Flaky conservative blowhard-cum-flaky liberal blowhard Arianna Huffington’s much visited gossip website, The Huffington Post, is just the latest media outlet trying to keep Senator Barack Obama’s exhaustively documented history of radical activism out of the public eye.
Enter HuffPost writer Seth Colter Walls. After reading his post, titled “Fox News, GOP Tag-Team Obama With Voter Fraud Smear,” it would be unfair to accuse Walls of lying because that would mean he deliberately uttered a statement he knew to be false. In fact, Walls appears blissfully ignorant of the facts, but his attitude seems to be — damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!
Walls aimed his keyboard at the nonpartisan Media Research Center’s Seton Motley some hours after Motley appeared on “Fox & Friends” Friday morning (October 3), attacking Motley for asserting that Senator Obama has ties to the radical left-wing vote fraud factory known as ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). It appears Walls conducted little actual research beyond obediently regurgitating the talking points fed to him by the Obama campaign.
Maybe part of the confusion about ACORN stems from the fact that ACORN has grown into a multi-headed hydra over the years. The massive leftist conglomerate boasts it is the nation’s largest community organization of low- and moderate-income persons, with 350,000 “member families,” organized into 800 neighborhood chapters and 104 cities.
ACORN has evolved into a left-wing brand. ACORN is actually several organizations, including the ACORN Institute (training), the Living Wage Resource Center, the Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Now (WARN), the ACORN Housing Corp., and as discussed below, Project Vote.
But in order to understand how inept and slanted the article Walls posted is, it is necessary to look at what Motley said on “Fox & Friends.”
On TV (video available here), Motley said there were “three stages of connection” between Obama and ACORN:
“He was a lawyer for the organization. He then served his years as a trainer of activists for the organization. And when he was named chairman of the board by terrorist William Ayers to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, they funneled money to, amongst many other places, ACORN. So there is three stages of relationship with them.”
Hours after the segment aired, the Republican National Committee emailed out the segment and YouTube video to its list of reporters (its 18th email in two months referencing Obama and ACORN).
The Obama campaign already has an entry about the ACORN issue on its “Fight the Smears” website. Broadly, the campaign admits that Obama represented a coalition of groups that sued Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar in order to get him to implement the federal “Motor-Voter” voting access law. However, far from a “radical” collective, even the U.S. Department of Justice joined the raft of groups Obama helped represent in Illinois, and their collective challenge was successful.
So Obama aides say he wasn’t “representing” ACORN individually, but as part of a larger coalition. And as ties go, this one isn’t particularly deep or damning. It also happens to be the only alleged tie raised on Fox this week that is incontestably true.
As for the other two charges of ACORN ties, an Obama aide calls them complete fictions. “The Republican National Committee is using smoke and mirrors in an attempt to distract from John McCain’s more of the same plans in a change election,” said spokesman Ben LaBolt. “The fact is, Barack Obama was never an employee of ACORN, he never served as an ACORN organizer or an ACORN trainer. As an attorney, he successfully challenged Governor Edgar to enforce the federal Motor Voter law, making sure voting was as accessible for Illinois residents as the law required. With contorted logic, you can create a tenuous chain of links to connect anybody to anything. Just ask Kevin Bacon.”
Evidently, Walls didn’t read Capital Research Center’s approximately 8,000-word profile of Obama, “Barack Obama: A Radical Leftist’s Journey from Community Organizing to Politics,” which I co-wrote with Elias Crim (Foundation Watch, June 2008). The article has been cited in three books, one of which is currently a New York Times bestseller. (The three books are the NYT bestseller, The Case Against Barack Obama, by David Freddoso, the new edition of Stealing Elections, by John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, and The Audacity of Deceit, by Brad O’Leary.)
The relevant passages we wrote about Obama are as follows:
In 1992, Obama took time off from his new job at Davis Miner to direct ACORN’s voter mobilization arm, Project Vote, a hugely successful voter registration campaign that helped propel Democrat Carol Moseley Braun into the U.S. Senate by adding an estimated 125,000 voters to the rolls. Project Vote is an ostensibly independent 501(c)(3) that claims to conduct “non-partisan” voter registration drives, counsels potential voters on their rights, and litigates on behalf of the poor and “disenfranchised.”
Its greatest legislative accomplishment is the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, commonly known as Motor Voter. But in his book Stealing Elections (2004), Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund argues that the law leads to voter fraud:
“Perhaps no piece of legislation in the last generation better captures the ‘incentivizing’ of fraud… than the 1993 National Voter Registration Act…Examiners were under orders not to ask anyone for identification or proof of citizenship. States also had to permit mail-in voter registrations, which allowed anyone to register without any personal contact with a registrar or election official. Finally, states were limited in pruning ‘dead wood’ – people who had died, moved or been convicted of crimes – from their rolls. … Since its implementation, Motor Voter has worked in one sense: it has fueled an explosion of phantom voters.”
In 1995, Obama sued on behalf of ACORN for the implementation of Motor Voter laws in Illinois and won. That secured Obama an invitation to train ACORN staff. Obama later returned the favor when, as a member of the Woods Fund board, he approved frequent grants to ACORN. In a 2007 address to its leaders (who subsequently endorsed his presidential bid), Obama praised ACORN’s mission:
“I come out of a grassroots organizing background. That’s what I did for three and a half years before I went to law school. That’s the reason I moved to Chicago-to organize. So this is something that I know personally, the work you do, the importance of it. I’ve been fighting alongside of ACORN on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.”
Obama himself acknowledges in a campaign video that he directed Project Vote, though he says nothing about the fact that it is part and parcel of ACORN.
So, to recap, we wrote that Obama worked for Project Vote, and that Project Vote is part of ACORN.
We are also not the only authority to point out that Project Vote is an extension of ACORN (much like the IRA was an arm of Sinn Fein, but I naughtily digress).
Time magazine described Project Vote in 2004 as “a nonpartisan arm of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).”
On his blog, ACORN founder Wade Rathke described Project Vote as being within “our family of organizations.” Rathke heads the New Orleans-based Local 100 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which donates over $2 million to ACORN annually, a significant part of the ACORN network’s $37 million budget.
To say that Obama didn’t work for ACORN is just playing word games. It would be like a Sam’s Club employee indignantly insisting he didn’t work for Wal-Mart.
Moreover, as noted above, Obama did legal work for ACORN too. He sued on behalf of ACORN’s Project Vote (and other interested parties).
It boggles the mind why anyone would deny such easily verifiable facts. It is not a “smear” to recite those facts.
Walls, of course, is entitled to make any argument he wants about why Obama is God’s gift to American governance, but he is not entitled to his own set of facts.
POST SCRIPT later the same day: At NewsBusters, Seton Motley responds to the HuffPost piece.
POST SCRIPT the next day: The blog Sweetness & Light has a devastating post that details the ties between Senator Obama, ACORN, and ACORN’s Project Vote.