(FinalCall.com) – The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), has been fighting for poor people for 40 years but it is currently locked in a struggle to save itself from what it calls a right wing agenda of false, negative attacks, crafted to dis-empower the low-income and working class communities it serves.
On September 23, ACORN and two former employees at its offices in Baltimore, Md., filed a lawsuit against James O’Keefe, III and Hannah Giles, who pretended to be a pimp and a prostitute, and video recorded the employees giving financial advice without their consent. They are also suing Andrew Brietbart, who posted the video on his website.
Since the incident, both Republicans and Democrats have called for a federal investigation into ACORN and for President Barack Obama to terminate its funding immediately through Republican leader John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) Defund Acorn Act of 2009.
ACORN argues that the act violates constitutional law, which prohibits the government from singling out one group or individual for punishment without a trial.
According to Bertha Lewis, who leads the group, ACORN has helped more than 50,000 people save their homes this past year alone. “What we have done over the past 40 years is, we put $15 billion back into poor neighborhoods. No one else did that. We did that through homeownership, making sure that people’s wages got done, and making sure there was responsible development, so the little bit of money that we competed for and won, we actually returned to low income neighborhoods 100 fold,” said Ms. Lewis, ACORN’s chief executive officer, to The Final Call.
“That’s not the case with AIG. That’s not the case with Halliburton, that’s been convicted of crimes–but it would hurt poor people. This is the agenda of the right. This is the agenda of the Republican party … Where was the investigation of Blackwater? Where was the investigation of Halliburton, all of these defense contractors. Why aren’t we calling for an investigation of every single person and organization that ever got any funding of any kind from the government? You want to investigate us. Investigate everybody else. Let’s be fair about it,” Ms. Lewis said.
Ms. Lewis charged that the right wing agenda includes the mainstream media, not just FOX News. For example, she said, the news has underreported or ignored that ACORN staff members in Philadelphia and San Diego called police to report that two people were in their offices, claiming to be child prostitution traffickers, and were being very aggressive and refused to leave.
The police in San Diego handled matters over the phone, but Philadelphia ACORN insisted on and received a police report, she said.
“We know that FOX News is not news. That’s entertainment and we know that they have an agenda, but the mainstream, rather going behind and telling the whole story and interviewing folks where the police were called, and folks in our offices that refused to talk to these folks, they just, because this was sensational, this was sex, they were lazy, they just swallowed what FOX News said whole, and never bothered to add any journalistic integrity,” Ms. Lewis continued.
According to Ms. Lewis, ACORN made some powerful enemies over its years of helping people. The last straw was when it began to fight voter suppression and registering Blacks and poor people to vote. In 2004, she said, when it registered one million people in Florida and helped to pass a ballot initiative that increased the minimum wage, George W. Bush’s White House came after the group with U.S. attorneys because they were registering too many minorities, changing the local political landscape, and impacting public policy.
“Only recently have you seen the emails made public of Karl Rove in which he specifically said ‘go after Acorn. They have too much power,’ “ Ms. Lewis said.
Unfortunately, said Dr. David Horne, executive director of the California African American Political and Economic Institute at California State University Dominguez Hills, ACORN has picked up a bad reputation in the public domain, although it may not be deserved. But in politics, image often counts more than substance, he said. Still he believes a fair investigation will thwart any attempts to defund the agency.
“This is really an attempt to try to attack and find anything that they think will hurt Barack Obama’s image. There’s no question that there are people who have decided that Barack Obama must be made to fail so they will do anything and everything to try to cause that. That’s how Van Jones got taken down, but Barack Obama never really worked with ACORN. ACORN was part of larger set of agencies and community-based organizations that were part of what they were dong with the education and voter registration,” Dr. Horne said.
Fighting foreclosures, ACORN defends homeowners (07-31-2009)