CNN's Griffin suggested ACORN should not hire "recovering alcoholics" and "homeless people"

››› ››› DUNCAN BLACK & MARK BOCHKIS

In a report on ACORN's voter registration drives, CNN's Drew Griffin asked an ACORN official: "[W]hy is the deputy city commissioner of Philadelphia telling me that ACORN is hiring recovering alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless people, who are so desperate to get money that they know that, if they don't make their quota, they just fill in any old name?" After the official responded, "That is not the point," Griffin asked: "But has it presented itself as a problem to ACORN? Wouldn't ACORN like to run a nice, clean, smooth voter registration drive?"

On the October 14 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin suggested that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) should not hire "recovering alcoholics" and "homeless people" to participate in their voter registration drives.

During the segment, Griffin interviewed Philadelphia Deputy City Commissioner Fred Voigt, who stated of ACORN's registration efforts, "We know that there have been people who have not been able to meet their quota, and they get fired. They are facing the prospect of being fired. And the people who are doing this are in many cases homeless. In many cases, they're recovering drug addicts, recovering alcoholics, who are desperate for money." Then, in an interview with ACORN's Philadelphia director Junette Marcano, Griffin asked: "[W]hy is the deputy city commissioner of Philadelphia telling me that ACORN is hiring recovering alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless people, who are so desperate to get money that they know that, if they don't make their quota, they just fill in any old name?" After Marcano replied, "That is not the point. ... We did not deliberately go out there and say, you are homeless, you are a recovering alcoholic, you are decrepit," Griffin asked: "But has it presented itself as a problem to ACORN? Wouldn't ACORN like to run a nice, clean, smooth voter registration drive?"

Recovering alcoholics are under certain circumstances protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the ADA website:

Q. Are alcoholics covered by the ADA?

A. Yes. While a current illegal user of drugs is not protected by the ADA if an employer acts on the basis of such use, a person who currently uses alcohol is not automatically denied protection. An alcoholic is a person with a disability and is protected by the ADA if s/he is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job. An employer may be required to provide an accommodation to an alcoholic. However, an employer can discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct. An employer also may prohibit the use of alcohol in the workplace and can require that employees not be under the influence of alcohol.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in addition to the ADA, "[m]any people with past and current alcohol problems and past drug use disorders" are also protected by The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and The Workforce Investment Act (WIA). HHS notes that "[i]n general," an employer "[m]ay not deny a job to or fire a person because he or she is in treatment or in recovery from a substance use disorder, unless the person's disorder would prevent safe and competent job performance."

From the October 14 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: Let's get a closer look at this voter registration controversy. Drew Griffin of CNN's Special Investigations Unit is joining us now live from Philadelphia. You have been looking closely into this. What are you picking up, Drew?

GRIFFIN: This is the latest spot where those investigations are under way, Wolf. In fact, I can tell you and [CNN correspondent] Brian [Todd] that the city of Philadelphia has sent 1,500 what they say are fraudulent voter registration forms to the U.S. attorney here to be investigated. All 1,500 from one group, ACORN. This is Deputy City Commissioner Fred Voigt.

[begin video clip]

GRIFFIN: Is ACORN a group that has been problematic in its organizing of these voter registration drives?

VOIGT: Absolutely.

GRIFFIN: Have you tried to work with them to explain to them --

VOIGT: Absolutely.

GRIFFIN: Why -- this is --

VOIGT: I don't -- I don't have an answer for you, OK?

GRIFFIN: Right.

VOIGT: All right? We originally -- I mean, this has been going on for a number of years. We have met with them. We have talked to them. We know that there have been people who have not been able to meet their quota, and they get fired. They're facing the prospect of being fired. And the people who are doing this are in many cases homeless. In many cases, they're recovering drug addicts, recovering alcoholics who are desperate for money.

GRIFFIN: So, the quota system is pretty much the same thing as a pay --

VOIGT: It's a different --

GRIFFIN: Different form of the same thing?

VOIGT: Different form of the same thing.

[end video clip]

GRIFFIN: That's deputy commissioner Fred Voigt saying, basically, ACORN is setting up the voter registration drive where they pay people to register people to vote. It sets up this atmosphere where they have to get them in or they don't get paid, Wolf. And that leads to fraud, specifically because they're hiring these homeless people to actually go out and gather votes. We tracked down the ACORN director here in Philadelphia. Her name is Junette Marcano. Here is what she said, not denying any of that.

[begin video clip]

MARCANO: If someone needs a job, and we are a community organization that services low- and middle-income families, who are we supposed to assist?

GRIFFIN: But, I mean, just because you are low-income does not mean you'll commit fraud.

MARCANO: No. And that is not our point. That's our point. Just because you are low-income, you're not supposed to have a second chance at earning a fair income?

GRIFFIN: Why is the city -- why is the deputy city commissioner of Philadelphia telling me that ACORN is hiring recovering alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless people who are so desperate to get money that they know that if they don't make their quota, they just fill in any old name? That is what he's telling me.

MARCANO: That is not the point.

GRIFFIN: That's not the point?

MARCANO: No, that is not the point.

GRIFFIN: What is the point?

MARCANO: We did not deliberately go out there and say, you are homeless, you are a recovering alcoholic, you are decrepit.

GRIFFIN: But has it presented itself as a problem to ACORN? Wouldn't ACORN like to run a nice, clean, smooth voter registration drive?

MARCANO: We have run -- we have done that, because if we have been able to register 85,000 -- above 85,000 good registrants, compared to 5,000 suspect cards, we have done a good job.

[end video clip]

GRIFFIN: The actual number here, Wolf, city officials tell us close to 8,000 -- 8,000 of those ACORN registrations could be fraudulent. They're being looked at right now here in Philadelphia, and 1,500 sent over to the U.S. attorney for possible criminal investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it could be embarrassing, obviously could be very embarrassing.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Elections, Voting Rights & Issues
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Drew Griffin
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
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