ACORN Response to Senator McCain's
October 10, 2008
ACORN President Maude Hurd released the following statement today in response to the
McCain campaign's new ad claiming that, among other things, ACORN is responsible for
the mortgage crisis:
"For almost a decade, ACORN, a community organization of 400,000 families in
neighborhoods across the country, has been fighting against the predatory lending
practices that have robbed our members of their homes, destabilized neighborhoods, and
roiled the global economy.
"In his newest ad, John McCain's campaign bizarrely claims, 'ACORN forced banks to
issue risky home loans, the same types of loans that caused the financial crisis we're in
today.' Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, ACORN has worked successfully
to help working class families get good home loans on fair terms from legitimate banks
and has fought vigorously against predatory lenders who have ripped off families in our
communities. These predatory loans caused the crisis.
"For more than a decade, ACORN members have held protests, released reports, and
advocated for regulations to protect homeowners from predatory lenders. ACORN
organizers and volunteers have been working day and night to help victims of the GOP
economic meltdown to save their homes from foreclosure. In fact, ACORN has brought
class action lawsuits against several predatory lenders, and has lobbied the Federal
Reserve and Congress in support of regulations against predatory lending. ACORN has
even been successful in convincing many lenders to treat homeowners more fairly and
help families be able to make their mortgage payments and save their homes.
"Unfortunately, the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans like John
McCain have blocked the sensible regulations that ACORN and others proposed that
would have averted the mortgage meltdown. If John McCain thinks that community
organizers caused the foreclosure crisis, he knows even less about the economy than
"John McCain and the Republicans are desperately trying to shift the blame for the
economic crisis they caused with a philosophy of deregulation and indifference to
homeowners. All the grainy footage and creepy music in the world can't cancel out some
simple, basic facts, and the facts about the economy are not on John McCain's side."
Of course political "reporters" who cover politics as defined by the rightwing noise machine
know nothing about predatory lending or those routinely victimized by it. That's not part of their
beat. Heck, it's not even part of their universe, which is why I went ahead and quoted ACORN's
statement in its entirety.
Beyond what ACORN has to say for itself in the statement above, two other facts should be born
in mind: first, that minorities in particular were steered toward sub-prime loans, even when they
qualified for conventional loans, and second, that the current financial situation was not caused
by the borrowers, but by the financial industry itself, and the risky, unstable, unaccountable
aftermarkets it created in mortgage-backed securities.
But let's go a little deeper in McCain's ad on our own. Let's start with this part:
There, Obama met Madeleine Talbot, part of the Chicago branch of ACORN.
He was so impressive that he was asked to train the ACORN staff.
To back this up, McCain's campaign includes the following documentation:
Barack Obama Was Invited By Madeleine Talbot To Help Train Her Staff At ACORN.
"Several community organizers and Altgeld Gardens tenants confirmed Johnson was
working on asbestos but said Obama organized residents to act. 'He got people to vote
with their feet' on the issue, organizer Madeleine Talbot said. At the time, Talbot worked
at the social action group ACORN and initially considered Obama a competitor. But she
became so impressed with his work that she invited him to help train her staff." (Letta
Tayler And Keith Herbert, "Chicago's Streets Obama's Teacher," Newsday, 3/2/08)
So, his deep and sinister connection to ACORN was that he worked for another organization--not
ACORN--whose organizer originally considered him a competitor, but later decided he was so
good, she asked him to train her staff. I'm having a really hard time understanding what's so
sinister here. Or what's so deep about the connection. After all, ACORN never took the next
step of actually, you know, hiring him away. So what's the big deal here?
McCain's campaign even go so far as to make and "document" another claim at this point that
wasn't in the ad:
In 1992, Barack Obama Was Hired By ACORN To Run A Voter Registration Effort.
"Indeed, Mr. Obama has extensive connections with the granddaddy of activist groups,
Acorn (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which has gotten
millions in government grants for its low-income housing programs. In 1992, Acorn hired
Mr. Obama to run a voter registration effort. He later became a trainer for the group, as
well as its lawyer in election law cases. Acorn's political arm has endorsed Mr. Obama
while its 'voter education' arm has pledged to spend $35 million to register people this fall
-- despite a history of vote fraud scandals that have led to guilty pleas by many Acorn
employees." (John Fund, "Obama's Liberal Shock Troops," The Wall Street Journal,
Fund-referenced in Digby's original post-is a regular fount of lies and disinformation. ACORN
has not "gotten millions in government grants for its low-income housing programs," it has
gotten money for its low-income members and clients-as was very clearly explained in a press
teleconference I took part in on Friday, where this question was posed. Nor did Obama work for
ACORN in 1992, he worked for Project Vote. The two organizations had some contact during
the 1992, but did not start working together nationally until two years later. As the Fight The
Smears website explains:
Discredited Republican voter-suppression guru Ken Blackwell is attacking Barack
Obama with naked lies about his supposed connection to ACORN.
Fact: Barack was never an ACORN communiity organizer.
Fact: ACORN never hired Obama as a trainer, oorganizer, or any type of employee.
Fact: ACORN was not part of Project Votte, the successful voter registration drive
Barack ran in 1992.
In his capacity as an attorney, Barack represented ACORN in a successful lawsuit
alongside the U.S. Department of Justice against the state of Illinois to force state
compliance with a federal voting access law. For his work helping enforce the law, called
"Motor Voter," Barack received the IVI IPO Legal Eagle Award in 1995.
