PEOPLE FOR BLOG

ACORN Is Not The Problem

I'm not going to sit idly by while good people are thrown under the bus ... especially if that bus is John McCain's "Straight Talk Express." And I am not -- I repeat, NOT -- going to let the Right steal another election by demonizing community organizers while doing all they can to disenfranchise voters.

That's why People For the American Way is not taking the attacks on ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) lying down, and we're not going to let the Right's latest distraction work. We're taking out a full page ad in the New York Times to tell the truth about ACORN, the myth of "widespread voter fraud" and the actual voter suppression being perpetrated by the Right. Check out the ad and find out what you can do to help with these efforts at www.PFAW.org/ACORN.

ACORN has tirelessly worked to uplift the less fortunate and advocated for improved housing, a fair and living wage, and yes, continues to fight to give a voice to the underserved by promoting civic engagement and voter empowerment. John McCain used to know that but he seems to have forgotten.

During Wednesday's presidential debate, McCain was again over the top, saying ACORN "may be perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy." No, Senator McCain, the fraud is GOP attempts to challenge the registrations of eligible voters who are on the verge of losing their homes to foreclosure ... the fraud is right-wing efforts to purge thousands of eligible voters from the voter rolls ... the fraud is the long history of your party's attempts to resurrect Jim Crow.

Let's set the record straight. ACORN plays by the rules, but they register voters the Right would rather exclude, so they are a perfect target in the ongoing effort to stoke paranoia over so-called "widespread voter fraud" (a proven myth). Out of the 13,000 field workers ACORN hired in its drive to register hundreds of thousands of voters, a small fraction submitted inappropriate registration cards. In most cases, ACORN was required by law to submit these incorrect forms, along with the valid forms, to election officials, and in most cases, the incorrect forms had been flagged for officials by ACORN as problematic. But bad registration forms don't add up to "voter fraud."

The Bush administration has spent a good deal of time on fishing expeditions to find problems with groups like ACORN that register voters. In fact, they fired US Attorneys for refusing to participate in this partisan witch hunt.

Using "voter fraud" to distract from real voter suppression is nothing new. But it's still extremely troubling that the McCain-Palin campaign has decided to put party before country and not denounce the GOP's attempts to squash voter participation. I don't think the American people are buying any of this. But even if scapegoating ACORN doesn't work, the Right will have won if they are successful in getting people to look the other way on the real voter suppression in which they are aggressively engaged.

It's up to us to make sure the distraction doesn't work.

PFAW

“Angry” Al Franken

In his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Al Franken recalls an episode in Paul Wellstone’s 2002 run for re-election when, prior to his untimely death, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) ran an ad called “Pork” that savaged Wellstone for voting “to spend thousands of dollars to control seaweed in Maui.”

The implication, as Franken pointed out, was that Wellstone had “prioritized seaweed control over national defense.” The only problem was that while Wellstone had in fact voted for the legislation, so did “Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott and 84 other senators. That bill did appropriate the seaweed control spending—but it also provided $21 billion for veterans' health care, $27 billion for veterans' compensation and pensions, and block grants to assist New York City's recovery from 9/11.”

When Wellstone’s son David confronted then NRSC-chair Bill Frist about the ad at his father’s memorial service, Frist declared that “it wasn't personal,” to which David responded "'My dad took it personal.” 

And so it is only fitting that this time around, with Franken running against Norm Coleman, the man on whose behalf the NRSC ran that original ad, they would again stoop to such tricks.  

Take a look at this ad the NRSC is running against Franken – especially the clip playing in the background of a screaming Franken while the narrator declares him prone to “violent outbursts” around the fifteen second mark:

Now take a look at this video from the Franken campaign explaining the history of that clip:

That’s right, the NRSC took clip of Franken telling this anecdote about Paul Wellstone and his son, stripped it of its context and then used it to try and portray Franken as dangerously unhinged.  

I was reminded of this today when I stumbled upon this “breaking news” piece from Minnesota Democrats Exposed that recounts how, after a recent debate, Franken supposedly attacked Norm Coleman and to be all but dragged away from him:

According to dedicated readers of Minnesota Democrats Exposed who were at tonight’s U.S. Senate debate in Duluth, Al Franken got in U.S. Senator Norm Coleman face as soon as the microphones were off at the end of the debate.

