Six years after ACORN — the “community organizer” network infamous for its role in voter fraud — filed for bankruptcy, its former leaders continue to conduct voter registration drives like the ones that landed the group in hot water.
ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has close ties to prominent politicians. In Chicago, Barack Obama trained ACORN organizers and represented the group in court as its lawyer. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton were close to ACORN and spoke at its conventions.
“This is the kind of thing you see in some banana republic, Uruguay or someplace — not in the United States.”
ACORN was instrumental in the enactment of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (the “Motor Voter” law), which made it easier to commit voter fraud.
As I reported in my 2011 book, “Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers,” at least 54 ACORN employees and individuals associated with ACORN have been convicted of voter fraud. Voter fraud is a blanket term coined by lawyers. It refers to fraudulent voting, identity fraud, perjury, voter registration fraud, forgery, and a variety of crimes related to the electoral process.
ACORN “community organizers” never seemed to care if the voters they registered were actual people or imaginary ones.
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The organization even registered cartoon characters to vote. “There’s no quality control on purpose, no checks and balances,” said Nate Toler, who worked on an ACORN voter effort in Missouri. “The internal motto is ‘We don’t care if it’s a lie, just so long as it stirs up the conversation.'”
There are at least 30 active ACORN successor groups and at least a dozen of them are involved in registering voters and in get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operations in the current election cycle. The central entity in the old ACORN network of 370 organizations was ACORN Inc., which filed for bankruptcy on Election Day 2010.
The ACORN offshoots are currently active in key battleground states like Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, as well as in vote-rich California, New York, and Missouri. Handing out candy and tobacco products as inducements, the Maryland successor group allegedly broke federal law earlier this year while registering voters.
While there are no specific allegations of wrongdoing against most of the ACORN successor groups, electoral integrity activists are concerned that these groups, tainted by their connection to ACORN, continue to operate.
The nonprofit group, which critics accused of turning graveyards into Democratic strongholds, was sentenced in 2011 for “compensation” for registration of voters, a crime in Nevada and a species of voter fraud.
In the scheme, voter registration canvassers were illegally offered cash bonuses, which they would receive upon reaching a goal of 21 registrations in a day. Nevada law forbids the practice on the theory that such bonuses provide an incentive for canvassers to file bogus registrations.
Prosecutors said that higher-ups in the group knew two senior ACORN executives were involved in the criminal conspiracy.
ACORN was fined $5,000, the maximum allowed under state law. When the group filed bankruptcy, it declared assets of less than $4,000 against liabilities exceeding $4 million.
In what appears to be an inside joke, ACORN officials in Las Vegas, the gambling capital of America, called the incentive program “Blackjack.”
Las Vegas Judge Donald Mosley wasn’t laughing at the sentencing hearing.
“It is making a mockery of our election process,” Mosley fumed. “If I had an individual in this courtroom … who was responsible for this kind of thing, I would put that person in prison for 10 years, hard time, and not think twice about it.”
Mosley called ACORN’s crime “reprehensible.”
“This is the kind of thing you see in some banana republic, Uruguay or someplace — not in the United States.”
ACORN’s lack of concern about the integrity of the electoral system was evident in 2010 when its voter mobilization division, Project Vote, put Amy Adele Busefink in charge of its national GOTV operation. Busefink, who entered an Alford (no-contest) plea in 2010 for her involvement in the illegal “Blackjack” scheme, was under indictment in Nevada while running the 2010 voter drive. She also ran ACORN’s fraud-ridden 2008 voter registration drive. In connection with that voter registration drive, authorities discovered 400,000 bogus registrations, which were thrown out.
Judge Mosley sentenced Busefink to two years imprisonment but suspended the jail time provided that she abided by the terms of her probation. She was also fined a total of $4,000 and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. Prosecutors had argued for a fine of just $1,000.
To this day, Busefink continues to work for Project Vote, which emerged relatively unscathed from the ACORN scandal and continues to be very active in elections.
Busefink even received a promotion. In 2006, her title was national voter registration director. Today, her title at Project Vote is deputy director. Her official online biography states that she “works to develop Project Vote’s voter participation and voter registration field programs, utilizing new and exciting technology for Get-Out-the-Vote efforts.” A post at Project Vote’s blog from July 7 of this year bears her byline. Busefink writes, “To learn more about how to build power in your community through safe and effective voter registration drives, or if you are interested in hosting a training or webinar,” interested persons should contact her.
ACORN also entered into consent decrees after being accused of wrongdoing in Ohio and Washington.
This writer has been tracking ACORN and its successor groups for nearly a decade. My research reveals that many ACORN spin-offs are active in the current election cycle.
Here is a list:
Baltimore-based Communities United registered 500 felons to vote in the first month after legislation restored voting rights to those on parole and probation, Capital News Service reported last week. In three months, the total number of registered felons jumped to 2,000. “We busted,” said member Reginald Smith said. “We definitely had some crazy, astonishing numbers for voter registration.” Baltimore is home to 20,000 of the state’s 44,000 felons. Last spring, Communities United may have violated federal law during the voter registration process, according to the Quinton Report, a blog run by journalist Jeff Quinton. Volunteers from the group reportedly handed out Skittles and cigarettes to those who registered to vote, which Quinton notes violates federal law.
St. Louis-based Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) was founded in December 2009 by ACORN veteran Jeff Ordower, who served as its executive director until mid-2015. MORE was involved in voter registration efforts flowing from the chaos following the August 2014 death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson. Funded by radical billionaire George Soros, MORE helped foment the race riots that shook Ferguson. It led efforts to free demonstrators from jail so they could continue vandalizing businesses, intimidating perceived adversaries, setting fires, and throwing projectiles at police.
