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ACORN Was Vindicated -- So Why'd They Get Screwed Anyway?

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This post originally appeared on Booman Tribune.

Barack Obama led a successful Project Vote registration drive in Chicago in 1992. I led a successful Project Vote registration drive in the Philly suburbs in 2004. Only twelve years separated our efforts. I did my work through the North Philly ACORN office. Obama did not work with ACORN because the Project Vote/ACORN project didn't get started until 1994. But, contrary to the fevered imaginations of the right-wing, ACORN isn't any different from other groups that Project Vote has teamed up in the present or the past.

It's nice to see that the GAO has totally vindicated ACORN, but it is too late. ACORN lost all their federal funding and their fundraising dried up. They are closing all their regional offices. And you know what that means? People will get screwed.

But the report released last week “did not identify any problems with seven of the eight grants” the group received from nine federal agencies between 2005-2009. The other grant, provided to ACORN Housing Corporation, raised concerns because a “description of what it planned to accomplish” with the funds wasn’t provided. That was later clarified, according to the report.Much of the government funding went to ACORN’s housing-related activities -- such as helping the poor achieve home ownership or fight off foreclosure -- but some grant money did help fund its voter registration efforts.

What the Republicans disliked above all was that ACORN registered 1.3 million voters in key swing states for the 2008 election. They weren't much interested in ACORN's central focus, which is to protect people from predatory loans, help them get mortgages they can understand and afford, and to help people avoid or deal with foreclosure. Since the Republicans blame black people for the housing bubble, you'd think they'd value the work ACORN did to try to prevent people from signing contracts that would explode in their faces a few years down the line. But, no. That would be sane.

So, what now?

The report confirmed there were five cases where an ACORN employee pleaded guilty to charges of voter fraud. “Six cases were identified by [the Department of Justice] involving voter registration fraud, with all but one case resulting in guilty pleas,” the report states.It’s the lingering concerns about voter fraud that are likely to prevent ACORN from making a comeback.

Democrats, meanwhile, have stepped up their own voter registration effort. The Democratic National Committee announced last week it was planning to spend $20 million registering minorities, young and female voters this cycle.

It remains to be seen whether the DNC can be as effective as what had been one of the country’s largest grass-roots advocacy organizations.

That's a bit of sloppy reporting there. The report identified six cases of voter registration fraud, but not one case of actual voter fraud. What's the difference? Registration fraud happens when a worker fills out a fake voter registration form (to pad their numbers and try to keep their job) and submits it to the board of elections. Voter fraud is when someone votes twice or votes when they are ineligible to do so. There is a big difference, since the former crime only adds modestly to bureaucratic paperwork, while the latter can theoretically change the outcome of an election. When I worked for ACORN I had at least six people I had to fire for giving me fake registration cards. But no one ever cast a fraudulent vote because of something one of my employees did.

So, ACORN is closing its doors over some real bullshit. The OFA will pick up some of the slack and Project Vote will find new partners. The poverty pimpin' will go on somehow. And, if all goes according to plan, I'll be your president in 2020.

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