If you add lax management on top of that size then you will find it very easy to find this kind of corruption and incompetence.

    I found it amusing that those ‘investigative journalists’ got punked by an ACORN manager in CA. How many other offices did they visit that either saw through them and either threw them out or played along thinking it was something like a Borat movie? Bet we’ll never know that.

  3. alyssa chaos

    she said it was a hard job and quit only a month in.

    I dont know much about what happened in the latest ACORN debacle…I do know about my local ACORN offices. Fortunately I dont know of any scandals.

    My local ACORN had a major role in protesting the re-opening of a local copper smelter that had knowingly burned illegal chemicals, became a major health hazard for both US and Mexican citizens, and contaminated ground water for both countries with Arsenic. [it was so bad CNN did a piece on it] my local ACORN office coordinated and paid to bus protestors from west TX to Austin, coordinated with the dallas, fort worth, houston ACORN offices, and the Mexican ACORN office across the river to stop this smelter.  ACORN basically built a statewide coalition across TX to protest the renewal of this smelter’s permit.

    It sucks that the good ACORN does is buried under this scandal.  

    Cant judge the whole organization by just a small number of offices, its not an accurate portrayal. Im in no way defending what went on in Baltimore or wherever, just putting that out there.

    Sure what they did was against the law but who isn’t breaking the law? Our own government officials broke the law! corporations are breaking the law! [yes, I am this cynical.]

    My only question after hearing about scandals: Are there any honest and ethical people left in the nation? [i like to think so]

  4. The American registration laws seem a bit like the old property laws that used to govern suffrage here. In the UK you can turn up and vote without a registration form, as long as you are on the electoral register – and that’s pretty easy because the council chase you up.

    Years back, under Thatcher’s disastrous ‘poll tax” scheme the electoral register was allied to tax collection, and that had a temporary chilling factor on voter registration. But the mere plan itself was partly due to Thatcher’s downfall.

    Given the amazingly small percentage of eligible Americans who actually register to vote (and the smaller percentage of poor and unemployed) it does seem like the US system needs an overhaul. We say the debacle of state voting laws in Florida in 2000. Has anything really changed? Isn’t the registration system itself a subtle form of disenfranchisement for whole sections of American society? While not permitting any of the actions of ACORN representatives, doesn’t the corruption start right there with the system?

    • It is at the very least an indication of crappy leadership.  Any leadership that allows that sort of mess to exist in an organization so ripe for exposure is at best going to betray whatever good intentions members of the organization have through sheer incompetence at best.

      DTO’s own experience supports that.

    • DTOzone

      like I said, the producers who went to the other cities for ABC last year didn’t get anything…so it might be a scattered thing, I don’t know.

      But in New Jersey it was a mess…it’s one of those things I guess where liberals are held to a higher standard. We have to be extra vigiliant not to screw up because, unlike Republicans, we actually get called out on it.

  5. DeniseVelez

    reading the crap from the left, agreeing with the right, about poor folks and ACORN is enough to make me swear off progressives for good.

    Read this.

    Read Salon:

    Then come back and ask me what I know, from FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE about the work that ACORN does for poor folks.

    Most of the folks who join ACORN, who are served by ACORN, and not sneered at by ACORN are members of poor communities I have lived in half my life.

    Yeah,  ACORN offices are staffed by single moms, folks on welfare, under-employed folks, unemployed folks and ex-felons. My friends, relatives and neighbors.    

    Wake up y’all.  There is a permanent underclass in America, and some of us are it.

    BTW, I know a slew of pimps and ho’s – and that silly winger mofo playing undercover secret agent would have seen the end of my shoe.  

    But that’s me.  The fact that a few ACORN “staffers” fucked up, means nothing.  You try running an organization the size of ACORN doing the yeomanlike work it has done for years and years without a few fuck-ups and you would automatically fail.

    Keep agreeing with FOX spews, and pile on. With friends like y’all who needs enemies.

    But we knew that anyway.  Which is why ACORN succeeds where the best efforts of social workers and do-gooders fail.  

    ‘Cause it is not an elite organization.  Not even a “middle class one”.

    It serves poor folks. It is poor folks.  That’s enough for the right.  Paint a bullseye on it and pull 100s of well funded triggers.


    Good day. Just sent another check to ACORN.

  6. HappyinVT

    (while Welch for voted it) and are getting hammered by Fox “News” watchers here in VT.  Today’s paper devoted a whole page to the Senators’ responses to the outrage.  The paper also published a few LTEs condemning Sanders and Leahy.  There was also a snarky introdutory article by a reporter that made my coffee roil in my stomach (and I don’t appreciate having my coffee disturbed).  I’ve already given my boss (since I work for the paper) a heads-up that I’m writing my own LTE to let them know how ridiculous this whole nonstory is.  And, to fill them in on some truths since the reporter was evidently too lazy to do so himself.

    BTW, apparently the defund ACORN bill might have some unintended consequences….

  7. GrassrootsOrganizer

    I’ve never worked for ACORN but I know a few people who have and for years I’ve organized, trained and managed a segment of the population very similar to the “typical” ACORN worker.  

    Folks need to understand that ACORN registers and mobilizes the poor and disadvantaged by hiring them to reach out to their neighbors.  And while every ACORN office has at least one twenty-something college educated professional bleeding heart do-gooder the vast majority of folks working out of an ACORN office were hired out of the neighborhood and worked their way up to lower levels of r”management”.  

    It can be an incredibly heavy lift to get all but the brightest up to speed — the urban poor are generally coming from the worst possible schools, often with poorly educated caregivers who worked multiple jobs and thus were never around.   They did not grow up with a computer in the home or regular internet access; they may very well have gone through school without books, paper or writing instruments;  most have significant problems with reading comprehension and following directions;  many have chronic health problems and/or poor childhood nutrition.  And generally speaking they are desperate to keep whatever job they can find.   And where they come from that means never saying “no” to a strange white person while at work.  

    Put another way, many of the ACORN workers in those videos, in my mind, were entrapped and bamboozled by a couple of totally unscrupulous assclowns with a video camera and too much time on their hands.  I pretty sure I could walk into any ACORN office from here to LA and sell at least half the people working out of it the Brooklyn Bridge if I talked fast enough.    

    It’s easy to forget how compromised people can be by entrenched poverty.  ACORN is one narrow ladder out of the abyss — a paycheck, a chance to learn new skills and prove oneself to someone who just might give a damn.  

    All that said — ACORN has had corruption problems for years that run all the way up to the top.  But the real corruption has nothing to do with anything on those videos.  

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