Rule Number 1 -- Do little or nothing with the story until you can figure out a way to make center-right critics or victors look like the bad guys.
Rule Number 2 -- If you're thinking about covering the story any other way, refer to Rule Number 1.On Thursday, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law in Columbus, Ohio, which describes itself as "an independent legal center dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government abuse," announced a significant legal victory for Buckeye State residents interested in clean elections:
The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law achieved victory in its state RICO action against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). ACORN has agreed to settle the case and will cease all Ohio activity as a result. In its settlement with the 1851 Center, ACORN agreed to surrender all of its Ohio business licenses by June 1, 2010. Further, the organization cannot support or enable any individual or organization that seeks to engage in the same type of activity.That seems like a pretty clear-cut result, doesn't it? Not if you're the Associated Press's JoAnne Viviano, whose brief item on Saturday followed the rules above, fabricated a supposed loophole in the settlement, and gave an unnamed spokesman an open mic to despicably play the race card:
Isn't that nifty? The news isn't that ACORN agreed to leave and not come back in any current or alternative form. No-no-no. The real news to Ms. Viviano is that racist meanies like those at the 1851 Center would fight ACORN or any of its successors if the far-left activists and accused racketeers reneged on their agreement.
This isn't journalism; it's character assassination by anonymous attribution.
Though far from perfect, the coverage by the Columbus Dispatch's James Nash was more measured -- and accurate:
ACORN is out of Ohio's elections
In legal settlement, group agrees not to return to state
ACORN, the liberal group notorious for allegedly trying to inflate voter rolls through fraudulent practices, has seen its last election in Ohio.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now will permanently surrender its Ohio business license by June1 as part of a legal settlement with the conservative Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, both sides said yesterday.
ACORN was active in Ohio in the 2006 and 2008 elections, working to register thousands of low-income people to vote and get them to the polls. The group's efforts were marred by irregularities, including one case in which ACORN workers allegedly induced a Cleveland man to register to vote 72 times, offering cigarettes as an incentive.
The Buckeye Institute's 1851 Center for Constitutional Law teamed with two Warren County residents to sue ACORN in Warren County Common Pleas Court just before the 2008 election. The residents alleged that their rights were abridged by thousands of fraudulent voter registrations, each representing "a potential illegal vote that has the capacity to dilute (legitimate) votes."
The case was moved to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Yesterday's settlement is mostly confidential, said Maurice A. Thompson, the conservative group's attorney.
"They will surrender their business license by June 1 and cease to operate in Ohio and cease to support or enable other groups to do what they do," Thompson said.
... After the 2008 election, in which some credited or blamed ACORN for the election of Barack Obama as president, ACORN has dialed back its political activity across the country.
ACORN continues to deny any wrongdoing in Ohio ...
The Occam's Razor explanation for ACORN's surrender would seem to be that the 1851 Center's RICO evidence was strong, and that national exposure of it would do serious damage.
The most obvious weakness in Nash's report is that he never explained why "ACORN has dialed back its political activity." We can thank James O'Keefe, Hannah Giles, and Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com for that.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.