My sources said that Franken was very upset and was speaking with a raised voice.  Mrs. Franken reportedly ran on stage to get Franken away from Coleman … Franken, visibly upset, continues to get in Senator Coleman’s face.  Franken is seen on film staring Coleman down as he finally recognizes that Mrs. Franken is trying to get his attention.

Wow.  That sounds pretty heated.  I can only imagine what that scene must have been like. Oh wait:

Apparently, talking to your opponent after a debate is the equivalent of being on the verge of a complete meltdown. Maybe next time, Franken should just snub his opponent all together.

PFAW

Joe the Plumber May Not Be Able To Vote

Check this out.  The Dayton Daily News is reporting that because Joe "The Plumber" Wurzellbacher's last name is spelled with an "o" not a "u" on the registration rolls, he could be knocked off the rolls under a policy advocated by the Ohio Republican Party in a suit it has filed against the Ohio Secretary of State.  The GOP is trying to get the Secretary of State to send to county board of elections "mismatches" - including ones like these -- where the name on the registration is different from the name on DMV or Social Security records. Jennifer Bruner, the Secretary of State, says the action the Ohio GOP is pressing for could disenfranchise up to 200,000 voters. TheGOP is stirring the pot about ACORN and worried that some election official might let Mickey Mouse vote? Give me a break. Let Joe the Plumber vote, and then let's foucs on the real problem - systematic efforts by the Right to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters

And this just in - it looks like the U.S. Supreme Court has just stayed a lower court order that would have required the Secretary of State to send out these lists of mismatches. Stay tuned for more on that!

PFAW

VIDEO: The End of Choice?

In case you aren't already convinced that next month's election is pretty frickin' important, here's something else to consider: the next president will almost certainly have the power to shape the future of the Supreme Court for decades to come.

What does that mean for Roe v. Wade — and the future of reproductive rights in this country? We put together a short video that walks through some scary math. Click here to check it out.

PFAW

Full-Page NY Times Ad Stands Up to Right-Wing Smears and Shoddy Reporting

Anyone who watched last night’s debate should know that John McCain and his right-wing allies are going to outrageous lengths to smear the reputation of ACORN, a community organizing group which has registered hundreds of thousands of voters for the coming election. But many in the media – especially at Fox News and CNN – have failed the public.

People For the American Way is running a full-age ad (see below) in the New York Times in the coming days to call out the right-wing smears and the failure by many in the press to report the full story.

The truth is that there is no voter fraud problem. This is what the top election experts have consistently concluded. When Karl Rove aggressively pushed the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute voter fraud, they came up empty-handed. But all we seem to hear about from Fox and CNN is that Mickey Mouse was registered to vote.

There are already systems in place to catch petty voter registration fraud. It should be a non-issue. Meanwhile McCain and the RNC are using a handful of negligible but colorful examples to distract from the organized disenfranchisement of thousands, perhaps millions, of legally registered voters through so-called ballot security measures.

Learn more about those efforts here, read more about our ad here, and check out the ad here.

PFAW

Fighting Voter Suppression in Big Sky Country

Is “pursuing other interests” code for “ I want to figure out how to disenfranchise more people “?

After several weeks of employing controversial state-wide voter caging efforts, Montana GOP Director Jake Eaton resigned from his post to “pursue other interests.” He will be replaced by former Montana State Representative Larry Grinde.

Under Eaton’s leadership, the Montana Republican Party conducted unprecedented challenges of over 6,000 voters in Missoula, Butte-Silver Bow, Lewis and Clark, Deerlodge, Glacier, and Hill Counties. Though the party claimed that the challenges were non-partisan efforts to preserve election integrity and were based on where the most voter registration discrepancies occurred, the counties targeted were known to be Democratic strongholds.

Eaton’s resignation comes only one day after students at the University of Montana published an op-ed in the Missoulian condemning and calling for criminal penalties for the voter caging efforts conducted under Eaton’s leadership. These efforts have been determined to disproportionately affect the student population.

