WSJ editorial leaves out relevant information in smear of ACORN

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI, RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN, SARAH PAVLUS, MATT GERTZ, LILY YAN & MORGAN WEILAND

The Wall Street Journal asserted that Sen. Barack Obama's "kind of organizers work at Acorn, the militant advocacy group that is turning up in reports about voter fraud across the country." The editorial cited as evidence reports that ACORN submitted allegedly false or duplicate voter registration applications this year in Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Connecticut, and Texas. But the editorial did not note that the statutes of at least nine of those 11 states require third parties registering prospective voters to submit to election officials all registration forms they received -- even those they believed to be false or duplicate applications.

In an October 14 editorial, The Wall Street Journal asserted that Sen. Barack Obama's "kind of organizers work at Acorn [the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now], the militant advocacy group that is turning up in reports about voter fraud across the country." The editorial cited as evidence reports that ACORN submitted allegedly false or duplicate voter registration applications this year in Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Connecticut, and Texas. But the editorial did not note that the statutes of at least nine of those 11 states require third parties registering prospective voters to submit all registration forms they received. In an October 10 press release, ACORN noted that "in almost every state we are required to turn in ALL completed applications, even the ones we know to be problematic."

The Journal also claimed that "recently, Democrats tried and failed to stuff an 'affordable housing' provision into the $700 billion bank rescue package that would have let politicians give even more to Acorn." The Journal's claim echoes recent false assertions by media figures and Republicans that Democrats wanted to direct millions of dollars to ACORN in the bailout legislation. In fact, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, neither the draft proposal nor the final version of the bailout bill contained any language mentioning ACORN. The claim is based on a provision -- since removed and absent from the bill President Bush signed -- that would have directed 20 percent of any profits realized on troubled assets purchased under the plan into two previously established funds: the Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund. Under legislation signed by Bush in July, money going to the Housing Trust Fund is to be distributed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the form of block grants to states, which would then award grants to qualified applicants. Money going to the Capital Magnet Fund is to be distributed by the U.S. Treasury Department through a competitive grant application process.

Media Matters noted that when Congress considered adding the provision in September, Salon.com's Gabriel Winant reported that ACORN's legislative director said the organization's housing advocacy affiliate, ACORN Housing, is "considering applying for funds from the Housing Trust Fund, but will probably choose not to do so," and that even if it did, it would have to go through the same application process as any other group.

Further, the Journal editorial also noted that Obama "served as a lawyer for Acorn in 1995, in a case against Illinois to increase access to the polls," but did not note that the Department of Justice, the League of Women Voters, and the League of United Latin American Citizens joined with ACORN as plaintiffs in the suit, which sought to force the state of Illinois to implement a federal voter-registration law.

A Media Matters review of the election laws of the 11 states the Journal cited in asserting that ACORN is "turning up in reports about voter fraud across the country" found that at least nine of them have laws requiring organizations to submit all voter-registration forms to election officials.

Nevada

The Journal wrote: "Earlier this month, Nevada's Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller requested a raid on Acorn's offices, following complaints of false names and fictional addresses (including the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys). Nevada's Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said he saw rampant fraud in 2,000 to 3,000 applications Acorn submitted weekly." According to Chapter 293.505 of the Nevada Revised Statutes, "any ... person providing a form for the application to register to vote to an elector for the purpose of registering to vote ... [s]hall not alter, deface or destroy an application to register to vote that has been signed by an elector except to correct information contained in the application after receiving notice from the elector that a change in or addition to the information is required." Violators are "guilty of a category E felony." A "Guide to Conducting Voter Registration Drives" authored by Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller further states, "When the registration drive is complete, all forms, both completed and uncompleted, must be returned to the respective county clerk."

Ohio

The Journal wrote: "Officials in Ohio are investigating voter fraud connected with Acorn." According to Chapter 3599.11 of the Ohio Revised Code, "No person who helps another person register outside an official voter registration place shall knowingly fail to return any registration form entrusted to that person to any board of elections or the office of the secretary of state within ten days after that registration form is completed, or on or before the thirtieth day before the election, whichever day is earlier, unless the registration form is received by the person within twenty-four hours of the thirtieth day before the election, in which case the person shall return the registration form to any board of elections or the office of the secretary of state within ten days of its receipt." Violators are "guilty of election falsification, a felony of the fifth degree," or of "a misdemeanor of the first degree" under some circumstances.

Florida

The Journal wrote: "Florida's Seminole County is withholding Acorn registrations that appear fraudulent." According to Florida statutes, "A third-party voter registration organization that collects voter registration applications serves as a fiduciary to the applicant, ensuring that any voter registration application entrusted to the third-party voter registration organization, irrespective of party affiliation, race, ethnicity, or gender shall be promptly delivered to the division or the supervisor of elections." If the third-party voter registration organization fails to submit a voter registration application, it is liable for "[a] fine in the amount of $1,000 for any application not submitted if the third-party registration organization or person, entity, or agency acting on its behalf acted willfully."

New Mexico, North Carolina, and Missouri

The Journal wrote: "New Mexico, North Carolina and Missouri are looking into hundreds of dubious Acorn registrations."