Orlando-based Organize Now is the successor group to Florida ACORN. It has been working with Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment (FIRE). The groups planned to reach 185,000 voters through door-to-door canvassing. Organize Now was founded by Tamecka Pierce, former president of Florida ACORN.
Active in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, Action NC announced its goal for this year was to register 8,000 new voters. Action NC’s executive director is Alexander P. “Pat” McCoy, former head organizer for North Carolina ACORN.
Action United is the business name of Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Communities Organizing for Change, which is one of Pennsylvania ACORN’s successor groups. Action United, created in January 2010 by ACORN members, claims to have 52,000 member families statewide.
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) ran voter registration drives in the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas and is now running GOTV efforts. ACCE is headquartered in ACORN California’s old office in Los Angeles. Around the time of national ACORN’s bankruptcy, ACCE paid $9,000 to purchase ACORN California’s computers and office equipment. It also bought the rights to ACORN’s donor databases. ACCE’s founder and executive director, Amy Schur, was head of ACORN California. Her current title at ACCE is campaign director. According to leftist academic Peter Dreier, as of late 2013 ACCE had a staff of 28 and about 8,400 dues-paying members. Its sister organization is the ACCE Institute.
New York Communities for Change (NYCC) conducted a voter registration drive on Long Island. “Newly registered and engaged voters are the most powerful tool our communities have to ensuring that issues — such as quality education for our children — are at the forefront of national, state, and local conversations,” Diane Goins, president of the Long Island chapter of NYCC told Newsday. NYCC acquired ACORN membership lists and, for the first few years, operated out of ACORN’s office on Nevins Street in Brooklyn. Former ACORN senior executive Jon Kest, who died in 2012, was NYCC’s executive director. The New York-based Black Institute, founded by former ACORN national chief organizer Bertha Lewis, is involved in GOTV operations.
The Texas Organizing Project (TOP) is involved in voter registration along with its sister organization, the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund.
The ACORN successor group Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) is involved in GOTV. Monica Sandschafer, a former state director of Arizona ACORN, founded LUCHA and was its executive director.
Organizers in the Land of Enchantment (OLÉ) replaced New Mexico’s ACORN chapter. It is involved in GOTV and petition drives. Its sister organization is OLÉ Education Fund. Matthew Henderson, former New Mexico ACORN head organizer, is OLÉ’s executive director.
Minneapolis-based ACORN successor group Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) is involved in GOTV. The group uses the Twitter hashtag #NOCtheVote to promote its voter mobilization effort.
ACORN successor group Arkansas Community Organizations is involved in voter registration efforts. Another successor group in Arkansas is A Community Voice — but it is unclear if the group has been involved in voter registration or GOTV this election cycle.
Then there is the voter fraud-plagued ACORN and SEIU-created Working Families Party which operates in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Oregon, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Nevada, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia. Its sister group is the Working Families Organization.
Around the time of its bankruptcy filing, ACORN’s final national chief organizer, Bertha Lewis, chuckled about the collapse of ACORN. “I think the Right is going be sorry,” she said, laughing. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and they didn’t really kill us. They just made us stronger.”
Lewis, who succeeded longtime ACORN chief organizer Wade Rathke, confirmed information revealed in leaked emails sent to supporters by then-ACORN spokesman Nathan Henderson-James: The dissolution of ACORN as a national organization is a gigantic head-fake.
Lewis told New York radio host Roy Paul:
“[It] really got us to thinking about how to reorganize ourselves, how to run our chapters because we knew that these kind of attacks would never stop. So we had to regroup, reorganize, rebrand. But folks across the country in 25 states, former ACORN chapters and former ACORN members are still organizing on a local level, here in New York City … Our chapters regrouped. People renamed themselves, reorganized themselves, so that they could have very good structures, and the fight continues. I think in a way the Right made a mistake when they attacked us viciously. Because now what they did was [they] actually helped us focus [on] how to make ourselves bullet-proof as we move forward.”
ACORN collapsed under the weight of its own scandals.
In mid-2008 it was revealed that ACORN’s chief financial officer had embezzled nearly a million dollars from the group’s bank accounts and pension funds and that ACORN management had covered it up for years. The Department of Justice never investigated, but the scandal caused shock waves in the philanthropic community. Far-left funders like the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and the Arca Foundation (then run by Rep. Donna Edwards) cut off ACORN, plunging it into financial turmoil.
In September 2009, activists James O’Keefe III and Hannah Giles released a series of videos showing ACORN workers counseling a young man and woman who posed as a pimp and a prostitute. The supposed criminals were instructed in the finer points of evading taxes, defrauding the government, and importing underage illegal alien girls from El Salvador to work as prostitutes. As each of the O’Keefe-Giles videos was released, leftists defended ACORN, blaming a few “boneheads,” as Whoopi Goldberg put it, for ACORN’s corruption and lawlessness.
ACORN and its successor groups have a pattern of lying and deceitfulness that keeps repeating. More recently, the Left excused the conduct of Planned Parenthood after undercover video by the Center for Medical Progress showed leaders discussing the trafficking of human babies’ body parts. Democrats have also tried to explain away more recent videos by O’Keefe’s Project Veritas Action, in which top Democratic Party organizers acknowledge fomenting violence at Donald Trump campaign rallies. In one of the videos, a Democratic organizer said the false flag operation, to create the impression that Trump supporters are violent, had the blessing of Hillary Clinton herself.
In 2009, after the O’Keefe-Giles videos on ACORN were released, Congress cut off funding for the group. ACORN, which had received at least $79 million in federal funds over the years, went bankrupt a year later.
But that didn’t really stop ACORN, the corrupt enterprise that reinvented itself and refuses to die.
Matthew Vadum is senior vice president at the Capital Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in the nation’s capital.