McCain's campaign could easily have checked and discovered this-especially since they linked
to this very page themselves.... but not to quote anything from it. Here is the full extent of their
recognition of the facts laid out at Fight The Smears:
ANNCR: No wonder Obama's campaign is trying to distance him from the group, saying,
"Barack Obama Never Organized with ACORN."
The Obama Campaign: "Barack Obama Never Organized With ACORN" (Barack
Obama For President Website, http://fightthesmears.com/articles/20/acornrumor,
What's more, immediately after that, they go right back to implicitly lying about him having
worked for ACORN in 1992-as well as working for ACORN afterwards:
ANNCR: But Obama's ties to ACORN run long and deep. He taught classes for ACORN.
Obama Directed Project Vote And Later Taught Classes For "Future Leaders Identified
By ACORN And The Centers For New Horizons." "He [Obama] says he is drawn to
politics, despite its superficialities, as a means to advance his real passion and calling:
community organization. ... In 1992 Obama took time off to direct Project Vote, the most
successful grass-roots voter-registration campaign in recent city history. Credited with
helping elect Carol Moseley-Braun to the U.S. Senate, the registration drive, aimed
primarily at African-Americans, added an estimated 125,000 voters to the voter rolls--
even more than were registered during Harold Washington's mayoral campaigns. 'It's a
power thing,' said the brochures and radio commercials. ... Obama continues his
organizing work largely through classes for future leaders identified by ACORN and the
Centers for New Horizons on the south side." (Hank De Zutter, Op-Ed, "What Makes
Obama Run?" Chicago Reader, 12/8/95)
No one is denying he's had contact with ACORN, and indeed, there's nothing the least bit
disreptuable about either ACORN or such contact. It's just that blatant lying about employment
is pretty much a Reporting 101, black-and-white kind of thing, which also clearly demonstrates
the McCain campaign's total and utter disregard for the truth.
Finally, shifting gears a bit, here's the "justification" for another part of McCain's ad:
ANNCR: What did ACORN in Chicago engage in? Bullying banks. Intimidation tactics.
Disruption of business. ACORN forced banks to issue risky home loans. The same types
of loans that caused the financial crisis we're in today.
ACORN Led Protests At Banks To Force Them To Issue Risky Home Loans. "Various
ACORN chapters across the country, led by folks like Chicago's Madeline Talbott, staged
in-your-face protests in bank lobbies and filed complaints meant to hold up mergers
sought by targeted banking firms. Talbott & Co. generally wanted them to ease down-
payment requirements and ignore weak credit histories. And their intimidating tactics
often necessitated police action, as at a '97 protest at Pulaski Bank & Trust in Arkansas,
where activists blocked drive-through lanes." (Editorial, "The Meltdown's Acorn," New
York Post, 9/29/08)
ACORN Forced Banks To Issue Shaky Loans By Pressuring The Banks. "ACORN
recognized very early the opportunity presented by the Community Reinvestment Act
(CRA) of 1977. As Stanley Kurtz has reported, ACORN proudly touted 'affirmative
action' lending and pressured banks to make subprime loans. Madeline Talbott, a Chicago
ACORN leader, boasted of 'dragging banks kicking and screaming' into dubious loans.
And, as Sol Stern reported in City Journal, ACORN also found a remunerative niche as
an 'advisor' to banks seeking regulatory approval." (Mona Charen, "Guilty Party:
ACORN, Obama, and the mortgage mess," National Review Online, 9/30/08)
So, the McCain campaign "supports" its claims about ACORN "bully" banks into making bad
loans by quoting rightwing editorial! Heck, in 1964, Barry Goldwater could have just as easily
made and supported claims about Lyndon Johnson's "frightening" ties with the "dangerous"
Martin Luther King, by quoting Bill Buckley and other conservatives, saying, "What did Martin
Luther King engage in? Bullying banks and other businesses. Intimidation tactics. Disruption of
business. King forced businesses to serve unsavory individuals who scared away their long-time
customers, threatening their very existence today."
Just one thing: Barry Goldwater didn't do that. But he could have. It's a character thing. John
McCain just wouldn't understand.
What's It All Mean
The above is hardly meant to be exhaustive. Everywhere you look in the rightwing attacks
against ACORN as well as Obama you find lie after distortion, after half-truth, after wild
speculation, after dubious opinion. But what's the big picture here?
A fully fleshed-out answer will have to wait for another diary, but the bottom line is simple,
really: Our political discourse is entirely unhinged from reality, and they are doing absolutely
everything they can to take advantage of that fact. All that matters is that an accusation be
made. It doesn't matter on whit if it's true or not.
Bill Clinton killed Vince Foster, don'tcha know?
Get ready, folks, because that's just where we're headed, come January 20.
The alternative-detailed, informative, factual reporting-has been so thoroughly marginalized that
it's regarded as some detestable form of elitist snobbery. But how else is one to understand what
actually did go on to create the current financial crisis? As I've argued many times in the past,
conservative discourse depends on and reflects a level of cognitive develpment that can't handle
such complexity. However, there are ways of explaining complex subjects in simplified terms
that get the essential point across. This is what George Soros did on Bill Moyers Journal last
Friday, as discussed in my diary here .. It's not impossible to do this. It just takes dedication,
some skill, more training and practice, but above all the political will to build a social and
political order based on truth and justice, rather than on lies, lies, lies and more lies.