Friday, September 18, 2009

UPDATED and corrected: The Usual Suspects: ACORN and the Delaware blogosphere

The ACORN scandal has appeared pretty much everywhere but here in the Delaware blogosphere, so I thought it might be interesting to do a round-up.

From the Right:

Cato, at Delmarva Dealings, seems to be channeling Glenn Beck:

While Barack Obama’s former employer is using YOUR tax dollars to assist child prostitution rings, YOUR representatives in Congress are doing all that they can to make sure that these criminals stay on the Federal Gravy Train.

Uh, not so much actually. The fact that some ACORN employees pronounced themselves willing to assist the child prostitution ring [singular; note to Cato: watches those pesky plurals], is not quite the same thing as using YOUR tax dollars to assist child prostitution rings, since no such ring ever existed and no money was ever spent supporting it.

David, at Delaware Politics, is a little more circumspect in that he says this of ACORN:

I am not contesting that ACORN has done some good work. I am questioning whether or not the government system of grants which favors the politically connected charities like ACORN over more effective local ones is a good one. ACORN skims money off the top which then goes to local organizations who would do the good work anyway.

Which kind of belies the title he gave the post:

Casey stands with Far Left Socialist Bernie Sanders in Defense of ACORN

Hube, at Colossus, is interested in equivalencies:

'Ya got that? "Being poor and minority in urban America" means ... enabling illegal immigration and child prostitution? Breaking tax laws? And since this is "just part" of being poor and minority in urban America, we should just continue to throw taxpayer money at it? Can you imagine the MSM outcry if a conservative had made such an ... insinuation as to why ACORN acted as it did on the sting videos? Then it would be the "most virulent form of racial stereotyping" in which people can possibly engage.

Resolute Determination, at [where else?] Resolute Determination, wants to know when Governor Markell is going to distance himself from ACORN:

Governor Jack Markell is an ACORN supporter. Governor Markell’s Political Action Committee, The Committee For A Better Future, paid ACORN over $14,000 in his 2008 Primary win over former Lt. Gov. Carney. Technically, he sent the money to “Citizens Services, Inc.” But, Citizens Services, Inc. has the exact same New Orleans street address as… ACORN. On primary day, it was widely rumored within Wilmington that Markell was paying ACORN “volunteers” twice the daily rate of $100 per canvasser. Now we know where the money was coming from – ACORN.

Will Markell publicly distance himself from a group that he paid $14,000 to to help him get elected?

The part I really love is where RD says

This organization needs to be investigated and shut down.

Notice that we don't actually have to worry about what the investigation finds; RD just wants it shut down.

Further left:

Nancy Willing, at Delaware Way had previous to the breaking of this story run a piece regarding John Kowalko's support for the work of Delaware ACORN:

And last but not least, this program would not exist today, serving all of the people of Delaware from Wilmington to Dover to Georgetown and all points in between, if not for the dedication and persistence of that often unfairly maligned group that I am a proud member and ally of, Delaware ACORN. Angela Walker and Darlene Battle and this magnificent group of community activists contacted a wide range of people in October and asked, begged and insisted that we had to save people’s homes. It was a simple message but displayed with such passion and insistence by ACORN that you couldn’t help but feel a sense of obligation and compassion that would lead to a successful conclusion. With a vast knowledge of other programs existing in Philadelphia and being constructed elsewhere, with a statistical accumulation of the horrors of the foreclosure crisis couched in real human terms and with a driven personality of compassion for the community, ACORN and its leaders would not allow us to fail in our efforts.

Today, Nancy has up a post regarding Media Matters' response to the issue:

Fox was running so wild with the story that they were willing to lower their already dubious standards. The first problem was one of logic. Four videos were being promoted as unimpeachable proof that all of ACORN is equally corrupt -- all 1,200 chapters and hundreds of ACORN employees. It was the opposite of how a credible investigation is supposed to function, in which conclusions are withheld until after all the facts are in. By comparison, here, the conservative media had a few isolated facts but were willing to extrapolate an entire thesis from them.

More important, Fox News failed to vet the tapes. This was made painfully clear with the case of the San Bernardino ACORN office, which was featured in the fourth video to be released. In the footage, ACORN employee Tresa Kaelke claimed that she had murdered her former husband following a period of domestic abuse. On September 15, Beck and Sean Hannity both broadcast Kaelke's assertion. Beck, who had reported on the supposed confession during his radio program, added on Fox, "She never spanked her kids, but she did shoot her husband dead." Later that night, Hannity played the same clip, and in a rare moment of intellectual curiosity, asked about the veracity of the murder claim. "We're working on it," Giles said, which was enough for Hannity. The following morning, on September 16, Fox News' Gretchen Carlson repeated the allegation, saying, "She killed somebody? Despite this, some lawmakers want to keep funding the group."

