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September 15, 2009

Are They Nuts? Sens. Leahy, Sanders Back ACORN — updated

In a lopsided 83-7 vote last night, the Senate voted to bar the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from granting any funds to the nonprofit group known as ACORN.

Vermont Sens. Patrick Leahy (D) and Bernie Sanders (I) voted against the amendment, and have drawn the ire of Vermont Republicans.

Acorn_logo ACORN, which stands for Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, has become a rallying cry for those who believe Pres. Barack Obama has ties to corrupt grassroots organizations.

In a recent video, a conservative activist posing as a prostitute and pimp tried to get free tax advice from an ACORN worker. Three ACORN offices — in Washington, DC, Baltimore and Brooklyn — provided advice to the "couple."

ACORN officials claim the voices of the couple were dubbed in later and do not represent the actual exchange that occurred between the staff. However, numerous staffers have been fired as a result of the news.

In response to this and past concerns related to filing false voter registrations, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) authored an amendment to ban ACORN from receiving HUD money.

“The events of last week are not isolated. They magnify a troubling, systemic and criminal pattern. They serve as a public window into an organization besieged by corruption, fraud and illegal activities committed on the taxpayer’s dime," said Johanns in a statement. “Until a full investigation is launched into ACORN, no taxpayer money should be used to fund their activities. A vote in favor of my amendment is a vote in favor of the taxpayer and against the status quo."

Gee, I hope this guy is as tough on military contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater, eh? Something tells me not.

ACORN officials, for their part, say the constant attacks on their organization are, at best, racist.

"We are their Willy Horton for 2009. We are the boogeyman for the right wing and its echo chambers. If ACORN did not exist, the right wing would have needed to create us in order to achieve their agenda, their missions, their ideal, retrograde America," said Bertha Lewis, ACORN's chief organizer, in a statement.

Lewis said the scam was attempted over a period of months in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and other locales before it succeeded.

Both senators said the action of one or two workers should not disqualify any organization from receiving federal funds, and organizations shouldn't be banned just because politicians don't agree with their mission.

“Congress should not compound the wrongful and stupid actions depicted on these videos by deciding to set political standards for federal grants," Leahy told Seven Days. "Just as I would be against banning other specific organizations on the right or on the left from applying for competitive grants, I believe it is harmful, even though popular, to approve an amendment like this."

Sanders concurred. He said he's glad the employees in question have been fired, but the organization has done a lot of good work in the past.

“The action of some ACORN employees in recent days, as documented on video, is outrageous and indefensible and I’m glad they have been fired," said Sanders. "On the other hand, it is important to note that over the years ACORN has done some very important work in fighting for affordable housing, banking services in low-income areas and decent-paying jobs.

“At a time when 17 percent of our workforce is either unemployed or underemployed and when 46 million Americans have no health insurance, I think that it’s a very bad idea for Congress to start spending large amounts of time arguing about who should or should not be eligible to receive federal funds," added Sanders.

Both Sanders and Leahy said the current nonpartisan federal grant review process allows agencies to be examined based on their record of performance, not their political leanings.

"Today it could be a progressive-type organization that is barred," said Sanders. "Tomorrow, it could be a conservative organization."

That may be, but the Vermont GOP wasted no time in blasting the senators for their vote in an email to supporters late Tuesday afternoon.

"Leahy's and Bernie Sanders' vote in favor of continuing to pour millions of taxpayer dollars into an organization that is riddled with fraud and abuse is an embarrassment to the people of Vermont and an insult to the taxpayers," read the email. "The fact that the bi-partisan condemnation of ACORN included 83 senators demonstrates just how far out of the mainstream Leahy and Sanders truly are, and is another example of why moderate, common-sense Vermonters are leaving the Vermont Democratic Party."

In return for their outrage, the Vermont Republicans asked people to donate $20 to the party.

UPDATE (9/17)

Today the House took up a similar measure to ban ACORN from receiving federal funds. The measure was attached to student aid legislation and passed overwhelmingly, 345-75. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) voted with the majority.

Doesn't he know it's hard out here for a pimp?

UPDATE (9/18)

After several requests from Seven Days, Rep. Peter Welch today explained his vote to ban the low-income advocacy group ACORN from receiving federal funds.

“The actions taken by ACORN employees reveal a disturbing and intolerable pattern of abuse of taxpayer dollars. The organization must be held accountable – and Congress must get back to work on reforming our health care system so that all Americans have access to quality and affordable health care.”

Must not be a very big deal to the Republicans if all they asked for is a $20.00 donation. Given their "fat cat" mentality one would have thought this deal would have been worth at least 100 bucks a shot.

I must have missed the part where Republicans wanted to keep the Wall St bankers that almost brought down the entire economy from getting any more tax dollars.

After Sanford and the other adulterers, and now Wilson, it sure is perplexing why they think trying to be the morals police is a good idea for them. ACORN is just a scapegoat to distract people from the fact that the right has no ideas for the future aside from saying (or screaming) no to anything that might make Obama and the Dems look good.

