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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Too Good To Check: How the Conservative Media Smeared ACORN and Unwittingly Handed Them a Gift (UPDATE)

It started as a rumor told by insiders to media. Insiders believed that all the revelations were making the ACORN brand so toxic that they may have to change it. Then, ACORN Intl. changed its name and they thought that was an indication that ACORN itself was about to follow suit. Of course ACORN Intl. is NOT ACORN. Yet, Washington Examiner columnist Kevin Mooney reported the story so that it sounded as though the flagship company not ACORN Intl. changed its name. While that mistake may sound as though its small, it's actually not only huge but totally unacceptable. Mooney has been on television speaking about ACORN. As such, he should have known the story better than what he exhibited.

Mooney even quoted ACORN 8 member Marcel Reid in building the case for this. I spoke with Ms. Reid and she emailed me that she was misquoted. There's supposed to be a correction tomorrow morning.

I first heard about it on Fox and Friends. When I first heard it on F&F, it was also reported as though the flagship ACORN had changed its name. I was immediately intrigued because according to F&F, ACORN had changed their name to Community Organizers International. Wade Rathke, previous CEO of ACORN, was now the CEO of ACORN Intl. That signaled to me that he was reasserting power. See, Wade's brother Dale had embezzled about a million dollars, then Wade covered it up, and as a result both were eventually removed from from ACORN supposedly. Wade did however remain CEO of ACORN Intl. Now, it appeared as though ACORN was taking on a world view.

When I first read the story I knew something was up. In the story, Mooney says this.

ACORN executives have also changed their organization’s name, which was tarnished by investigations in at least 14 states of allegations of voter registration fraud during the 2008 presidential campaign, and charges by current and former members of financial mismanagement and misrepresentation.

The new name will let ACORN leaders continue their operations without worrying about prior bad publicity, according to Marcel Reid of ACORN 8, a group of present and former members.

“We’ve known for many months now that the name ACORN is going to be retired,” Reid said. “The name has been so damaged to the point where the leadership knows it simply can’t go on as it has with the ACORN label out front and center, especially after all of the reporting.”

In fact, the process has already begun, she noted. Wade Rathke, who founded the organization, announced on his blog that ACORN International has officially changed its name to “Community Organizations International.”

Reid also said ACORN is in the process of dismantling Citizen’s Consulting Inc. (CCI), a New-Orleans based non-profit, which has been used to maintain centralized financial control, ACORN 8 activists claim. Tax records show that CCI is interlinked with several ACORN affiliates.

This is sloppy work plain and simple. I'm sorry to say it but the story speaks for itself. He says that executives at ACORN have changed the name. Then, he says that Wade Rathke has changed the name of ACORN Intl. to Community Organizations Intl. but never says what ACORN itself changed its name to. He made the distinction without figuring out that he didn't finish the story. I can only assume something was lost in translation. If Mooney's been following the story for any period of time he should have been able to put two and two together. That he didn't is inexcusable.

Then, it was picked up in some parts of the conservative media, though not necessarily all. Anyone who picked up this story also should be ashamed of themselves. I heard this myth reported on Hannity, Newsmax, Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, and now on Beck just repeated it on O'Reilly. All of these people totally misunderstood the story.

In fact, here's the press release I received from ACORN.

Here are the facts: ACORN is not changing its name."ACORN International, a five-year old organization of overseas former ACORN affiliates, did. ACORN withdrew from ACORN International a year ago as part of an overall restructuring process and requested that they stop using the ACORN name, which they have now done.
"Wade Rathke was fired as Chief Organizer in June 2008 and has had no further involvement with ACORN since then. He will not be taking on any responsibilities with ACORN."

Obviously, everyone that reported it inaccurately never asked ACORN for comment before publishing the story. That's a rookie mistake and a sign of lazy journalistic mistake. So, now everyone is in a position to hand ACORN a gift. In fact, there is no story here now except the one where some in the conservative media smeared ACORN. Now, I'm in a position to have to report that. Everyone that moved this forward should pat themselves on the back because they just handed a gift to their enemies.

Clearly, ACORN did not change their name. In fact, it all appears to be totally innocent and above board. It should have been reported that way.

ACORN uses these sorts of mistakes to demonize their opponents. For instance, they don't commit voter fraud but funder fraud. Yet, that myth continues to be perpetuated among the conservative media. Then, ACORN claims their enemies smear them with false charges of voter fraud. If you're trying to seriously report on this story and you still haven't figured out that not only does ACORN commit funder fraud not voter fraud but that reporting it wrong only gives them ammunition, then frankly, you're a hack. At the very least, you've reported this story like a hack.

I'm not calling anyone who reported this a hack, but certainly, on this particular occasion, they were. The problem is that most people that follow this story report it the way they want it to be rather than the way it is. Michelle Malkin is a great example.

