The amateur film maker who made that video of a “prostitute and her pimp” in an ACORN office was surprisingly frank about his motives:

James O’Keefe, one of the two filmmakers, said he went after ACORN because it registers minorities likely to vote against Republicans: “Politicians are getting elected single-handedly due to this organization,” O’Keefe told The Washington Post.

That, in a nutshell, summarizes the wingnut vendetta: ACORN is too effective. The rest of what the wingers say is just noise. Lies and misdirection.

The Friday Post-Dispatch had two examples of same. Kathleen Parker ballyhooed Marcel Reid, a former member of the national ACORN board, “who was booted in summer 2008 when she tried to examine the organization’s books.” Uh oh, that does sound fishy.

But Glenn Burleigh, the St. Louis head field organizer (pictured at top with fellow staffer Ann Chilson), sighs when I ask him about it and says that last year, board members disagreed on which auditing firm to hire. Reid was in the minority on the vote. After losing the vote, she and those who disagreed with the decision took the case to court–where the judge threw it out, affirming that the majority of board members were within their rights to choose the auditing firm they preferred.

Oh.

The other damaging piece of press on Friday was this:

The embattled community activist group ACORN appears to be collecting charitable contributions through affiliate organizations that it then uses for impermissible lobbying and political activity, says the Republican staff of the Senate Finance Committee.

[italics mine]

I asked Burleigh about this charge as well. He said that most non-profits can’t afford to hire separate people for the non-profit aspect of their work and the lobbying or political part of their work. He, for example, reports how many hours a week he spends on the work that’s paid for by charitable contributions and how many on political work. But he gets one pay check.

Oh.

And so on.

Not that ACORN is completely innocent, but it is quick to correct its mistakes.

  • Its founder, Wade Rathke, was kicked out of the organization last year when it came to light that he had hidden the fact that his brother embezzled almost a million dollars from the organization.
  • Those caught on video advising the supposed prostitute about how to break the law were doing something illegal. They’ve been fired. Plenty of employees in other ACORN offices refused to be drawn into O’Keefe’s scummy sting operation.
  • In the past, ACORN has been less careful than it is now about checking the voter registration forms that workers collect to make sure they’re valid. But these days, they turn in the forms–as the law requires them to–but let authorities know if a form is not valid.

    And remember that none of these faulty registration forms enables anybody to commit vote fraud. Nobody is voting under the name of Mickey Mouse or any other fake name. Vote fraud hasn’t happened.

But compared to, say, Blackwater, these underpaid folk working at community organizing are goddamned saints, not only because their sins are so piddlingly small in such an equation, but because they actually work for the disenfranchised. Despite Blackwater’s vicious killings and billion dollar sins, that company is, even today, earning hundreds of millions from the federal government. Meanwhile, ACORN is being deprived of the few federal funds it ever accepted, and we the public are being deprived of the organization’s help in the 2010 census.

In a sane world, this wouldn’t be happening; it makes about as much sense as vilifying Mother Teresa. But in this world, not only does the right continue its jihad, but the mainstream media, like the New York Times, accepts those lies without checking. Rachel Maddow interviewed professor Peter Dreier, one of the authors of a new study, “Manipulating the public agenda”. He pointed out that more than 80 percent of the news stories about voter registration problems failed to mention that ACORN was the one to report irregularities in the first place. Almost 72 percent of the stories failed to quote any ACORN representative responding to the charges against them.

Maddow also goes into detail about the types of business that have felt their profits threatened by having ACORN expose their practices and about the man they’ve hired to run an astroturf campaign to bring the organization down.

The question is whether ACORN can survive this blitzkrieg and continue to be effective. On Monday, I’ll have more to say about that and about what they actually do in Missouri. (Short version: an amazing variety.)