An ACORN by Any Other Name…

…Still Stinks! (with apologies to Bill Shakespeare)

OK, I admit it. I reeeaaallllyy don’t like ACORN. Sure, many of their causes seem good on the surface: helping people get loans and affordable housing, helping them get out to vote, lobbying for better wages and healthcare, etc. It is their far-Left ideology, which naturally informs just how they try to accomplish these goals, which is the problem. (Fixing street lamps is OK, though.) And that would be bad enough, if it weren’t for the corruption, deception, and generally questionable activity that many in the ACORN family are apparently guilty of.

Fake ACORN logo

ACORN Logo (not the real one, of course)

ACORN’s spokesman says, “[W]e are starting to win some vindication on the facts.” I don’t know about the mismanagement charges, but I’m pretty sure the evidence of voter registration fraud is strong, and it has been going on for years. And we all saw or heard the ACORN reps telling the undercover couple how to get housing assistance and skirt federal tax laws while running their new brothel of underage Salvadoran girls. Hard to deny that. (I think all of the ACORN employees from the videos have been fired.)

Of course, we have to be careful not to paint them all with too broad a brush. I am willing to grant there may be some individuals, even groups, within the ACORN network who are as appalled (or nearly so) as I am at the unethical behavior that some of their cohorts have demonstrated.

That being said, certain comments were made in this article (and elsewhere) that reminded of something I have touched on before. When caught and confronted with doing something they shouldn’t, certain types of people — individuals and groups — immediately turn accusations back on the accuser. In this case, the ACORN organization (or, at least, certain people within it) was revealed to be doing and condoning some rather serious things that were illegal and unethical. Regardless of any questions about the confidentiality of the recordings — isn’t that supposed to be for the protection of the “client”, anyway? — or whether the “pimp” was wearing a “pimp suit” — if he wasn’t, wouldn’t that work in his favor? –, the accusations appear pretty well-substantiated that they are, indeed, guilty of those things. As a result, ACORN was publicly embarrassed (though, perhaps not as much as they should have been) and they lost a lot of public and government support.

So, what do they do? ACORN’s spokespersons and other advocates point the finger at those mean right-wingers who caused the problems by shedding light on what they were doing. This is accompanied by counter-allegations against the specific individuals — in this case the undercover journalists, who are accused of felonious filmmaking and conservative propagandist editing — and, of course, the requisite comparisons to McCarthyism. (Not surprisingly, racism is among the accusations, too.) It reminds me of the kid whose parents discover drugs in his room and confront him about it. First thing he does is to lash back at his parents for “snooping” and violating his privacy. They, of course, were in the right, and he was guilty of wrongdoing.

As usual with these things, I wonder what ACORN’s leaders/spokespersons would have said if the people that exposed them were of a center-left leaning….

I attribute this sort of reaction by ACORN (and others) to 1) a lack of a strong moral base, including the disposition to put ideology over ethics; and 2) the ever-present abdication of personal responsibility. “[T]hese range of attacks do damage to your brand and your good name.” Right. And the rampant fraud & corruption, among other things, had nothing to do with it.

So,… as previously reported, the ACORN affiliates are supposedly going their own ways and under new names. For example, we now have:

  • Chicago-based ACORN Housing becoming Affordable Housing Centers of America.
  • California ACORN becoming Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.
  • New York ACORN becoming New York Communities for Change.

Other affiliates will follow, though some (e.g., Maryland ACORN) have simply ceased operations. But, rumor has it ACORN proper may be trying the same renaming/rebranding tactic before long.

However, according to the article, “while their names are different, most groups have kept the same offices and staff.” But, insists the leader of the housing group (both old & new versions), “We really have no relationship with ACORN whatsoever.” Really? The breakaway groups also claim they now have “tougher ethics rules and better management…. [W]e’ve put reforms in place and what you saw on the video can never happen again.”

I’m sorry. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt. But, the complex interconnectedness of the ACORN network, its history of unethical behavior, and the far-Left agenda all make me just a bit too skeptical. A nice, fresh name and revamped playbook ain’t gonna cut it. In fact, the phrase that comes to my mind is, to quote the President, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

UPDATE 3/20/2010: The NY Times has now published an article discussing this subject. Here is an excerpt that exemplifies what I was saying above:

Bertha Lewis, the chief executive of Acorn, said in an e-mail message that her organization’s problems were the result of “a series of well-orchestrated, relentless, well-funded right-wing attacks” reminiscent of the McCarthy era.

“Our effective work empowering African-American and low-income voters made us a target,” she said. “And the videos were a manufactured, sensational story that led to a rush to judgment and an unconstitutional act by Congress.”

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