PJ Media

Cracking ACORN Requires Comprehensive Electoral Reform

James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles have rocked our world like no two twenty-somethings I can recall.

As of when this column was finished on Wednesday afternoon, as chronicled at Andrew Breitbart’s breakout BigGovernment.com site since September 10, multiple ACORN offices had been caught on tape providing guidance to O’Keefe and Giles, who are 25 and 20, respectively(!), on how to obtain home financing for a prostitution business that would include Giles and 13 illegal immigrant girls, with the ultimate purpose of generating funds for a future congressional run by O’Keefe. Helpful instruction from ACORN employees, many of whom are now ex-employees, included how to maximize tax benefits by claiming dependent exemptions and child tax credits for a few of the underage girls (not too many, so as not to raise red flags), how to hide the money (in a tin can, in the backyard, covered with grass), and how to keep the business covert (i.e., never talk about business, because “loose lips sink ships”).

Meanwhile, the establishment media, with the exception of Fox News, has only very belatedly been dragged kicking and screaming into recognizing the story’s existence. On Tuesday morning, ABC’s Charles Gibson, asked why “no one’s covering the story,” stunned a Chicago morning show’s co-hosts when he nervously laughed and said that “I didn’t even know about it” (full audio is accessible here). It seems that even Comedy Central’s left-leaning fake journalist Jon Stewart felt that he had to deal with the story or risk losing his credibility with his youngish audience — and he is still ahead of most of the media elite.

Lo and behold, on September 11, the Census Bureau ended ACORN’s involvement with the 2010 census. On Monday, despite the establishment media’s near-blackout of O’Keefe and Giles’s relentless barrage, and a mere four days after the persistent pair’s first video debuted, the United States Senate, which usually moves at a pace that would make snails laugh, rushed through a bill to block ACORN from Housing and Urban Development funding by a shocking 83-7 margin. As of Wednesday afternoon, a serious move was afoot in the House to totally deny all federal funding to the organization, and ACORN itself, according to the Washington Times, had “suspended advising new clients.”

Keeping taxpayers’ and unwilling workers’ money entirely away from this monster and its hundreds of related tentacles will be a monumental task — one I believe that the leftists who dominate Congress and this administration have no intention of permitting to succeed. In addition to the estimated $53 million it has received from the federal government since 1994 (an estimate that I believe is woefully low, because there are so many hard-to-track entities), ACORN has obtained significant funding from state governments, from local governments, from labor unions (probably illegally, based on the Supreme Court’s 1988 Beck ruling), and from shaken-down financial institutions.

But ACORN and its offshoots are about much more than money; they are all about power, and wielding it ruthlessly and undemocratically. Consider this about the organization’s “Muscle for Money” efforts:

Muscle for Money includes multiple techniques for creating highly aggressive, organized efforts both to pressure businesses and officials to support the activists’ agenda or to discredit and intimidate opponents of their agenda, according to present and former ACORN members. …

Some of the more prominent Muscle for Money targets to date have included the Carlyle Group, Sherwin-Williams, H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, Liberty Tax, and Money Mart. …

“The idea is to go to private homes where wives and children are present and stand outside so the family members of a company official could be harassed and subjected to intimidation. … Protestors would also go to company functions like banquets where they would be as disruptive as possible.”

The ultimate source of ACORN’s power is the manipulated ballot box. Decades of weakened controls over the voting process throughout the country have given it the ability to steal elections, and it has done so. Among others, ACORN-inspired vote fraud and political contributions to those who decide on ballot-counting procedures almost definitely explain why Minnesota’s junior senator is Al Franken and likely explain why Christine Gregoire was elected governor of Washington in 2004.

Though they will inconvenience legitimate voters and voter registration collectors, the following four reforms are absolutely required to maintain the integrity of the elections system against the onslaught of ACORN and any potential successors:

  1. End fraud-susceptible “early voting” and replace it with limited-excuse absentee balloting. The absentee system functioned quite effectively for two centuries until leftists won over the unwitting with bogus and irresponsible arguments of “convenience.” Unless you have a valid, approved-in-advance excuse permitting you to vote absentee, you must find a way to vote in person on Election Day, period.
  2. Permit only the voter wishing to register to turn in a voter registration card, and only to an employee or designated agent of the board of elections. No intermediaries are allowed, period. I know that the political parties won’t like this, but too bad, so sad, I’m sick and tired of being had. Election boards concerned about the ability of immobile, elderly, or heavily traveling voters to register should expand their outreach efforts at places like retirement homes, make personal visits or appointments by request, and periodically expand their hours of operation into evenings and weekends.
  3. Systematically clean up the voter rolls at least every four years.
  4. Limit provisional balloting to disputes over whether or not a person is validly registered. It’s not too much to insist that a voter show up at the proper polling location on Election Day.

Separately, states like Washington and Oregon that are handling their elections largely or completely by mail must stop doing so.

If the growing tea party movement is looking for an outlet for its remarkable energy, I can think of none better than fixing our elections system one sovereign state at a time. ACORN’s web must be fully investigated, prosecuted, and permanently stopped. For that to happen and to prevent additional imitators, electoral reform initiatives — or, if necessary, state constitutional amendments — that include provisions similar to those described above need to get onto the November 2010 ballot in as many states as humanly possible.