ACORN’s Latest Corruption Scandal and the Fallacy of the “Bad Apples” Argument
posted at 11:53 am on October 5, 2009 by Howard Portnoy
Over the weekend, FOX News aired an hour-long investigation into ACORN hosted by Megyn Kelly. The show included a lengthy and illuminating interview with ACORN founder Wade Rathke, as well as analysis from journalist Stanley Kurtz. The entire program can be viewed here.
As the documentary was airing, two new revelations of ACORN corruption in Louisiana and Oklahoma surfaced.
In the former, the local ACORN Housing Corp. office received contracts worth a combined $625,000 from the City of New Orleans for repairing existing low-income housing and developing new units in poor neighborhoods. The contracts were paid for with funds from federal Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. An investigation by the Pelican Institute think tank of New Orleans, however, found that no work was actually performed to fulfill the contracts. Worse, Pelican couldn’t talk to the ACORN official managing the contracts because he had left the organization months ago. One more thing: The office address listed on the contracts for ACORN turned out to be a vacant lot, although new plumbing connections indicated a trailer had recently been located on the site.
Meanwhile, in Oklahoma City, documents found in a recently vacated ACORN office included a detailed memo titled “Power Plan” for a five-year effort to elect supportive legislators and transform Oklahoma to a progressive state “in the way it was 100 years ago.” The man in charge of the office left town without paying back rent or utility bills, according to OklahmaWatchdog.org. Also found in the documents was a script for a Houston ACORN-directed recruiting campaign for “hiring Outreach Workers to remind people to get out and vote for Barack Obama in the upcoming election.” As a tax-exempt nonprofit, ACORN is barred from participating in partisan election activities, and its national spokesmen have insisted throughout the 2008 presidential race that their organization was not working to elect Obama.
As the pressure mounts for a government investigation of this group, including an examination of its books and its ties to Barack Obama, the leadership continues to deny any wrongdoing. This follows a pattern that goes back many months now and culminated recently with claims by CEO Bertha Lewis that the videotaped sting operations were “an unfair representation of ACORN practices.” She and others continue to insist that every organization has some bad apples.
That may well be true. But “bad apples” are usually people who fudge their hours or, in extreme cases, dip into the company till. What would have been the motivation for ACORN employees to aid individuals in setting up an alleged prostitution ring, especially one involving minors? These workers, moreover, seemed eager to help and to impart their wisdom on ways of circumventing the law. This does not fit standard “bad apple” behavior. Rather it sounds like people doing the job they were hired to do.
Cross-posted at Zombie Contentions