And now, taxpayer-subsidized ACORN affiliate Project Vote — where President Obama cut his teeth as a community organizer and learned Leftist intimidation tactics up close and personal — is going after whistleblower Anita MonCrief and an anonymous “John Doe” defendant for posting invaluable documents that reveal the
money-shuffling racket.

Obama. ACORN. Project Vote. Corrupt birds of a feather bully together.The scoop: Project Vote has filed a federal lawsuit against MonCrief for blogging about her experience and knowledge of the non-profit 501(c)(3) organization’s partisan and political activities, including coordination with the Obama campaign. Project Vote seeks compensatory damages and exemplary damages “of at least $5 million” and all costs and attorney’s fees on trumped-up charges of “trademark infringement” and publication of “trade secrets.”

Malkin is so obsessed with linking ACORN to Obama that she fails to see the real story. That's likely because the real part has nothing to do with Obama. Here's the first part that's important.

Meanwhile, ACORN’s Project Vote affiliate has filed suit against Anita MonCrief, a former employee, who has testified under oath on voter registration allegations. ACORN is currently under investigation in at least 14 states for electoral irregularities. The Project Vote suit claims that Anita MonCrief and an unidentified accomplice gained access into private e-mails from group executives and stole the group’s name without permission. It also accuses Moncrief of using a company credit card for her own purposes.

Besides reporting on a name change, the Examiner story reported that Project Vote, an affiliate of ACORN, was pursuing legal action against whistle blower Anita Moncrief. That part of the story is far more important but totally ignored because that didn't fit their world view. One of the charges was a misuse of a credit card. When Dale Rathke embezzled a million dollars he used a credit card to run up personal charges and then had the company pay them as a business expense. They covered that up. Yet, now, they are prosecuting Moncrief, a whistle blower, for just about the same offense. That's how you know the story stinks. Is it really possible that they take such crimes seriously suddenly? Or it is convenient that they can smear a whistle blower with such an accusation?

Second, ACORN is making claims against ACORN 8 of copy right infringement. At the exact same time, ACORN Intl. changes its name claiming that they are separate organizations and Wade Rathke is only following through on a previous request from ACORN. Think about it, how long does it take to change a name? Yet, it just so happens to happen at the exact same time they file a similar suit against ACORN 8. That's not merely a coincidence. They are performing a CYA because had they followed through with the suit, ACORN 8 would have pointed out that they allowed ACORN Intl. to keep their name in any suit. That's how you know the suit against ACORN 8 is bunk. They only cared that ACORN Intl. kept their name despite a supposed split only when they filed suit against ACORN 8.

The story really had nothing to do with Obama, which is likely why she missed. (some of the documents she's released show that she has at least one well placed source so making such a mistake is also inexcusable)

In the end, there's no really huge story in the original story. The only story now is that some of the conservative media unwittingly and totally recklessly just handed ACORN a gift. At the same time, I am in a position of having to refute a smear against ACORN. Just imagine if it continues to be reported that ACORN changed its name when clearly it hasn't. It will only make things worse. Frankly, everyone that reported it wrong is bound to make a public correction or allow ACORN to cry smear. I expect everyone that reported it wrong to make a correction. If not, they have done more harm than good in trying to expose ACORN.


Michelle Malkin is the first to issue a retraction.

I just spoke with Kevin Mooney of the Examiner and he told me that he will be issuing a "clarification" later in the day. Here's the clarification.

I've also spoken with David Patten, the author of the Newsmax piece, and while his piece indicates that ACORN was trying to re brand, he correctly identified the talk of re branding as "speculation". Here's how it was addressed in the article.

"This may indeed be the beginning of an ACORN network-wide rebranding, but a rotten ACORN by any other name still stinks," Matthew Vadum, a staunch ACORN critic at the Capital Research Center think tank, tells Newsmax.

That's absolutely correct though it's also why I try and avoid reporting on "speculation" because that's all it is.


rachel said...

A dead rose by any other name still stinks. Who cares what Satan calls himself...he's still Satan.

mike volpe said...

in this case, it matters greatly. It's been made to seem as though ACORN is changing its name due to pressure. That is simply not the case since they aren't even changing their name at all.

What's important is to report all of this accurately.

Hube said...

This is some first-class blogging, Mike!

Ex-Dissident said...

Malkin showed ample evidence about linking project vote with acorn. Furthermore, she showed evidence of coordination between obama's campaign and these non-profits. her focus was appropriate.

mike volpe said...

Too bad she totally missed that ACORN Intl change its name not ACORN itself. Yet, she reported it totally inaccurately.

Besides, it's not as though she discovered that PROJECT Vote was working with the Obama campaign. That's been out there for a while.

You won't find one story on her site about aCORN that doesn't also mention Obama. That's because is desperate to link the two. That's telling the story as you want it to be not as it is.