According to Section 1-4-49 of the New Mexico Statutes and Court Rules, "Organizations employing registration agents or using volunteer registration agents shall deliver or mail a certificate of registration to the secretary of state or county clerk within forty-eight hours of its completion by the person registering to vote or deliver it the next business day if the appropriate office is closed for that forty-eight-hour period." Violators are "guilty of a petty misdemeanor and the person's third-party registration agent status shall be revoked." In addition, if the violator "is an employee of an organization and has decision-making authority involving the organization's voter registration activities or is an officer of the organization," then their organization "shall be subject to civil penalties" of "two hundred fifty dollars ($250) for each violation, not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000)."

According to Section § 163-82.6 of the North Carolina General Assembly General Statutes, "The applicant may delegate the submission of the form to another person. Any person who communicates to an applicant acceptance of that delegation shall deliver that form so that it is received by the appropriate county board of elections in time to satisfy the registration deadline in subdivision (1) or (2) of subsection (c) of this section for the next election." It is a "Class 2 misdemeanor" to "communicate to the applicant acceptance of the delegation described in subsection (a) of this section and then fail to make a good faith effort to deliver the form."

Under Section 115.203 of Missouri election law, "No person who agrees or offers to submit a voter registration application for another person shall knowingly destroy, deface, or conceal such voter registration application. ... Any person who accepts or receives a voter registration application from another person and agrees or offers to submit such application to the election authority for the registrant shall deliver the application to the election authority within seven days of accepting or receiving the application." Further, "[a] violation of this section is a class four election offense."

Indiana

The Journal wrote: "Then there's Lake County, Indiana, which has already found more than 2,100 bogus applications among the 5,000 Acorn dumped right before the deadline. 'All the signatures looked exactly the same,' said Ruthann Hoagland, of the county election board." According to Indiana Code 3-14-2-5, "A person who recklessly destroys or fails to file or deliver to the proper officer a registration affidavit or form of registration after the affidavit or form has been executed commits a Class A misdemeanor."

Connecticut

The Journal wrote: "Bridgeport, Connecticut estimates about 20% of Acorn's registrations were faulty." According to Section 9-23g, paragraph b, of the Connecticut General Statutes, "If the applicant entrusts the applicant's application to another person or to such a voter registration agency for mailing or return to the registrars of voters, such person or agency shall immediately mail or return the application."

Texas

The Journal wrote: "As of July, the city of Houston had rejected or put on hold about 40% of the 27,000 registration cards submitted by Acorn." According to Chapter § 13.042 of the Texas Election Code, "A volunteer deputy registrar shall deliver in person, or by personal delivery through another designated volunteer deputy, to the registrar each completed voter registration application submitted to the deputy, as provided by this section." Intentional failure to comply is a Class A misdemeanor. According to § 13.044, it is a "Class C misdemeanor" to "purport[] to act as a volunteer deputy registrar when the person does not have an effective appointment as a volunteer deputy registrar." Further, according to a "Short Guide to Helping Voters Register Under Texas Law" produced by Project Vote, which collaborated with ACORN on its voter registration drive, "only properly appointed volunteer deputy registrars may engage in voter registration activities."

From the Journal editorial:

At the recent Emmy Awards, historian Laura Linney averred that America's Founders had been "community organizers" -- like Barack Obama. Too bad they aren't like that any more. Mr. Obama's kind of organizers work at Acorn, the militant advocacy group that is turning up in reports about voter fraud across the country.

[...]

But the organization's real genius is getting American taxpayers to foot the bill. According to a 2006 report from the Employment Policies Institute (EPI), Acorn has been on the federal take since 1977. For instance, Acorn's American Institute for Social Justice claimed $240,000 in tax money between fiscal years 2002 and 2003. Its American Environmental Justice Project received 100% of its revenue from government grants in the same years. EPI estimates the Acorn Housing Corporation alone received some $16 million in federal dollars from 1997-2007. Only recently, Democrats tried and failed to stuff an "affordable housing" provision into the $700 billion bank rescue package that would have let politicians give even more to Acorn.

All this money gives Acorn the ability to pursue its other great hobby: electing liberals. Acorn is spending $16 million this year to register new Democrats and is already boasting it has put 1.3 million new voters on the rolls. The big question is how many of these registrations are real.

The Michigan Secretary of State told the press in September that Acorn had submitted "a sizeable number of duplicate and fraudulent applications." Earlier this month, Nevada's Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller requested a raid on Acorn's offices, following complaints of false names and fictional addresses (including the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys). Nevada's Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said he saw rampant fraud in 2,000 to 3,000 applications Acorn submitted weekly.

Officials in Ohio are investigating voter fraud connected with Acorn, and Florida's Seminole County is withholding Acorn registrations that appear fraudulent. New Mexico, North Carolina and Missouri are looking into hundreds of dubious Acorn registrations. Wisconsin is investigating Acorn employees for, according to an election official, "making people up or registering people that were still in prison."

Then there's Lake County, Indiana, which has already found more than 2,100 bogus applications among the 5,000 Acorn dumped right before the deadline. "All the signatures looked exactly the same," said Ruthann Hoagland, of the county election board. Bridgeport, Connecticut estimates about 20% of Acorn's registrations were faulty. As of July, the city of Houston had rejected or put on hold about 40% of the 27,000 registration cards submitted by Acorn.

[...]

Which brings us to Mr. Obama, who got his start as a Chicago "community organizer" at Acorn's side. In 1992 he led voter registration efforts as the director of Project Vote, which included Acorn. This past November, he lauded Acorn's leaders for being "smack dab in the middle" of that effort. Mr. Obama also served as a lawyer for Acorn in 1995, in a case against Illinois to increase access to the polls.

Posted In
Elections, Voting Rights & Issues
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.