June 28, 2008

Heroic Detroit Paper Portrayals of ACORN Ignored Its Sordid History

Two June 23 Motor City newspaper reports — one in the Detroit Free Press (“Group blasts subprime loans,” by Amber Hunt), the other in the Detroit News (“ACORN focuses on vote,” by Mike Martindale) — portrayed the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) as a noble enterprise dedicated to helping troubled borrowers and increasing voter involvement in the political process.

Reality differs.

Hunt and Martindale were either unaware, or perhaps didn’t care, that ACORN has had myriad problems over several years, including but not limited to voter-registration fraud, employee mistreatment and intimidation, and home-loan irregularities. Days before the group’s national convention in Detroit, the Consumer Rights League, a group whose stated mission is “protecting consumer choice,” issued a scathing whistleblower report charging ACORN with “misusing taxpayer dollars for political ends and by attacking lending corporations for the same ‘predatory’ lending practices it regularly engages in.”

Here are selected paragraphs from each reporter’s virtual press releases (HTs to Michelle Malkin here and here):

(Detroit Free Press)

Long before the mainstream media began reporting on those sneaky subprime mortgage loans that have forced millions into foreclosure, the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now was blasting them.

On Sunday the group continued to raise awareness about the need for changes, highlighting the issue as it relates to Detroit, which earlier this year had one out of every 153 households in foreclosure.

“They targeted African Americans and Latinos,” U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said of certain mortgage companies.

….. ACORN is a liberal-leaning grassroots organization with more than 400,000 members who gather to address issues such as funding for urban schools and affordable housing.

(Detroit News)

About 2,000 members of ACORN, an advocacy group for low-income individuals, focused on getting out the vote this fall as they gathered for their national convention Sunday.

ACORN, or Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is the nation’s largest such group, with offices and 400,000 member families in 42 states.

….. It’s estimated that this year, ACORN will help 1.2 million people register to vote in 26 states, including 120,000 in Michigan to date.

Sunday’s sessions at times resembled part political rally and part revival meeting.

ACORN’s involvement with electoral process-related irregularities has been extensive. Links to related posts on that topic are here, here (at NB; at BB), here (at NB; at BB – last item at each link), and here (at the Employment Policies Institute).

Employee treatment issues at ACORN have included alleged union-busting and violations of minimum-wage laws.

As to housing, here are just a couple of key excerpts from the CRL’s full press release (PDF accessible at this link):

Executive Summary (in part)

ACORN leveraged the Community Reinvestment Act in order to attack lenders’ reputations and secure financial resources for itself; it has also endorsed loans offered by companies that fund ACORN operations.

ACORN’s decades of lobbying and publicity seeking have contributed to the current housing crisis by lowering lending standards.

It’s Documented: ACORN Housing Works for its donors, Not for the poor

Most people unfamiliar with AHC (ACORN Housing Corporation) would assume that a group dedicated to protecting consumers from abusive loans would advocate safe, traditional 30-year mortgages which build equity and help buyers experience the American dream.

Records show otherwise. Professor Liebowitz notes: “On the Web, you can still find CRA loans available via ACORN with ‘100 percent financing . . . no credit scores . . . undocumented income . . . even if you don’t report it on your tax returns.’ Credit counseling is required, of course.”

Conclusion

ACORN’s long history of abusing the public’s trust seems to have continued through the housing bubble. Its advocacy for loose credit played a role in the current subprime mess. Its advocacy of exotic loans calls into question the wisdom of giving taxpayer money to the organization. And its record of inappropriate ties between a non-profit that receives government funding and a political organization may violate federal laws.

In late May, Stanley Kurtz at National Review Online extensively chronicled ACORN’s awful history and aggressive tactics, while noting that the organization may be Barack Obama’s “most important radical connection.”

Among other things, reporters Hunt and Martindale totally missed the hypocrisy of ACORN’s complaints about the subprime loan mess it helped create. Given all the evidence readily available, their whitewashes were negligent and inexcusable.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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3 Comments

  1. Ohio ACORN employees recently filed numerous health and safety complaints with the US Dept of Labor, Occupational Health and Saftey Administration (OSHA) Columbus office.

    OSHA Columbus Area Office
    Federal Office Building
    200 North High Street, Room 620
    Columbus, Ohio 43215
    (614) 469-5582
    (614) 469-6791 FAX

    Ohio ACORN was compelled by Columbus OSHA to correct most of the numerous original issues and was issued an OSHA citation for non-compliance regarding filthy, sub-standard and unusable bathroom facilities at their offices located, in the Mt. Vernon Plaza Complex, at 379 N. 20th St, (Lower Level) Columbus, OH 43203

    Contact – Katy Gall
    ACORN Ohio Statewide Director
    ohacorn@acorn.org 614-638-1562

    For information on the above OSHA complaints and other complaints filed with the Department of Labor, against Ohio ACORN, please send email to the following address.

    rotten_acorn_ohio@yahoo.com

    Comment by RottenACORN.com — June 28, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  2. #1, thanks for the info. You have to work pretty hard to get OSHA violations in an office environment.

    I’ll repeat your web URL here:

    http://www.rottenacorn.com/

    I also blogrolled you, for what that’s worth. Good luck in your work. It’s surely needed.

    Comment by TBlumer — June 28, 2008 @ 1:24 pm

  3. Some, or maybe all, of the “other complaints filed with the Department of Labor” (Columbus Office), against Ohio ACORN, have been filed with the Wage and Hour Division, regarding overtime, minimum wage, meal time, break time, payroll record-keeping and employee classification issues.

    The government investigator, from the Columbus office, is currently researching the national ACORN organization for past results of employee complaints as well as to determine jurisdiction.

    The most intriging aspect of this complaint relates to an ACORN subsidiary named Citizen’s Services Inc (CSI) that was contracted to do GOTV work for the Obama for President Campaign prior to the recent Ohio primary. The Obama Campaign contracted ACORN/CSI to oversee thousands of GOTV door-to-door canvassers across Ohio (and other states).

    Most, if not all, of the Ohio canvassers worked more than 40 hours over a seven straight day period. There were over 250 canvassers hired in Columbus alone, let alone all the other cities and towns across Ohio. Some canvassers reported working 20+ overtime hours which ACORN refused to pay the required time and a half rate. Numerous other canvassers reported not being paid time and a half for 10+ overtime hours while working for ACORN-CSI.

    As you can see from the following 2/21/08 Ohio Daily Blog announcement, Ohio ACORN Political Director Mari Irwin Engelhardt was in-charge of the Obama Ohio Primary GOTV hiring

    http://www.ohiodailyblog.com/content/ohio-acorn-hiring-canvassers-help-obama

    Mari Irwin Engelhardt works out of Cleveland. A simple internet search will show you that she has been deeply involved with Dennis Kucinich campaigns in the past.

    Mari Irwin Engelhardt’s contact information.
    (216) 374-1744
    polnatoh@acorn.org

    Comment by Phil — June 28, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

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