ACORN (photo: Dickinson College)
While ACORN remains riddled in scandal, lawmakers have voted to cut off federal funding to the group, the U.S. Census Bureau has severed ties to the organization – and the White House has blasted its behavior as “unacceptable.”
But just how extensive are President Obama’s personal ties to ACORN?
The following is a timeline outlining some of the purported connections between the president and ACORN through the years:
1990s: Obama meets ACORN
ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, first noticed Obama when he was organizing on the far south side of the city with the Developing Communities Project. A March 2, 2008, Los Angeles Times article by Letta Tayler and Keith Herbert, titled “Obama Forged Path As Chicago Community Organizer,” explored Obama’s pre-law-school days as a community organizer in Chicago and his efforts to build a partnership with Chicago’s “Friends of the Parks.”
“Obama’s task was to help far South Side residents press for improvement,” the Times article explained.
National Review Online noted, “Part of Obama’s work, it would appear, was to organize demonstrations, much in the mold of radical groups like ACORN.”
The Times article reveals that Madeline Talbott, who at the time was a leader at Chicago ACORN, was thoroughly impressed with Obama because “he got people to vote with their feet.”
“At the time, Talbott worked at the social action group ACORN and initially considered Obama a competitor,” the article stated. “But she became so impressed with his work that she invited him to help train her staff.”
Talbott personally led Chicago ACORN’s campaign to intimidate banks into making high-risk loans to low-credit customers, Stanley Kurtz reported.
“Long the director of Chicago ACORN, Talbott is a specialist in ‘direct action’ – organizers’ term for their militant tactics of intimidation and disruption,” Kurtz writes. “Perhaps her most famous stunt was leading a group of ACORN protesters breaking into a meeting of the Chicago City Council to push for a ‘living wage’ law, shouting in defiance as she was arrested for mob action and disorderly conduct. But her real legacy may be her drive to push banks into making risky mortgage loans.”
1992: Project Vote! and training green ACORNs
As WND reported, in 1992, while he was working as a community organizer in Chicago, Obama headed the Chicago operations of Project Vote!, an ACORN effort to register voters nationally. In Chicago, Obama had his biggest impact registering African-American voters on the city’s South Side. However, Obama’s “Fight the Smears” website disputes this, saying Obama “never organized with ACORN.”
After completing his legal education at Harvard in 1991, Obama returned to Chicago to work on the voting project that developed directly out of a radical revolutionary strategy developed by two Columbia University sociologists in the 1960s. In what became known as the Cloward-Piven strategy, the tactic advocated a revolutionary approach to mobilizing the poor in the form of class warfare against capitalist forces viewed as exploiting labor and oppressing the poor. The Cloward-Piven strategy sought to apply the tactics of the revolutionary civil rights movement, including urban riots, to the poor as a whole, transcending interest-group politics defined by race to involve interest-group politics defined by class.
Kurtz wrote, Obama also “conducted leadership-training seminars for ACORN’s up-and-coming organizers. That is, Obama was training the army of ACORN organizers who participated in Madeline Talbott’s drive against Chicago’s banks.”
Obama’s FIght the Smears website claims Obama “never organized with ACORN”
1993: Woods Foundation
In 1993, Obama joined the board of the Woods Foundation, a non-profit foundation which declares its goal to “increase opportunities for less advantaged people and communities by giving money primarily to not-for-profit groups involved in housing, the arts and other areas.” Obama served along with Bill Ayers and remained on the board until 2002.
Pajamas Media reports that during Obama’s time there, ACORN received grants of $45,000 (2000), $30,000 (2001), $45,000 (2001), $30,000 (2002) and $40,000 (2002) from the Woods Fund.
1994: Buycks-Roberson v. Citibank
As WND reported, in 1994, Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law School then fresh from his Project Vote! experience, represented ACORN in the Buycks-Roberson v. Citibank Federal Savings Bank case, in which ACORN pressed for Citibank to make more loans to marginally qualified African-American applicants “in a race neutral way.”
After obtaining a settlement in the Citibank litigation, ACORN used its subsidiary organization ACORN Housing, a nationwide organization with offices in more than 30 U.S. cities, to push the group’s radical agenda to get subprime home buyers mortgages under the most favorable terms possible.
1995: ACORN attorney in Illinois lawsuit
In 1995, Obama was hired as a lawyer for ACORN in a major lawsuit. As a lawyer with civil-rights law firm Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland, he sued the state of Illinois on behalf of ACORN to implement the federal “motor voter” law.
Also in 1995, as WND’s Jerome Corsi reported, Bill Ayers co-founded the Chicago Annenberg Challenge with a $50 million grant program for the Chicago public schools. Ayers selected Obama to be the first chairman of the board of the Annenberg Challenge, a position Obama held for eight years, until 2003, a period during which Ayers remained active with the Challenge.
In his Wall Street Journal article, Stanley Kurtz wrote that the Annenberg project funneled money through various far-left community organizers, including ACORN.
