By Anita MonCrief
Just as ACORN happily accepted millions of dollars from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in its campaign to attain general acceptability and political power as well as to use all that money, ACORN hopes to participate in the upcoming census to promote interests beyond helping to conduct the next census: obtaining general acceptability, power AND confidential information.
A full five years before I was recruited for ACORN in Washington, DC, I worked for the Census Bureau in Alabama. In 2000, a red Dodge Neon with a number of dints and dings carried me down the back roads of Tuscaloosa County, AL as a Census taker. At 21, this was a great job that worked around my classes, and I spoke to dozens of families as I completed the forms. Operating without a political agenda or propaganda, the interviewees answered questions honestly and let me into their homes and lives. Recent reports indicated that the 2010 Census will not inspire nostalgia of past times or a trust in your fellow community members. As ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) gears up to partner with the Census; it brings a distinctly partisan agenda. Funded by the likes of the Democracy Alliance and The Open Society Institute (both George Soros backed outfits), ACORN and its affiliates have a storied history of behavior that would not seem out of place on an episode of the 'Sopranos'. Though Tony Soprano, has a greater likability factor, but I digress.
Here is an excerpt from ACORN's 2008 GOTV (Get out The Vote) Program:
ACORN 2008 Urban GOTV Plan
"The core of ACORN’s GOTV model is personal door-to-door contact. We know the best way to reach people and deliver a strong message that they will remember is face-to-face on the doors. By doing this we can ID specific voters who have said Yes, and keep track of exactly which voters and households we’ve had contact with."
During Voter Registration drives, ACORN - using money obtained from its 501(c)(3) Project Vote - would use the voter registration cards after attaching propaganda designed to increase membership. ACORN would sign up voters as provisional members and then contact them using information gleaned from the cards to turn the voter into a dues paying member. Data entry of voter information was handled at 34 cents a card after they were shipped to the Brooklyn ACORN office. According to internal documents ACORN had a strategic plan to build is membership off of voter registration drives paid for by donations and government funds
Building Organization Off the 2008 Election Cycle
Now that we’ve grown more experienced in delivering the product (voter reg cards), the discussion in 2007 around designing the 2008 program has taken an interesting and exciting turn: how can we use the voter registration program to build and move mass membership, and build power for our members through campaign victories.
Data management is our Achilles heel. For the OCC [Organizing Call Center] to be effective there needs to be a way to get all VR [voter registration] card/member combos to be data entered within 2-3 days of being collected on the street. If not, the contact goes cold. For this quick turnaround to exist data entry may need to be done locally. It is possible cards could be scanned and emailed to a national data entry provider. Both means have challenges, however working from an electronic list from the get go is key to a successful follow up program.
Once VR cards/membership card responses are entered they can be put into phone lists for OCC workers. Calls should be made within 3-5 days of the contact being made on the street. It has been suggested that each OCC worker should have an electronic list of new registers/members in front of them. This means a computer on every desk of an OCC worker, along with a phone line. As callers make calls they record answers, and suspicious activity, directly into the data. In this way it is easier to generate “yes” lists or appointments for organizers. Also when using a data base, depending on the size of the list, we may want to do mailings, or email blasts. It would also be great to give every name a bar code to swipe them into the data base.
These are the people who will be in our neighborhoods and who want access to our homes. A recent article shows thatACORN has tried to downplay its role in the Census. The artcle, Criminal Charges Against ACORN Raise Concerns About Its Partnership With Census Bureau, states that ACORN spokesman David Redlener
'said that ACORN would primarily be responsible for “mailings and other in-house communications; displaying and/or distributing 2010 Census promotional materials; providing space to train new employees; sponsoring community events to promote participation in the Census; allowing the Census bureau to post ACORN’s name on the 2010 Census Web site; [and] linking 2010 Census Web site to ACORN’s Web site.'
Here is an example of ACORN's mock up for using state issued voter registration cards to gain memberships.