Meanwhile, in a post intended to be reflective, but perhaps representing one of his weakest efforts, Liberalgeek, at Delaware Liberal, pulls out the equivalency card from the other direction:

I guess that the question in my mind is whether these are bad apples in ACORN or a systemic problem. Apparently, ACORN is conducting staff training to fix the problems in the next few days. But certainly the damage has been done.

Also, I wonder if the ACORN issue is a bit overblown. We are disturbed by the fact that a pimp and his prostitute would be helped to evade the tax law and make their activities look legitimate. But are we equally disturbed that there are many more multi-millionaires that are hiding their profits in off-shore tax havens with the help of accountants and lawyers at their beck and call.

ACORN does get dinged because they receive some federal funding whereas those lawyers are privately funded, but is that really what bothers us? I think that we have come to expect the rich to avoid taxes by any means necessary. Hell, I know people that have owned restaurants that avoided taxes as a part of their day-to-day operations.

All of these are distasteful, but now that ACORN has been tagged for it, real people are going to suffer. ACORN along with CLASI worked with the State of Delaware to ensure that people that are falling behind in their mortgages are able to get legal counseling to keep them in their home and to negotiate with lenders. That just happened this week, but things like this get overshadowed by the conservative witch hunt to find bad ACORN employees.

Usual suspects without a major post/comment on ACORN thus far: Tommywonk, kavips, Delaware Curmudgeon, Kilroy's Delaware, The Mourning Constitution, and Redwaterlilly.

What strikes me most about all of these responses is that they were all predictable. Nobody surprised me, with the possible mild exception of David Anderson's, I am not contesting that ACORN has done some good work.

In this we have apparently become a local microcosm of the national political faux debate.

For pretty much everybody on the right, ACORN is a rogue organization that has to held to account, and they have been exposed by intrepid crusaders for justice, and continue to be supported by dangerously left-wing politicians.

For the dwindling number of Delaware blogs on the left [more on that in a moment], ACORN is an organization that is doing the Lord's work in helping poor people, and is the victim of a witch hunt, the ferocity of which has scared away the organization's fair-weather friends in Congress.

[That left-blog thing: Dana Garrett's decision to fold up his tent--at least for now--at Delaware Watch has given us a seriously unbalanced blogosphere. Tommywonk, kavips, and Redwaterlilly all have thoughtful, interesting blogs, but they not really prolific--with the exception of kavips hatching new policy proposals, which gets encyclopedic. Delaware Way is far more policy oriented and less interactive; I would love to see Nancy promoting more of an on-line community, but so far have not seen it. Moreover, even though Delawareliberal arguably receives more hits per day than Delaware Politics and Resolute Determination combined, it is astounding to discover that such a Democratically controlled state really only has one major liberal/progressive blog left. Granted, Delawareliberal has a large cast and throws a wide net, but it's still only one blog. There have got to be some other First State liberals out there with keyboards and too much time on their hands.]

Here's what I think of ACORN, by the way: the organization is the early 21st Century edition of urban community organizing in the tradition of the original 1960s Black Panthers. I don't think that's an insult: I have a lot of respect for what the Black Panthers attempted to accomplish, even if I never ascribed to their politics. ACORN is multi-layered, committed to social revolution, and makes a hell of a lot of people very uncomfortable while attempting to work in areas of the country that everybody else has pretty much written off.

More importantly, it belongs to an even longer American tradition reaching back past the Panthers through Marcus Garvey, Father Divine, and their contemporaries, all the way to the burial societies and secret fraternal organizations among African-Americans in pre-Civil War era Southern cities.

Political power among the poor and minority populations of this country has always been constructed differently, expressed differently, and always manifests itself at the fringes of the system. It is almost invariably marked by what the more genteel would consider graft and corruption, because organizations like that necessarily parcel out power and influence differently.

What is significant about ACORN is that the organization has mastered a trick to make Marcus Garvey turn green with envy: getting millions of Federal dollars funneled to it by sympathetic legislators and political machines. In the hands of people not experienced with the rules of the game (e.g., which kinds of corruption are politically correct and which are not), it was inevitable that ACORN would fall afoul of some public relations disaster.

By the way--and I seem to be writing truly disjointed posts this week--it doesn't offend me in the slightest that ACORN was willing to help a pimp and a prostitute evade the IRS or get a real estate loan, and I have no problem with them helping send the money into a political campaign. The whole underaged hookers from Latin America thing crosses a line, but when you watched the videos in which the ACORN woman smiles and goes along, I'm not thinking demented political genius, I'm thinking dumb as a post.

