Opinion

ACORN -- The Stench From This Organization Is Overwhelming

By Glenn BeckHost, "Glenn Beck"

Hello America,

A friend of mine once said that the easy thingto do and the right thingto do are rarely the same. Ain't that the truth? And I'm not even necessarily talking about the big things in life--I'm talking about the small decisions that we make every day. Easy and right almost never walk hand-in hand. Ideally, most of you will never have to make an "easy / right" decision with national implications, but I recently had a chance to talk with some folks who did. I'm happy to say, they didn'tdo the easy thing...

Since way before President Obama was elected to office, I've been telling you about the "questionable" practices of ACORN--the Association of Community Organizations for Reform. Last summer and fall, even some in the mainstream media (yes, if you can believe they're capable of taking a break from hard hitting stories about "American Idol" and Madonna's boyfriends) began looking into their voter registration practices.

To bring you up to speed on the facts, here are some highlights from a recent piece from John Fund, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal Online:

" Nevada officials charged Acorn, its regional director and its Las Vegas field director with submitting thousands of fraudulent voter registration forms last year. Larry Lomax, the registrar of voters in Las Vegas, says he believes 48% of Acorn's forms "are clearly fraudulent." Prosecutors in Pittsburgh, Pa., also charged seven Acorn employees with filing hundreds of fraudulent voter registrations before last year's general election.

Acorn spokesman Scott Levenson calls the Nevada criminal complaint "political grandstanding" and says that any problems were the actions of an unnamed "bad employee." But Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada's Democratic Attorney General, told the Las Vegas Sun that Acorn itself is named in the criminal complaint. She says that Acorn's training manuals "clearly detail, condone and . . . require illegal acts," such as requiring its workers to meet strict voter-registration targets to keep their jobs.

Elsewhere, Washington state prosecutors fined Acorn $25,000 after several employees were convicted of voter registration fraud in 2007. The group signed a consent decree with King County (Seattle), requiring it to beef up its oversight or face criminal prosecution. In the 2008 election, Acorn's practices led to investigations, some ongoing, in 14 other states.

Acorn's relationship to the Obama campaign is a matter of public record. Last year, Citizens Consulting Inc., the umbrella group controlling Acorn, was paid $832,000 by the Obama campaign for get-out-the-vote efforts in key primary states. Mr. Obama distanced himself from the group's scandals last year, saying "We don't need Acorn's help." Nevertheless, he got his start as a community organizer at Acorn's side. In 1992, he headed a registration effort for Project Vote, an Acorn partner at the time. In 1995, he represented Acorn in a key case upholding the new Motor Voter Act -- the very law whose mandated postcard registration system Acorn workers use to flood election offices with bogus registrations.

As for the Nevada indictment, Acorn isn't worried. "We've had bad publicity before, and all it does is inform the community that we're here working for the community," Bonnie Greathouse, Acorn's head organizer in Nevada, assured the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week. "People always come forward to our defense. We're just community organizers, just like the president used to be."

Granted, I'm not a publicist, but I am a thinker, and I have to say that these charges go a bit beyond "bad publicity." This whole thing stinks, and the stench just gets worse as the days roll by and more facts come out. There are plenty of basically good organizations that have done bad things, but ACORN is that shameless exception that has gone allbad. But here's the thing--some people from inside the organizationhave done the right thing by coming forward and speaking out--they're blowing the whistle and we need to make sure we're listening. I recently had two separate conversations with former ACORN board members--they're part of a larger group that's been dubbed the "ACORN 8," and they want two things--those who broke the law to be held accountable, and quite simply, they just want their organization back. They agree that ACORN usedto operate with the best of intentions, but satisfying greed and making money--and in this case we're talking about millions of dollars--became the easyrather than the rightthing to do.

Here's a bit of those conversations:

GLENN BECK: So, what is it? I said to Marcel, I think I said to you earlier, that this is all about votes, and you said, "No, this is all about the money." Explain that.

MARCEL REID, ACORN CHAIR, WASHINGTON, D.C.: This is all about the money. This isn't -- well, you can do it, Karen.

KAREN INMAN, FIRED ACORN BOARD MEMBER: Right. Basically, what happens is the organization, I think, had a good message to begin with, and then they looked to see how much money they generated and how much power they got. And so, instead of having it trickle down -- trickle up from the membership, which is what it is supposed to be, they've looked and said, "Hmm, we can get X amount of dollars here. We'll convince our membership that this is what we should be working on."

BECK: It seems to me that they are using me, and people like me, by calling racists and everything else, to generate outrage to help raise money. And then, also, they are using the lowest of our society, using them, and then throwing them to the lions and saying, "You know, well, it was a rogue employee," which also helps them, too, doesn't it? How?

REID: Of course. Because it gives them cover, you know? It says consistently that the very same people they were supposed to be enabling are the same people that we sacrificed.

But wait--there's more!

GLENN BECK: OK. Now, tell me where I've gotten it wrong -- because I don't see this really at all about politics, what's going on in ACORN right now is just about money.

MICHAEL MCCRAY, FORMER ACORN BOARD MEMBER: Well, what I would say about that, Glenn, is that really what you need to look at in terms of ACORN is governance. I mean, what we have is an organization, a venerable organization that had a very beautiful mission and a lot of committed supporters. What's happened over time, though, is that there are certain leaders and senior staff members that have kind of, for the most part, hijacked the organization, and they're using it for their own personal games.

BECK: Can you tell me about Dale Rathke and his brother?

MCCRAY: Well, Dale Rathke is the founder of -- I mean, Wade Rathke is the founder of the organization, and he is an incredible organizer. And it was his vision that allowed ACORN to progress to kind of where it is today. Unfortunately, with, you know, absolute power comes some corruption, and the board members found out about eight or nine months ago that there had been $1 million embezzlement by his brother.

BECK: But there hasn't been any prosecution. There hasn't really been -- nobody has really investigated this mission dollar - this missing million dollars. Nobody has paid for this, criminally speaking?

MCCRAY: That is correct, Glenn. And don't you find it very interesting that even when after word that $1 million embezzlement came out and the fact that board members and executive committee members covered up the embezzlement, that the only people that had been punished were the people that were trying to get to the bottom of where the money go?

So there you have it--when news of corruption and embezzlement arose, those in the right were fired by those in the wrong. And perhaps worst of all, the weakest and poorest of our neighbors have been abused, neglected and exploited in the process. Those whom ACORN was designed to serve the most have been victimized the most. That's quite a one-two punch. I've been saying all along that we've got to stop thinking of cases like this in terms of "right and left." Lies, deception, and the clawing for money and power are non-partisan. No matter what side of the aisle you're on, this is a simple matter of RIGHT and WRONG. We've got to stopthinking about it as Politics and startthinking about it as CRIME. We need more people like Marcell, Michael and Karen...those who'll put their personal principles ahead of their professional goals. (And tragically, by coming forward these men and women have had their safety threatened--I urge you to pray for them as I am.)

Look, I live in the real world...I know that life is a full contact sport, especially when there are millions of dollars at stake. But if we don't keep a firm grasp on our moral center and a keen eye on those who saytheir acting and spendingfor the public good, we stand to lose a whole lot more than money. Politics gets people crazy, and sometimes the simple truths can be obscured by a lot of fancy talking. At the end of the day, it's really quite simple: There are good guys and there are bad guys, but they don't always wear hats so we know who's who. But at least this time...when it comes to ACORN...I'm seeing those in the black hats pretty clearly. And after being lucky enough to talk to some of those in the white hats, I hope you see them, too.