Membership and defrauding the ta payers are minor concerns for ACORN in the grand scheme of their Census work. Not only will ACORN have access to personal information of Americans, but this info may also be distributed to others. As this 2005 document details:
Proposal for a Joint List Acquisition and Enhancement Project
Project Vote proposes the creation of a List Acquisition and Enhancement program that will serve the needs of organizations, both large and small, with a strategic plan to build and maintain statewide voter files in targeted states. The file would be hosted by a non-501c3 entity to allow for maximum usage of the data by progressive organizations. The development of files will include acquisition of voter data, enhancements with demographic and consumer data where appropriate, and the long-term maintenance of the file which gives our organizations a better understanding of the electorate. Building upon the energy and experiences of the 2004 electoral cycle, this project will begin in 2005 with a long-term vision towards 2006, 2008 and beyond.
Another major challenge to be addressed for the creation of a centralized data bank for 501c3, c4 and 527 organizations is the legality of such an entity. Though that question has not been answered, this proposal seeks to build a centralized data bank for 501c3 organizations with the ability to accommodate and interface with other non 501c3 organizations where legally appropriate.
Information is power and the pieces of ACORN's strategic plan are falling into place. A 2005 document details their plans for a progressive majority:
In 2005-2006, ACORN plans to partner with other progressive voter engagement organizations to purchase and maintain a common voter file. A common voter file will maximize the resources of the progressive voter outreach community, and enhance ACORN’s work by improving our effectiveness and efficiency.
With a common voter file, ACORN will:
- Coordinate voter outreach and mobilization work with other progressive organizations to maximize the power of our resources
- Target our voter contact where we will get “the most bang for our buck.”
- Build a long-term base of progressive voters by collecting and maintaining information on contacted voters from partnering organizations, and by developing low-propensity voters into habitual voters.
With the Membership Canvass, we are looking to build a large base of voters we can move on issues and elections that affect low- and moderate-income people. With a voter file, we will be able to target the neighborhoods we work in more effectively, with a particular eye on those neighborhoods where we can “get the most bang for our buck” – neighborhoods likely to be supportive of our issues, but where extra voter education and mobilization work would have a dramatic impact on turnout in strategically chosen legislative and Congressional races. Using precinct walk lists will enhance the canvass; the canvasser knows if the resident is registered, how often the resident has voted in past elections, the resident’s name, and other demographic data that helps them to tailor the canvass message to the individual. In addition, we will be able to take the voter information gathered from this mass canvass and add it to the voter file, in order to enhance the work of partnering progressive organizations. [emphasis mine]
If there is a chance that ACORN may be working unmonitored in the communities it serves, who is to say that some type of "suspicious" activity might not occur. After all ACORN is being investigated in almost EVERY state that they ran voter registration drives.
ACORN's core work revolves around Census information and that information leads to funding. In a 2007 a former Project Vote/ACORN Political Operations staffer stated:
"Projects for which I have used Census data include: political plans, project goals, and voter registration targets for programs of all sizes: from single geographies to ACORN's national 2008 civic engagement goals. This work required loads of research and analysis – of eligible voting populations per ACORN'sVR traditional constituency, low-income and minority communities. The original research for national targets began with more than 300 geographies; we are continuously focusing our search and have narrowed down our targeting to a potential of closer to 150 counties."
If such data is the core of their programs, could their vested interest in the outcome cloud affect the impartiality?
What is at Stake?
On the surface ACORN appears to be concerned with its members and their well being; staging elaborate acts of civil disobedience for the cameras. However, internally ACORN's agenda is pure political, as this 2006 New Mexico year end report illustrates:
"This will also be the year that Albuquerque has an open seat for mayor. Some of the City Councilors who we help in ’07 may be candidates, and we will play a more significant role in this race. 2010 will, likewise, have an open seat for Governor. We have good relationships with the current, most likely candidates and need to be a player in this race. We need to raise money for our political work for this cycle based on the redistricting that will happen in our state following the 2010 census."
The entire report can be downloaded courtesy of Matthew Harrington here. The Harrington Report will also have the documents referenced in this blog available for viewing by 5/28/09.