I just wrote a letter to the Herald and sent an email to Peter Welch suggesting that he and his bullying friends wouldn't dare defund corporations (Blackwater, Halliburton, Citibank, Countrywide, etc.) without hearings, but they can be big and brave in beating up on an organization that helps poor black people.

Senator's Sanders and Leahy certainly were squashed on this vote in a big way.

"I just wrote a letter to the Herald and sent an email to Peter Welch suggesting that he and his bullying friends wouldn't dare defund corporations (Blackwater, Halliburton, Citibank, Countrywide, etc.) without hearings, but they can be big and brave in beating up on an organization that helps poor black people."

Oh gimme a break.

"past concerns related to filing false voter registrations"

It figures that Shay Totten would side with the far-right wing extremists against ACORN.

The right-wing noise machine has continually lied about everything they can and Shay's quote above shows he has bought their lies again.

Anyone that pays a modicum of attention already knows that organizations that register voters are forbidden by law to decide by themselves which registration cards to hand over to the state. If a voter registration card says 'mickey mouse' on it, the law says they still have to be handed to the secretary of state. This is good and proper.

The reason laws exist is because of extremists on both sides (but mostly Republicans) that would throw out reg cards of Dems and only forward the Rep cards to the state.

ACORN follows the standard practice of setting obviously fraudulent reg cards in their own pile and making sure the state knows that that pile is questionable.

The GOP knowingly lies about ACORN because the GOP knows that ACORN (and all other orgs that register voters) are not allowed to throw away blatantly false reg cards.

I am surprised (not really) that Shay Totten is so ignorant of the facts and the law.

We saw obviously doctored and heavily edited video made by far-right extremists specifically to smear ACORN by playing games with five employees (who clearly know they are playing with a couple of high-school kids). Only the original source tapes have any meaning, and we haven't seen those.

I am severely disappointed that Republican ball-licker Welch ran with the mob to slavishly attack ACORN for having done NOTHING wrong.

Unbelieveable comment. "Republican ball-licker"? Shame on you for the vile name-calling. And only someone with truly non-existent reading comprehension skills could possibly accuse Shay Totten of "siding with the far-right wing extremists against ACORN." Do you also accuse Sanders of "siding with the far right wing extremists" because he said, “The action of some ACORN employees in recent days, as documented on video, is outrageous and indefensible and I’m glad they have been fired"?

I don't know what you are assuming, but I was referring to Welch's licking clean the tennis balls at the Republican tennis courts. You have a very dirty mind, CANYOUSAYOVERTHETOP, if that is your real name.

I take it by your lack of rebuttal to the actual content of my previous post that you agree with the points I made regarding how the right wing knowingly lies about ACORN, voter registration practices, and how so-called journalists - like Shay Totten - are so ignorant that they perpetuate these lies unchallenged?

I am severely disappointed in Welch's constant refusal to side with his own constituents critical needs for things like the public option for health insurance. His right-of-center political position combined with his drop-to-his-knees toadying to the right-wing and his refusal to be an Real Democrat makes me regret the support I once had for him.

If I were to have accused Sanders, I would have written that. Since I did not, it should be painfully obvious, Mr. Non-Existent Reading Comprehension Skills, that I do not.

Shay Totten blithely repeats obvious right-wing lies as if they were true in this post. If he were a real journalist, he would have rebutted the blatant lies about ACORN by the far-right wing. That he did not deserves excoriation.

ACORN performs vital services to the most needy. Assisting the far-right extremists in further repressing the most poor Americans by attacking ACORN based on easily refutable lies needs to be called out.

Hey, Comrade Self-righteous Bully, it's not whether you're wrong or right about ACORN and its critics, it's what an ahole you are.

And if you did read and think before you spewed, you'd know that calling Shay Totten an ally or dupe of right-wing extremists on this issue is idiotic.

But how are things going at Bolshevik camp?

This whole excrement-flinging discussion is pointless, and Welch's vote to screw ACORN was shameful, because the Senate bill was from the get-go obviously a "bill of attainder" -- an attempt to punish someone by targeted legislation, rather than through the judiciary -- as many people pointed out at the time. Which is exactly why ACORN won against it hands-down in federal court (

In other words, the GOP loony club and all the Democratic weasels like Welch who voted for this bill were deliberately giving a big fat rigid digit to our Constitution and the rule of law -- in order to curry favor with the Fox News watchers. Even if ACORN was everything, the worst, that Rush Limbaugh says on his most oxycontin-addled afternoons that it is, guilty as Judas, this Senate bill was evil. If ACORN broke a law, that's what courts are for.

"Tacitus relates in the Annals, Book III.65, that Tiberius,
offended by the habitual sycophancy of the [Roman] Senate, was reported to
have remarked in Greek on more than one occasion upon leaving the
Senate House, 'Oh, men ready for slavery' " --

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