As the Right revs up its efforts to discredit and defund Planned Parenthood, it’s important to remember its last attempt to bring down a national organization through sheer force of repeated falsehoods.
ACORN, which at its height was the largest anti-poverty organization in the country and registered hundreds of thousands of new voters, became a political pariah in the 2008 elections after right-wing organizations and politicians hyped up charges that individual ACORN employees had made up names on voter registration forms and a video by now-renowned prankster James O’Keefe purported to show ACORN employees cooperating with criminals. The problem was, of course, that these allegations were either over-hyped or just plain false. O’Keefe’s video was found to be heavily edited and misleading. The handful of ACORN employees who filled voter registration forms with false names did so to cheat ACORN out of their paychecks, and never had any plan to commit voter fraud. The Government Accountability Office found that ACORN had not misused federal money. But by then, the organization had lost its federal funding and disbanded.
Now, ACORN has been cleared of another one of the charges levied against it, voter fraud in Connecticut. The Connecticut Post reports:
Following a two-year probe, state investigators have cleared the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now of charges of voter fraud brought by Republican registrars in Bridgeport and Stamford.
"The evidence does not provide a sufficient basis to determine that Connecticut ACORN had an institutional or systematic role in designing and implementing a scheme or strategy to fraudulently register or enroll electors ... prior to the November 2, 2008 election," read the recent report from the Elections Enforcement Commission.
The commission's investigation took a close look at the nuts and bolts of ACORN's operation, including copies of thousands of voter registration applications.
ACORN paid workers, who were screened using prior employment records, a flat $8 an hour to canvass neighborhoods and register voters, regardless of how many completed cards were handed in at the end of a shift. Workers had to initial each card they collected and supervisors reviewed batches of completed cards to determine if they surpassed a threshold of 30 percent deficient.
Because ACORN under state law was required to turn in all cards to registrars, the organization would identify at the top those identified as defective -- an effort to avoid the very complaints filed by Borges and Corelli.
Although charges against ACORN keep on being dismissed, the damage against the organization and the people it served has been huge. And the efforts to slam the organization are continuing—just this week Sen. David Vitter introduced the “Protect Taxpayers from ACORN Act.” We need to make sure that this sort of political takedown—where lies are repeated as the truth until it doesn’t matter anymore— doesn’t happen again.