1996: New Party ties
As WND reported, newspaper evidence shows Obama was a member of the New Party, which sought to elect members to public office with the aim of moving the Democratic Party far leftward to ultimately form a new political party with a socialist agenda. While running for the Illinois state Senate in 1996 as a Democrat, Obama actively sought and received the endorsement of the New Party, according to confirmed reports during last year’s presidential campaign.
Barack Obama pictured in New Party publication (Courtesy New Zeal blog)
According to Democratic Socialists of America documents, the New Party worked with ACORN to promote its candidates.
In 1995, the DSA’s New Ground newsletter stated, “In Chicago, the New Party’s biggest asset and biggest liability is ACORN.
“Like most organizations, ACORN is a mixed bag,” the newsletter said. “On one hand, in Chicago, ACORN is a group that attempts to organize some of the most depressed communities in the city. Chicago organizers for ACORN and organizers for SEIU Local 880 have been given modest monthly recruitment quotas for new New Party members. On the other hand, like most groups that depend on canvassing for fundraising, it’s easy enough to find burned out and disgruntled former employees. And ACORN has not had the reputation for being interested in coalition politics – until recently and, happily, not just within the New Party.”
1997-2004: Illinois state senator
Obama meeting with ACORN leaders as an Illinois Senate candidate
In 1997, Obama became an Illinois state senator. ACORN national board member Toni Foulkes bragged of ACORN’s long-standing relationship with Obama prior to his election in the 2003-2004 issue of Social Policy.
Foulkes wrote in “Case Study: Chicago – The Barack Obama Campaign“:
ACORN noticed [Obama] when he was organizing on the far south side of the city with the Developing Communities Project. He was a very good organizer. When he returned from law school, we asked him to help us with a lawsuit to challenge the state of Illinois’ refusal to abide by the National Voting Rights Act, also known as motor voter. … Obama took the case, known as ACORN vs. Edgar (the name of the Republican governor at the time) and we won. Obama then went on to run a voter registration project with Project VOTE in 1992 that made it possible for Carol Moseley Braun to win the Senate that year. Project VOTE delivered 50,000 newly registered voters in that campaign (ACORN delivered about 5,000 of them).
Since then, we have invited Obama to our leadership training sessions to run the session on power every year, and, as a result, many of our newly developing leaders got to know him before he ever ran for office. Thus, it was natural for many of us to be active volunteers in his first campaign for State Senate and then his failed bid for Congress in 1996. By the time he ran for Senate, we were old friends.
2005: U.S. senator
In 2005, Obama became a U.S. senator.
2007: From Obama’s own mouth …
On Obama’s Organizing for America blog, Sam Graham-Felsen, a paid blogger, wrote about Obama’s November 2007 speech to ACORN leaders:
When Obama met with ACORN leaders in November, he reminded them of his history with ACORN and his beginnings in Illinois as a Project Vote organizer, a nonprofit focused on voter rights and education. Senator Obama said, “I come out of a grass-roots organizing background. That’s what I did for three and half years before I went to law school. That’s the reason I moved to Chicago was to organize. So this is something that I know personally, the work you do, the importance of it. I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drive in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.”
Again, on Dec. 1, 2007, Obama spoke at the Heartland Democratic Presidential Forum, a meeting for community organizing groups including ACORN. Obama received wild applause from the crowd as he promised that community organizing groups such as ACORN would help shape the agenda for his presidency.
Naked Emperor News posted the following video of his pledge:
He was asked, “If elected president of the Unites States, would you agree, in your first 100 days, to meet with the delegation of representatives from these various community organizations that campaigned for community values? Could they count on you in your first 100 days to sit down with them?”
Obama responded, “Yes. But let me even say before I even get inaugurated, during the transition, we’re going to be calling all of you in to help us shape the agenda. We’re going to be having meetings all across the country with community organizations so that you have input into the agenda for the next presidency of the United States of America.”
2008: ACORN endorses Obama
On Feb. 21, 2008, the ACORN Political Action Committee endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries.
During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, insisted they had nothing to do with ACORN after the inner-city advocacy group became engulfed in controversy over voter-registration fraud.
But in August 2008, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that the Obama campaign paid $832,598.29 to ACORN “offshoot” Citizens Services Inc. for “get out the vote” projects from Feb. 25 to May 17.
The newspaper revealed that Obama’s payments to CSI for services were unusual: “For example, CSI received payments of $63,000 and $75,000 for advance work. Excluding the large payments to CSI, the average amount the Obama campaign spent with other organizations was $558.82 per check on more than 1,200 entries classified as advance work.”
Anita MonCrief, former ACORN insider
According to the report, Citizens Services Inc. is headquartered at the same address as ACORN’s national headquarters in New Orleans. A 2006 ACORN publication describes Citizen Services Inc. as “ACORN’s campaign services entity.”
