Joe Conason: “In Defense Of Acorn”
Joe Conason in Salon says the right-wing crusade against ACORN is “a far bigger fraud than any misdeeds a few employees may have committed.” And, yes, ACORN does have its problems:
Like so many conservative attacks, the crusade against ACORN has been highly exaggerated and even falsified to create a demonic image that bears little resemblance to the real organization. Working in the nation’s poorest places, and hiring the people who live there, ACORN is not immune to the pathologies that can afflict institutions in those communities. As a large nonprofit handling many millions of dollars, it has suffered from mismanagement at the top as well — although there is nothing unique in that, either.
ACORN helps poor families file tax returns and get needed tax refunds, especially important in tough economic times.
ACORN provides assistance to low-income taxpayers through the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The IRS has long supported the provision of free taxpayer services through organizations such as ACORN. Volunteers working through various organizations via the VITA program prepared 2.8 million tax returns, or 2 percent of the 124 million individual returns, filed during the 2009 tax season. ACORN — Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — is one of the fastest growing of these volunteer organizations. It operates in 80 cities and, according to its Web site, has helped 42,000 families claim more than $46 million in tax refunds, including more than $28 million in earned income and child tax credits.
Ignored because of a few dupes in a much larger organization is the good work ACORN does.
No doubt it was fun to dupe a few morons into providing tax advice to a “pimp and ho,” but what ACORN actually does, every day, is help struggling families with the Earned Income Tax Credit (whose benefits were expanded by both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton). And while the idea of getting housing assistance for a brothel was clever, what ACORN really does, every day, is help those same working families avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.
To call ACORN a “fraudulent organization” because of a few bad apples is, itself, a fraud.
The proportion of fraud is infinitesimal. For example, a half-dozen ACORN workers were charged with registration fraud or other election-related crimes in the 2004 election. They had completed fewer than two dozen false registrations — out of more than a million new voters registered by ACORN during that cycle. The mythology that suggests that thousands or even millions of illegal registrants voted is itself a fraud.
To claim that the stupid behavior of a half-dozen employees should discredit a national group with offices in more than 75 cities staffed by many thousands of employees and volunteers is like saying that Mark Sanford or John Ensign have discredited every Republican governor or senator. Indeed, the indignation of the congressional Republicans screaming about ACORN and the phony streetwalker is diluted by the presence of at least two confirmed prostitution clients — Rep. Ken Calvert and Sen. David Vitter — in their midst. Neither of those right-wing johns has been even mildly chastised by their moralistic peers. Nobody is cutting off their federal funding.Click here for reuse options!
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