NYT Print Edition: Financially Imperiled ACORN 'Attacked by the Right'

March 21st, 2010 12:17 AM
NYTfrontPageACORN032010Who knew that two brave twenty-somethings and a skilled mentor constituted America's entire right wing?

That's apparently how Ian Urbina at the New York Times sees it. In a subheadline employed in a front-page article in the paper's March 20 print edition (relevant portion shown at right) but not used in the online edition's version, the reporter told readers that the poor, put-upon Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is on the brink of bankruptcy because it was "ATTACKED BY" the streamrolling monolith known at "THE RIGHT" (cue the scare music and the blood-curdling scream).

Actually, it was filmmaker James O'Keefe, his investigative partner Hannah Giles, and Andrew Breitbart, the pair's take-no-prisoners mentor. Three people, hardly "the right wing," basically did it all. What followed -- the de-fundings, the abandonments by former political and corporate friends, and now apparently its imminent financial demise -- was largely inevitable fallout from a brilliantly conceived series of stings followed by a savvily managed exposure campaign that ultimately forced holdout establishment media publications, including the Times itself, to play catch-up after days of embarrassing unprofessional silence.

Obviously, that's not how Urbina sees it, occasionally with barely concealed bitterness (bolds are mine throughout this post):

The community organizing group Acorn, battered politically from the right and suffering from mismanagement along with a severe loss of government and other funds, is on the verge of filing for bankruptcy, officials of the group said Friday.

Acorn is holding a teleconference this weekend to discuss plans for a bankruptcy filing, two officials of the group said. They asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the news media.

Over the last six months, at least 15 of the group’s 30 state chapters have disbanded and have no plans of re-forming, Acorn officials said. The California and New York chapters, two of the largest, have severed their ties to the national group and have independently reconstituted themselves with new names. Several other state groups are also re-forming outside the Acorn umbrella, and will not be affected if the national organization files for bankruptcy.

This week, the Maryland chapter announced that it would not reopen its offices, which were shuttered in September in the wake of a widely publicized series of video recordings made by two conservative activists, posing as a prostitute and a pimp, who secretly filmed Acorn workers providing them tax advice. In the videos, Acorn workers told one of the activists, James E. O’Keefe III, how to hide prostitution activities from the authorities and avoid taxes, raising no objections to his proposed criminal activities.

After the activists’ videos came to light and swiftly became fodder for 24-hour cable news coverage, private donations from foundations to Acorn all but evaporated and the federal government quickly distanced itself from the group.

Yep, if it wasn't for Fox News, Urbina apparently reasons, we might have been able to get away with ignoring those dumb videos and ACORN would still be viable. Puh-leeze.

Urbina goes on to try to impress us with a few statistics about the organization's allegedly noble endeavors:

A network that once included more than 1,000 grass-roots groups, Acorn, which stands for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, was created in 1970 and has fought for liberal causes like raising the minimum wage, registering the poor to vote, stopping predatory lending and expanding affordable housing. The organization helped roughly 150,000 lower-income families prepare their tax returns and obtain $190 million in tax refunds between 2004 and 2009, Acorn officials said.

As I pointed out last September (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), that supposedly impressive tax stat, amounting to 25,000 returns per year, is really laughably unimpressive (a previous link to King County has been removed because its content has since been changed):

25,000 returns nationwide? That’s ... just over 200 per year in each of ACORN’s 110 cities, and likely includes a lot of repeat-year returns that are pretty easy to prepare.

By contrast, here’s just one example of a United Way taxpayer assistance outreach effort out of Washington state (bold is mine):

"In 2009, 530 volunteers dedicated 16,000 hours to United Way of King County’s Free Tax Prep Campaign. Volunteers prepared 13,631 tax returns, helped return $17.3 million in federal refunds back to the community, including $5.2 million in Earned Income Tax Credits, and saved customers an estimated $1 million in tax preparation fees."

The King County group, in just one metro area, did over half as many returns as ACORN did in the entire country, and provided their services for free.

... reporters should be ashamed that they have ignored the obvious indications that ACORN’s offices really accomplish very little of value on behalf of the poor people they allegedly serve.

It would appear that Mr. Urbina was unaware of how truly pathetic the ACORN performance was, because he was actually touting it. If he had recognized it, he might have asked this critical question: What in the world have these people been doing?

Mr. Urbina wrote up part of the answer in a later paragraph:

In Pittsburgh, Acorn officials said they were trying to continue work while they decided whether to stay with the national organization or form a new one. Maryellen Hayden, the volunteer director of Allegheny County’s Acorn, said the group was continuing to counsel people facing foreclosure and had recently sent two buses with dozens of members to Washington to rally for the Democratic health care bill.

The answer, of course, is that ACORN was really all about leftist activism. Tax return prep, housing assistance, and other services served as fig leafs to conceal the organization's real aims, which were (and will be, if or when successors get back on their feet) to radicalize communities, test the limits of election control systems, and, when called upon, intimidate vulnerable targets.

The country owes O'Keefe, Giles, and Breitbart a debt of bottomless gratitude for decimating this once insufferably arrogant and defiant bunch. Too bad Ian Urbina and the establishment media don't see it that way.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.