In 2008, Anita MonCrief, a woman who worked in the Strategic Writing and Research Department of ACORN Political Operations and its affiliate Project Vote from 2005 through January 2008, said ACORN acted as an unofficial arm of the Democratic Party during the election and used cash operations to keep some financial transactions under wraps.
“It has always been a Democrat operation,” she recently told WND. “They’ve never made any secrets about who they support. Their political action committees are usually set up to support these Democratic
She said political action committees support Democrat candidates, and at the same time voter registration drives were being conducted, the group was putting out propaganda in communities telling people not to vote for Republicans.
According to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report, she further told a Pennsylvania court before the election that the Obama camp provided ACORN with a “donor list” that enabled Project Vote to solicit contributions from Obama supporters who had “maxed out” under federal contribution limits but who could surreptitiously give more to Obama’s cause by donating to ACORN and its affiliates.
As WND reported, Project Vote, an affiliate of ACORN, is now suing MonCrief to the tune of $5 million.
2009: Criminal case against ACORN
According to the results of a congressional investigation done in July, ACORN was found to be rife with criminal activity.
A report from the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform states that ACORN “has repeatedly and deliberately engaged in systemic fraud. Both structurally and operationally, ACORN hides behind a paper wall of nonprofit corporate protections to conceal a criminal conspiracy on the part of its directors, to launder federal money in order to pursue a partisan political agenda and to manipulate the American electorate.”
Since 1994, ACORN has received more than $53 million in federal funds, according to the report.
“Under the Obama administration, ACORN stands to receive a whopping $8.5 billion in available stimulus funds. Operationally, ACORN is a shell game played in 120 cities, 43 states and the District of Columbia through a complex structure designed to conceal illegal activities, to use taxpayer and tax-exempt dollars for partisan political purposes, and to distract investigators. Structurally, ACORN is a chess game in which senior management is shielded from accountability by multiple layers of volunteers and compensated employees who serve as pawns to take the fall for every bad act,” the report said.
The report continued, “Lobbying is a substantial part of what ACORN does. It has endorsed Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Representative Albert Wynn (D-MD), and Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD). ACORN keeps donor records from the Clinton, Kerry and Obama campaigns with the intent to engage in prohibited communications. ACORN receives federal funding yet engages in improper lobbying. ACORN and its nonprofit affiliates do not have separate accounts. Neither ACORN nor any of its affiliates have properly reported their political activities to the IRS. These harms fly under the legal radar because the IRS rarely checks for compliance. The ‘no substantial part’ test is rarely enforced and the accounts of ACORN and its affiliates are illegally commingled.”
ACORN became a hot topic during the 2008 presidential race because of Obama’s ties to the group as well as its own admission that more than 400,000 of the 1.3 million voter registrations it claimed to have collected were not valid. ACORN registered 1.3 million new voters last year, and it is now under investigation in numerous states and faces voter fraud charges in nearly two dozen states.
The Obama administration selected ACORN to recruit counters for the 2010 Census, but the Census Bureau severed its ties with ACORN on Sept. 11. The Internal Revenue Service has also indicated that it is conducting a “thorough review” of its agreements with ACORN. According to Bloomberg, ACORN has helped prepare about 150,000 free tax returns since 2004 for low-income families. Those returns have generated $190 million in tax refunds.
Cutting ties with ACORN?
Obama has tried to publicly disassociate himself from the group.
“The only involvement I’ve had with ACORN was I represented them alongside the U.S. Justice Department in making Illinois implement a motor voter law that helped people get registered at DMVs,” Obama declared in one of the presidential debates.
“Now, with respect to ACORN, ACORN is a community organization. Apparently what they’ve done is they were paying people to go out and register folks, and apparently some of the people who were out there didn’t really register people, they just filled out a bunch of names,” Obama said.
“It had nothing to do with us. We were not involved,” he declared.
Today, the House voted 345-75 to eliminate federal funding of ACORN after undercover videos showed counselors giving advice on tax evasion to undercover reporters posing as a pimp and prostitute.
According to Fox News, the Defund ACORN Act prohibits any “federal contract grant, cooperative agreement or any other form of agreement (including a memorandum of understanding)” from being awarded to or entered into with ACORN. It also prohibits federal funds “in any other form” from being granted to ACORN.
The decision followed a Sept. 14 Senate vote to strip millions of dollars in federal housing funds for ACORN.
House Minority Leader John Boehner has called on President Obama to indicate whether he would sign a bill forbidding ACORN from receiving federal funding, the New York Times reported. The White House is now distancing itself from ACORN and its scandals.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs referenced the video that revealed ACORN employees giving illegal tax advice to a man and woman disguised as a pimp and prostitute.
“Obviously, the conduct that you see on those tapes is completely unacceptable. I think everyone would agree to that,” Gibbs said. “The administration takes accountability extremely seriously.”
However, Gibbs said he’s unsure of whether Obama will ask Democrats to sever ties with ACORN.
“I don’t know that I’ve had any discussion with him about that,” he said.