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Friday, December 4, 2009

The ACORN Forum

This week Republicans held a forum on ACORN in the House Judiciary Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday. It was round table style back and forth. This was not a hearing but a forum, and as such, there was no testimony. No one on the panel was under oath. In fact, it really wasn't that sort of a set up. Congress people would ask a question or make a point and any and all members of the panel were free to jump in. The panel included Buddy Caldwell and his son. Buddy is the AG of Louisiana and his son works in the AG's office. The AG's office is currently conducting an investigation of ACORN and last month it made a splash when they raided an office of ACORN. Former Project Vote employee and self described "whistle blower", Anita Moncrief, was also on the panel. The Secretary of State of Indiana Todd Rotkia, and Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, and a former Justice Dept. official, were on the panel.

The panel discussion went about as expected. Here's a clip.

There was the usual series of accusations against of criminal wrongdoing including voter registration fraud, comingling of funds, etc. There was theatrics. Congressman Steve King, at one point, took a series of acorns out of his pocket and spilled them onto his desk in front of him. There wasn't much in the way of anything new. There was no new accusations. The Republicans again bemoaned the fact that the Obama Justice Department, along with the Democrats in Congress, fail to investigate ACORN.

The star of the forum, in the opinion of an attendee, was Anita Moncrief. Moncrief made her oft repeated accusations. She worked at Project Vote, a get out the vote organization. She said she was in possession of a list of emails from the Obama administration and said that as far back as the Gore campaign the Democrats have shared their email lists with ACORN. She went so far as to call ACORN political director, Zach Pollett, and five others of being Democratic operatives. She provided no specific evidence or context for this charge and former founder and chief organizer Wade Rathke wasn't one of the six operatives mentioned. She accused ACORN of being an arm of the Democratic party, and of trying to illegally influence elections.

Moncrief is currently being sued by her former employer, Project Vote, for falsely receiving a credit card and using it for personal items. At one point, Congressman Darrell Issa attempted to minimize the theft by alluding to her as being poor and a mother. Moncrief began to respond when her attorney whispered in her ear and she stopped. Spakovsky bemoaned the Justice Dept.'s lack of a formal investigation into ACORN's wrongdoing. Rotkia talked about his state's investigation into voter registration fraud. The Caldwell's were vague and well they should. They have an investigation ongoing and they can't say anything that may prejudice future juries.

The last hour, however, turned into an anti Obama fest. The panel and many of the Congress people made all sorts of connections, loose and strong, between Obama and ACORN. For instance, current White House Counsel Craig Greg used to be an attorney for ACORN. This was harped on. Between the accusations of Anita Moncrief and calls for Justice to investigate, this came down to the usual list of accusations.

In my opinion, this has limited effectiveness. First, it appears clear that some Republicans and Conservatives want to turn ACORN into something akin to what some liberals and Democrats did to Republicans and Halliburton. That is a symbol of everything that's wrong with the Democratic party. I'd be careful with that. Here's why. First, Obama and the Democrats are disintegrating. When your opponents are committing suicide, your best move is to stay out of the way and let them do it. Between health care, the economy, the deficit, and Afghanistan, their policies are failing. There's no need to pile on with a series of conspiracy theories that are hard to follow.

I've said that the connection between Obama and ACORN is loose. He has a lot of connections to a lot of colorful and radical folks and ACORN is one, but only one. I don't know why the focus needs be on ACORN when there's so many to choose from. The issue surrounding ACORN is of corruption. Buddy Caldwell, himself a Democrat, understands this and that's what he's investigating. Turning it into a partisan mission only turns off all non partisans and deflects from the issue at hand, corruption. If ACORN's corruption is exposed, all those politicians that got into bed with ACORN, including Obama, will have to answer. If, however, the focus is on the White House counsel and not comingling of funds, then we're no longer focusing on corruption but conspiracies.

There are plenty of vulnerabilities for Obama here. First, his refusal to investigate speaks for itself. There's overwhelming evidence that ACORN needs to be investigated and not doing so is shameful. Second, Holder's insistence that ACORN be paid for work done looks bad. That's another good line of attack. Think about it, the White House doesn't want to investigate them but does want to pay them. At some point, Louisiana, under a Democratic AG, will finish its investigation and all signs point to something explosive. By doing so, they'll do the job that the AG of the U.S. shoud have been doing. That's a powerful line of attack. Once you get into tin foil of the White House counsel then you lose the middle.

The fact that the current White House counsel himself used to work for ACORN shows just how powerful that group has become. It's yet more evidence of just how much reach they have. That's why it's that much more vital that they need to be investigated immediately and fully. Turning it into a partisan issue misses the point and it loses the middle. The top organizer for ACORN in D.C. is a Republican. Organizing is its own ideology. That ACORN is somehow intertwined with the Democrats is not nearly as simple as partisans make it. They're intertwined with our entire political structure. They're currently working hand in hand with Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg on foreclosure prevention in New York. Their goal, ultimately, is the expansion of power. That's not a partisan issue. Focus on the criminality. Demand an investigation, and keep the attacks on things that are there and stay away from the conspiracies. That's my advice to Republicans.

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