ACORN's vested interest in census data and its legislative outcomes can also be seen in a proposal for funding submitted to the Democracy Alliance. Here is an outline from the proposal.
According to a 2006 Washington Post article: "Democracy Alliance was formed last year with major backing from billionaires such as financier George Soros and Colorado software entrepreneur Tim Gill. The inspiration, according to founders, was a belief that Democrats became the minority party in part because liberals do not have a well-funded network of policy shops, watchdog groups and training centers for activists equivalent to what has existed for years on the right.
"The election of 2008 will be the most important national election in a generation and presents an unmatched opportunity for progressives to win the White House, build a progressive majority in the House and Senate, pave the way for the post 2010 redistricting struggle, and hold progressive candidates accountable for implementing progressive public policies. The following political plan is designed to mobilize key progressive constituencies in strategic locations in order to capitalize on this opportunity"
ACORN and the Census are a dangerous mix for the American people. Any organization that has a five year plan based on redistricting and manipulating elections should not be allowed to participate in any way with this important process. Zach Polett, ACORN's Political director outlines ACORN's plan to appeal to Soros and SEIU for money slated for political reasons.
Proposed Process for Developing a 5-Year ACORN Political Business Plan
Both to focus the strategic thinking of our political work and to put ourselves in position to attempt to raise the funds to support an ambitious, multi-year political program that grows out of ACORN’s base and strengths, I believe we need a serious, well-argued business plan. On the fundraising side, places we will want to share this business plan include “the millionaires club” (Democracy Alliance), the billionaires (Sandlers’, Soros, etc.), friends and opinion leaders in the voter engagement world (e.g., Frank Smith, John Podesta), SEIU, the voter participation foundations, etc.
Other groups are also preparing such plans. ACT has told us that they are working on theirs. America Votes had a small meeting last week, that ACORN participated in, to start thinking through what its 5-year plan should be, spurred by some interest from Soros in funding it.
Targeting (NOTE that this could either be a separate short section or one part of the methodology section below)
- African-American: Major emphasis on voter registration, voter motivation and GOTV. Some parts of this work can be done c3
- Hispanic & White Working Class: Key component of the initial voter contact is issue identification and persuasion. More time and money needs to be spent on screening and recording issue and policy priorities to determine message for future communication.
- Though major focus of ACORN's work will continue to be in urban communities, both of-color and low-income white, part of ACORN's focus will be in inner-ring suburbs and lower-income and working class areas in exurbs and more rural counties, particularly where they fall in important state legislative or Congressional districts.
States to include are those states ACORN is in that have '06 or '08 key Senate races, are '08 battlegrounds (generally same as '04) and others with important redistricting opportunities.
A Human Events article ACORN Should Not Receive Taxpayers' Money by Phyllis Schlafly brings home the point:
It is particularly important to expose ACORN's political activities because of its new relationship with the Census Bureau, the agency tasked with compiling the 2010 census. The count of the U.S. population will determine which states gain or lose votes in both the U.S. House and the Electoral College, and which districts get more federal handouts.
American constitutional government cannot survive if the population count is managed and manipulated by organizations with partisan bias. The importance of a fair and accurate count cannot be overestimated because the count can give one party an unfair advantage and control over America for the next decade.
Document Links courtesy of the Harrington Report:
ACORN Political Business Plan
Funding Cycle Outline
ACORN Five Year Business Plan
Joint Voter File List Proposal
Concept Paper: Building Organization from 2008 Election Cycle
2007-2008 Ohio Political Plan
Anita MonCrief is a blogger and writer in Washington, DC. She has worked with the American Bar Association Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative; the International Crisis Group; Grameen Foundation and ACORN. Anita has partnered with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on their mission to Macedonia as an election observer. In 2005, she joined the Strategic Writing and Research Department of ACORN Political Operations and its affiliate Project Vote. In 2008 Anita came forward to expose the damage that ACORN has done to the impoverished and marginalized communities, as well as its rampant voter fraud. Anita is also a social artist and my works promote social change and poverty eradication. She also blogs at www.anitamoncrief.blogspot.com.