Lou Dobbs Backs Off Claim That ACORN's Being Investigated in "13 States," Kinda-Sorta
As blogged previously, when Lou Dobbs had ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis and the Rev. Al Sharpton on his show recently to talk about Dobbs' pal Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Arpaio's racial profilin' ways, the pair tag-teamed CNN's alter kocker nativist, leaving him punch-drunk in his corner.
Dobbs and Lewis in particular got into it. Lewis reminded Dobbs that Arpaio had said that it was "an honor" to be called KKK on Dobbs' show. Dobbs denied this, though Arpaio's exact quote, talking to Dobbs in a previous episode, was this:
"So, you know, they call you KKK, they did me, I think it's an honor, right? Means we're doing something."
Later Dobbs shot back at Lewis, stating that ACORN (the acronym stands for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) was under investigation in 13 states, a charge Lewis denied.
DOBBS: What do you suppose would be said about ACORN, you're being investigated in 13 states, for crying out loud.
LEWIS: Oh, I'm glad you brought that up. That's not true. Check the facts. It's not true. You can get on the phone right now, call the Department of Justice.
DOBBS: I didn't say anything about the Justice Department.
LEWIS: ACORN is not being investigated anywhere in any state. You don't have your facts correct. If you're talking about people being prosecuted individuals, we are assisting in their prosecution so ACORN is not under investigation and has not been. We asked the Justice Department in October, they confirmed it again and again, and you know what? Give them a call.
DOBBS: We will. We'll do it. And I certainly will and I assure you it will be early tomorrow morning. How's that?
A day later, Dobbs had a very interesting follow-up on the ACORN kerfuffle, one in which he backed off his charge of ACORN being investigated in exactly "13 states." But he did so in a characteristically Dobbsian way, one that continued to blast ACORN.
DOBBS: Anywhere in any state. Well Bertha, here we go. I promised you that we would check those facts and when you denied being investigated, we called all of those states and confirmed that investigations into ACORN indeed are under way.
We begin with Ohio where the Cuyahoga (ph) County Prosecutor's Office in Ohio tells us it has been investigating ACORN, for as it put it, some time. The investigator at the State Board of Elections for North Carolina says they hope to reach a decision on their investigation by the 30th of June and Nevada also investigating your organization.
ACORN also being investigated, Bertha, in New Mexico, I'm sorry to tell you and oh yes, Connecticut too. They're investigating ACORN. So is the state of Wisconsin. The Secretary of State's Office in Indiana tells us that the Lake County prosecutor as well as here goes the federal investigation, Bertha, I'm sorry to tell you again, but these are just the facts -- the U.S. attorney in Indiana are actively engaged in the investigation of ACORN.
That as you know, Bertha, makes it a federal investigation, which you said wasn't under way. Turning to Florida -- the Department of Law Enforcement in Florida says it is investigating several cases associated with ACORN at the state level. And in Michigan a worker from ACORN is now serving a six-month jail sentence. And Bertha, those are the facts. ACORN is under investigation all across the country. What I think you might consider is asking around in your organization why no one is telling you this or maybe you just forgot. That's probably it.
Now, if you'll count the states that Dobbs cites, you'll notice that there are not 13. I count nine. So Dobbs, by his own count, is four shy of what he said the day before. Even in the case of this nine, you get the sense that Dobbs is spinning the info to ACORN's detriment.
Indeed, Lewis told Dobbs in the Tuesday broadcast that, "If you're talking about people being prosecuted individuals, we are assisting in their prosecution..."
It will take me a little time to thoroughly look into all of Dobbs' claims, but I will go through them one by one to see if they hold water: That is, if ACORN's being investigated as an organization, or if ACORN is assisting in the prosecutions of former employees.
Interestingly, the watchdog group Media Matters just issued a report detailing how the conservative media have scapegoated both ACORN and the immigrants they sometimes serve.
For instance, according to Media Matters, wing-nut commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity claimed ACORN would be getting money from the stimulus bill. This turned out to be false. Also, Limbaugh and others tried to, amazingly, blame ACORN for the financial collapse. This too, has been debunked by Media Matters.
As to the charges concerning voter registration fraud, Media Matters had this to say:
The media devoted great attention to charges of voter registration fraud throughout the coverage of the 2008 presidential primary and general election campaigns, repeatedly using those opportunities to smear ACORN and undocumented immigrants. Following reports that ACORN had submitted fraudulent voter registrations, some media figures falsely claimed that ACORN was accused of or involved in voter fraud that might alter the outcome of the 2008 election. Others repeatedly ignored relevant information in their coverage of allegations against the group, specifically: 1) that the statutes of most of the states in question require third parties registering prospective voters to submit all registration forms they receive; and 2) that actual instances of illegal votes being cast as a result of registration fraud are extremely rare.
A similar report done before the election by Factcheck.org pointed out that ACORN itself had been defrauded by some of its employees.
Aside from the heated charges and counter-charges, no evidence has yet surfaced to show that the ACORN employees who submitted fraudulent registration forms intended to pave the way for illegal voting. Rather, they were trying to get paid by ACORN for doing no work. Dan Satterberg, the Republican prosecuting attorney in King County, Wash., where the largest ACORN case to date was prosecuted, said that the indicted ACORN employees were shirking responsibility, not plotting election fraud.
Satterberg: "[A] joint federal and state investigation has determined that this scheme was not intended to permit illegal voting.
Instead, the defendants cheated their employer, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or ACORN), to get paid for work they did not actually perform. ACORN's lax oversight of their own voter registration drive permitted this to happen. ... It was hardly a sophisticated plan: The defendants simply realized that making up names was easier than actually canvassing the streets looking for unregistered voters. ...
[It] appears that the employees of ACORN were not performing the work that they were being paid for, and to some extent, ACORN is a victim of employee theft."
The $8-an-hour employees were charged with providing false information on voter registration forms, and in one case with making a false statement to a public official. Five of the seven who were charged pleaded guilty. ACORN was fined for exercising insufficient oversight, but it was not charged with masterminding any kind of deliberate fraud.
I'm not arguing that ACORN is as innocent as a farm girl in "gay Paree." They obviously did not exercise as much oversight as was needed, and this has ended up being detrimental to their cause of aiding low-income citizens. However, ACORN is unapologetically left-wing in its sentiments, and therefore, they are the organization that the far right loves to demonize. That Dobbs is part of that far right should make everyone take his claims with a bucketful of sodium.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.