Such voter challenges are characteristic of nationwide partisan efforts to suppress voter turnout this election season, particularly among the student population, which continues to face numerous barriers to civic participation. The Student Association for Voter Empowerment (SAVE) is currently joining hands with local groups to fight youth voter suppression not only in Montana, but also in Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. People For the American Way Foundation and SAVE recently held a press conference on Capitol Hill with members of Congress highlighting some of the voter suppression tactics that disproportionally affect student voters.

With so much at stake in this election, and with so many young voters becoming civically engaged for the first time in their lives, it is imperative that we protect our democratic process from the egregious effects of the  voter suppression tactics like those that happened in Montana and across the nation.

PFAW

One Last Liveblog! (For now)

Just a reminder that we'll be here tonight liveblogging the final presidential debate.

As always, your presence and participation are encouraged!

California Republican Party Ran into Voter Registration Problems Like ACORN's In 2006

Seems ACORN isn't the only organization that's had trouble with contractors submitting fraudulent voter registrations.

Via Firedoglake:

Faked names on voter registration forms. Error rates as high as 60 percent. Firing the people responsible for these errors. Investigations launched by local and state police. Sound familiar? This is not ACORN in the 2008 election's final days.

This is the California Republican Party and its contractors in 2006, when the same problems that are now dogging ACORN and providing political fodder for GOP attacks plagued an effort by California Republicans to register 750,000 people.

The details were all spelled out in a series of Los Angeles Times stories, which quoted former California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres saying these kinds of errors are inevitable "when you use private vendors." Even the state's top election official in 2006, Republican Bruce McPherson, was forced to investigate his own party's actions.

PFAW

Rove and "Voter Fraud"

Drew mentioned earlier today that "voter fraud is an almost entirely synthetic issue, cooked up as an excuse to push restrictive voter ID laws."  One of the chefs: Karl Rove. (I'm sure you're shocked!) 

Via Talking Points Memo comes a video from last year in which Rove talks about voter fraud being "a real problem" that's "not going away":

And did you know that all this is tied to the U.S. attorney firing scandal that came to light last year? Of several districts where Rove claims rampant fraud is taking place, three were districts in which U.S. attorneys got in trouble with the White House — and were subsequently fired — for not bringing enough prosecutions over voter fraud.

Fraud which, as the Brennan Center for Justice has found, "is actually less likely to occur than lightning striking a person."

PFAW

Undermining the Obama Presidency

Ezra Klein points out how the right is using the ACORN pseudo-scandal to undermine the Obama presidency – before the election has even taken place.

It's worth being very clear about what's happening here. It looks like Barack Obama is going to win the election. A directive has been sent down at Fox News that their shows should begin pushing a narrative that the election was stolen for Barack Obama by a group illegally registering poor minorities. In other words, Fox News is working to convince its viewers that the black guy won because a lot of black people voted illegally. Charming.
We’ve written about it before, but it’s worth saying again – an Obama victory won’t eliminate the far right, it will only embolden it.
PFAW

Everything You Wanted to Know About ACORN (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Having (possibly? momentarily?) decided to back away from the anti-Obama character attacks that we thought we'd see over the last weeks of the campaign, the McCain campaign is now pushing the idea that the race is going to decided by voter fraud committed by the voter registration group ACORN.

To use a favorite word of a certain vice presidential candidate, that's pure malarkey.

As People For has often pointed out in the past, voter fraud is an almost entirely synthetic issue, cooked up as an excuse to push restrictive voter ID laws. (Voter ID laws, of course, lower turnout among communities of color, the elderly, students, and working class voters.)

In response to the accusations, ACORN has created a useful fact sheet which contains some surprisingly interesting information.

Fact: 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.

Fact: 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.

PFAW

Building Progressive Power at a Dangerous Moment

The politics of Karl Rove are alive and well! As we near Election Day, we're seeing more smears and attempts at character assassination. The combination of win-at-all-costs politics and the growing financial crisis makes me nervous, because economic hardship has historically provided fertile ground for scapegoating vulnerable people.

People For is working hard to expose, refute, and defuse the kind of dangerous demagoguery the Right is pumping out. A number of pundits have blamed the housing market crash and subsequent drop in people's retirement savings on minority homebuyers who can no longer afford their predatory mortgages. They're trying to stir racial resentment and bigotry among voters who may already be uncertain about casting a vote for a black presidential candidate. The same candidate is falsely portrayed as a subversive Muslim extremist. Sarah Palin this week went so far as to accuse Barack Obama of "pallin' around with terrorists."

