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The deal with ACORN

October 16, 2008

Count me amongst the many who have had encounters with ACORN who were completely unsurprised the day the news broke that their Vegas office had been raided with evidence of wrongdoing.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I had never heard of anything illegal or illegitimate nor had anyone in the campaign around me. (For the record, I work for the ‘Campaign for Change,’ a Democratic organization whose purpose is to elect Obama and fellow Dems. It is technically separate than ‘Obama for America,’ but the goals are obviously the same.)

But ACORN is sketch, at least the Vegas branch. Technically, the organization is non-partisan but that hasn’t stopped them from endorsing Obama. They work to register and organize minorities and people of low income, demographics that tend to lean left on the political spectrum.

Why do I call them sketch? Based on the ecounters I had with them when I was out volunteering for the campaign. Every now and then, I would go out to the DMV and stand in the hot Vegas summer sun to register new voters. Even though ACORN was out there pretty much every day (in numbers, sometimes a few at a time), the campaign had its own independent system. Definitely a good thing seeing what has happened.

But yeah, I would stand there, baking, asking politely if people were registered. I wasn’t exactly putting on the “hard sell.” Either they were registered or they weren’t. Either they wanted to vote or they didn’t. But these ACORN guys were ferocious. They would practically hound people, and occasionally they would stand in front of me to try to prevent me from stealing some of “their” new registrations. (Ironically, it often backfired because people would see me, all relaxed and wearing official Obama stickers and gear, and walk around them to get to me.)

I understand why they are so intense. They are paid on commission. They have an invested interest in racking up as many voter registration forms as possible. I (and the other Obama people who are out there registering voters) am just a volunteer. I don’t get paid no matter how many forms I bring back. That’s why it didn’t surprise me at all to see that some workers made up fake names. I don’t believe at all it is part of conspiracy to actually gain more votes come election day; I believe it was done for the financial gain of specific workers.

It’s actually kind of amusing the Republican party is hammering the Obama campaign on this issue. Now, you all can draw your own conclusions in terms of Obama’s connection to the group in the mid-90s as well as his campaign’s contribution to the organization. I don’t love the association, but it’s far from a dealbreaker for me. I mean, I imagine the group does do a lot of good and I have no idea what the reputation of the non-Vegas branches are like.

But the reason why I’m amused by the right’s attack on the Democratic party is because I personally witnessed the friendly, cordial, and mutually beneficial relationship between people who worked for ACORN and people who worked for the Republican party.

Again, let me try to paint you a scene. It is a hot summer day in front of the Flamingo DMV in Vegas. There are very often three unique groups of people out there trying to register new voters (sometimes more, but the three groups that I will mention were the most prevalent). There is the Campaign for Change, people like me who are actually volunteering. So, they don’t get paid whether they get one form completed in two hours or forty forms completed. Then there’s ACORN, funded by your tax dollars as a non-partisan group, who get paid based on the amount of completed forms they bring in. Then there’s the Republican party, whose workers deal with a sliding scale. Technically, they can register anyone but they get positive points for every repub they register and negative points for every democat they register. So they have an invested interest in registering repubs as opposed to democrats.

Now, the Campaign for Change’s policy is to register anyone who wants to be registered. Part of me respects the Republican party’s cutthroat nature to do whatever it takes to help the cause while making sure that you don’t hurt it, but the democratic campaign likes to live by its crazy ideals. So, for volunteers of the campaign for change, you register everyone.

Because of the Republican party’s standards and ACORN’s standards, an odd alliance seemed to form between the employees of the two groups. ACORN people, when they encountered a rare minority who wanted to register repub (I only say ‘rare’ based on statistical demographics), they might point that person toward the republican employee with the acknowledgment that if a democrat who wanted to register came to the republican employee, they would point them toward ACORN. Again, they made for strange bedfellows.

But yeah, that’s my insight into ACORN. They’re sketch, but I don’t think it is evidence of an election day conspiracy nor do I believe the Obama campaign has much if any current connection to the group (I think there was a reason why we did our own voter registration).

Hope that gives you all some additional info that you might not have gotten on the major news networks…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt Marshall permalink
    October 18, 2008 5:46 pm

    Great Stephen. Thanks for the update from the inside.

    Very interesting, on-the-ground perspective.

    Now, have you seen any terrorists hanging around?

    – Matt

  2. Sonja's Mom Speaks permalink
    October 19, 2008 9:46 am

    Your right – it’s not a conspiracy. It’s simple greed. this is the reason I never sign any petition presented by a paid signature gatherer.

  3. October 22, 2008 7:40 am

    I can’t believe that even Dems think ACORN is sketch. Very interesting. I had no idea. Thanks for posting.

  4. Theresa permalink
    November 8, 2008 9:11 pm

    Hi Steven

    This is Theresa….I am good friends with your dad and worked with him at Clara Maass Hosp. Just wondering what happened to his website. No one can get in contact with him. Can you email me with info? Thanks


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