The Fox Business Network's Elizabeth MacDonald and David Asman advanced Republican arguments, including those made by two senators appearing on the network, against the economic stimulus bill by promoting or agreeing with the false claim that the bill includes billions of dollars in funds for groups like ACORN. In fact, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding. Additionally, the bill requires that the $4.19 billion it allocates for “neighborhood stabilization activities” be distributed through competitive processes.
In at least two instances on January 29, media figures on the Fox Business Network advanced Republican arguments against the economic stimulus bill by promoting or agreeing with the false claim, offered by two Republican senators appearing on the network, that the bill includes billions of dollars in funds for groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). During the noon E.T. hour of Fox Business, stocks editor Elizabeth MacDonald said to Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY): "[I]t's like hog heaven with this pork bill. I mean, it's not a stimulus bill, it's a spending bill ... The 50 million for the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts]; 335 million for the, you know, sexually transmitted diseases; 4.1 billion for activist groups like ACORN." Barrasso replied, in part: “I have great concerns, as you just talked about it, those other, you know, projects -- this is -- these -- this is 40 years of pent-up projects that people have wanted to spend money on.” Similarly, on America's Nightly Scoreboard, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) claimed of Democrats and the stimulus bill: “They've used this -- they are using this to just pay off all of their special interests. They're going to put billions of dollars into groups like ACORN.” Rather than challenge Hatch's claim, host David Asman responded: “Clearly, there's a lot of payoff.”
As Media Matters for America has documented, the stimulus bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding and requires that the $4.19 billion it allocates for “neighborhood stabilization activities” be distributed through competitive processes. The relevant provision would require that “not less than $3,440,000,000 shall be allocated by a competition” to “States, units of general local government, and nonprofit entities or consortia of nonprofit entities,” and that “up to $750,000,000 shall be awarded by competition to nonprofit entities or consortia of nonprofit entities to provide community stabilization assistance.” Moreover, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis wrote on The Huffington Post:
[L]et's be clear. ACORN isn't getting any of this money. Since it is set aside for non-profit housing developers to help purchase, rehab, and resell foreclosed properties, we aren't eligible for it in the first place.
She also said of the “ridiculous” claim that the bill gives ACORN $4 billion: "[T]his $4 billion is pretty much like the last billion we read about in GOP press releases: a complete fabrication of overheated partisan fever dreams."
Media Matters has previously documented Fox News' Steve Doocy and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh making the false claim that ACORN would receive billions of dollars from the stimulus bill, and also noted that news reports by The Hill and the San Francisco Chronicle repeated the falsehood. The claim echoed material and statements from the office of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Additionally, on America's Nightly Scoreboard, Asman did not challenge Hatch's claim that ACORN “was involved in all kinds of fraudulent voting in the last election,” for which he provided no evidence. As Media Matters has noted, while ACORN has, according to The New York Times, “acknowledged cases where canvassers submitted false or duplicate registrations,” many states require ACORN to submit all registration forms it receives. Moreover, New York University's Brennan Center for Justice stated in a 2007 report titled “The Truth About Voter Fraud” that voter fraud is “fraud by voters” and “occurs when individuals cast ballots despite knowing that they are ineligible to vote, in an attempt to defraud the election system.” And in an October 25, 2008, editorial, The Washington Post wrote that there is an “enormous gulf between improper voter registration -- whether fraudulent or merely erroneous -- and actually committing fraud at the ballot box. Evidence of fraudulent voting is scant, though there is always a risk.”
On April 12, 2007, the Times reported: “Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.”
From the January 29 edition of Fox Business Network's America's Nightly Scoreboard:
HATCH: Do you realize that they want to create 32 new federal programs at a cost of about $136 billion? Just -- just to mention just a few of the really bad things: They've used this -- they are using this to just pay off all of their special interests. They're going to put billions of dollars into groups like ACORN, which by any measure was involved --
HATCH: -- in all kinds of fraudulent voting in the last election.
ASMAN: Well, there's -- there's a lot --
HATCH: It's just -- it's incredible to me. They're trying to get away with it.
ASMAN: -- there's a lot of payoff. Clearly, there's a lot of payoff.
HATCH: Oh, yeah.
ASMAN: One big concern a lot of folks have in this bill is whether or not it's going to become a sort of a budget baseline; that is, rather than just a one-shot deal, whether this is going to be the standard now, and it's going to be built on top of this from years to come.
From the noon E.T. hour of the January 29 edition of Fox Business Network's Fox Business:
MacDONALD: You know, [co-host] Cheryl [Casone] makes -- brings up an interesting point: It's the Chinese New Year of the ox, and taxpayers sure are going to get gored. I always say it's the year of the pig; it's like hog heaven with this pork bill. I mean, it's not a stimulus bill, it's a spending bill. So, what's on the table to be cut? The 50 million for the NEA; 335 million for the, you know, sexually transmitted diseases; 4.1 billion for activist groups like ACORN. We're talking -- we need job creation. How -- what's the multiplier effect of such spending here?
BARRASSO: Well, you know, there've been debates about the multiplier effects. Senator -- President Obama talked about a 1.5 multiplier. I think the multiplier is less than 1. I cannot imagine -- we can't drive this economy by having the government do it. That's not the kind of economy that we have. The government can never drive an economy, and I have great concerns, as you just talked about it, those other, you know, projects -- this is -- these -- this is 40 years of pent-up projects that people have wanted to spend money on. They now have a crisis and are looking for a way to spend money on things that, under normal circumstances, would never ever be funded.