Sadly, these attacks work at whipping some people into a hateful frenzy. There were media reports, which were apparently serious enough that the Secret Service launched a threat investigation, that at that same speech Palin made her "terrorist" comment, a member of the crowd shouted "kill him" and another one yelled "treason" loud enough to be picked up by TV mics. It was unclear whether "kill him" was directed at Obama or William Ayers, to whom Palin was referring, but it really doesn't matter.

All of this shows what we are up against, and it shows that real progress means changing the culture as well as public policy. One of the main reasons I came to People For was that it wages the struggle for the heart and soul of America as fiercely as it fights for progressive policies. Two specific ways we'll do both are 1. winning at the ballot box, and 2. by sustaining a movement.

Winning at the polls: People For the American Way Voters Alliance is funding 24 progressive House candidates (all but one challengers) in close races against right-wing opponents in a very strategic way. The Voters Alliance issued a challenge on its ActBlue page pledging an additional $3,000 to the candidate who raises the most on that page by October 15. This encourages blogs to drive traffic to the site to support their favorite candidate, and it encourages the candidates to do the same for themselves (and it gives them the opportunity to ask for support in a different way). The page has already raised over $50,000!!! (Please consider a contribution to one or several of these great candidates and to the Voters Alliance, and spread the word!)

Sustaining the movement: People For the American Way Action Fund is using ActBlue to build the progressive movement's farm team by funding a group of bright young candidates for state and local office. The Right has engaged in similar efforts for decades — Sarah Palin is actually a graduate of GOPAC, the Right's primary candidate recruitment and training program. People For's Action Fund is running ads voiced by Rachael Maddow on Air America Radio starting next week in support of young progressives. Check out these candidates and again, consider a contribution (in these state and local races, a little bit can really go a long way).

THAT'S building progressive power.

Thanks to those of you who wrote in response to last week's note for the very warm and supportive e-mails. Keep the great feedback coming! E-mail me at Kathryn@pfaw.org.
 

PFAW

Three Decades of Covering the Court

Radar magazine has a great interview this week with Linda Greenhouse, who recently retired after 30 years of covering the Supreme Court for The New York Times.

It's a long, wide-ranging interview, so I'd recommend reading the whole thing, but here's one of the best bits:  Greenhouse talking about the Court's power to make the world better — particularly in terms of advancing gay rights. She refers here to the Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas to strike down a law that essentially made it a crime to be gay.

I talk about gay rights quite a lot as a marker of how much better off we are. I believe that very strongly. I think that was probably the most gripping scene I ever witnessed at the Court—when Kennedy read the majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas. Usually, when you go up to the Court, you don't know what's coming that day. But it was the last day of the term, and Lawrence was the last undecided case. So everybody knew, and the Court was filled with gay and lesbian members of the Supreme Court bar. When Kennedy got to where he said Bowers v. Hardwick was wrong when it was decided, it's wrong today, and we hereby overrule it, all these lawyers in the bar section started crying. It was just a wonderful scene. It was great.

Judith Schaeffer, our former legal director, wrote a great reflection on Lawrence v. Texas this past June, on the five-year anniversary of the landmark decision. Read it here.

PFAW

Marriage in Connecticut!

Break out the chilled champagne!

As you may have already heard, the Connecticut State Supreme Court today ruled that the state constitution prohibits marriage discrimination.  That means that *gasp* same-sex couples will be treated like everyone else!

It is, of course, worth pointing out one really obvious fact that the right wing will no doubt conveniently forget.

The ruling does not affect church's decisions about which marriages to perform and which not to.

Please, repeat that statement whenever you hear someone talking about how this decision "infringes on religious liberty."  (It doesn't.)  Churches will always have final say over their own ceremonies.

You can read more about the myths surrounding this decision here.

Now where's that champagne?

PFAW

Marriage Ban Update

If the stock market didn't give you enough heartburn today, check in on Dana Goldstein's rundown of the fight to stop discriminatory anti-marriage amendments.  Many of these amendments will be close in the end, so take this as another reminder to get out and vote on Election Day, no matter what the Dow is doing by November.

PFAW