At least, after perusing the Usual Suspects and their entirely-too-predictable reactions to this story, maybe my reaction jostled you just a bit.

If so, you may deposit quarters in the hat on the ground.


Nancy Willing said...

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now is what ACORN represents. You can be non-partisan and advocate for reform and if the reformers all line up on one side of the aisle, that is on them....(CoughGOPCough).

Local ACORN is having a presser on Monday to give their view point. Media Matters just published an over view of the junk journalism that the surrounds the knee-jerk actions of Congress regarding ACORN's HUD funding. Gee, now who benefits from destroying ACORN? People who are backing the corporatism that controls our national politics maybe?

ACORN has taken a lead in health insurance reform, in finance reform, in foreclosure prevention and more.

They are one of the only nationally organized entities that is pushing back against corporate lobbyist funded activism and influence.

What ACORN doesn't do is fill Mike Castle, Tom Carper and Ted Biden or Obama's campaign coffers.

Nancy Willing said...

I have been doing some national blogging on the ACORN matter. On Eschaton and Media Matters sites and have commented on the WNJ and some of the bloggers sites. But I have been contacting ACORN friends and hooking them up with media opportunities too so that they can get their side out.

I have been overwhelmed with the story and have been catching my breath before writing anything on this. The quote you captured from DE WAY by Kowalko was related to their efforts that resulted in the state's new Foreclosure Prevention Mediation initiative. John also has commentary in the WNJ's article published yesterday that related directly to this latest media slam and findings of a few ACORN employees.

Without defending their despicable actions, to 'take out' the national organization over it is absurd at best when we still have PFizer taking public reasearch dollars after the largest fine in history and KBR still for-hire by the State Dept. after electrocuting soldiers et al.

I will be posting on the local ACORN's postition and about their presser later today.

Nancy Willing said...

" But, Citizens Services, Inc. has the exact same New Orleans street address as… ACORN. On primary day, it was widely rumored within Wilmington that Markell was paying ACORN “volunteers” twice the daily rate of $100 per canvasser. Now we know where the money was coming from – ACORN."

hmm, I wonder if the many charities (including the famously nationally-ompromised United Way) that are housed in the Community Services Building in Wilmington are worried about sharing an address? Could this be the case in NOLA?

Also, a phone call to Darlene Battle will be made by me today to get clarity on this claim of Markell and excessive payments during his campaign. I HIGHLY DOUBT IT but I also like to use the phone to verify crap like this. I'll be putting the answers over on RD as soon as I can get some.

Nancy Willing said...

"What strikes me most about all of these responses is that they were all predictable."

Once again I will remind the author of his sloppy 'research' as for what he pulled out of DE WAY blog.

DE WAY has not yet RESPONDED to this news on ACORN.

This morning I posted what Media Matters had sent along.

The DE WAY quotes you took WERE NOT IN RESPONSE to this ACORN issue. YOU ARE MISREPRESENTING DE WAY content.

What you have placed in your post as DE WAY RESPONSE was, in fact, written BEFORE this ACORN issue arose. It was published on Monday morning about the press conference that was held THE WEEK BEFORE announcing the good work that ACORN is doing to keep Delawareans IN THEIE HOMES if possible.

Your bullshit insinuation that we presaged this media slug fest over some ACORN employees in other states is laughable. Get over yourself.

Get your shit right or STFU.

Steve Newton said...

Does it ever occur to you that people just sometimes make mistakes without political intent?

I misread the date on your Kowalko post, and thought it came out afterward.

I have corrected that, and linked to the Media Matters piece you ran today.

You should know by now that I do not intentionally cheap shot you.

Hube said...

Another Newton holier-than-thou post. That's what's predictable!

Steve Newton said...


Glad you noticed.

Everybody else (including you) in the DE blogosphere runs with "holier than thou" on a regular basis.

I just want to fit in and play well with others.

Hube said...

But you seem to think you're somehow "better" than us mere peons. Talk about tiresome.

Did it ever occur to you that certain blogs have a particular niche and/or interests -- like me covering media bias? You don't have to agree w/it, but that's usually what blogs do. Usually.

Your niche, more and more, is becoming evident: "Above you all" pomposity.

Nancy Willing said...

correction - DE ACORN's presser is Wednesday not Monday.

Thanks for amending your post.

kavips said...

Alas, my encyclopedic piece on ACORN came out too late to be included... Thanks for the kind words though...

Some Profound Thoughts on ACORN