Employment Policies Institute Press Release

ACORN Voter Registration Fraud Allegations Are Just The Tip of The Iceberg

10/13/04, Washington – A Florida state attorney is investigating thousands of potentially fraudulent voter registrations associated with the leading organizer of Florida’s Amendment 5 ballot initiative. But this is just the tip of an iceberg of illegalities, fraud and contradictions connected to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). In recent days, ACORN has been at the epicenter of reports on thousands of potentially fraudulent voter registrations across the nation—including many by ex-felons—submitted by ACORN employees in the presidential swing states of Ohio, Colorado, Missouri Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Minnesota.

The Employment Policies Institute has updated and re-released its report, “The Real ACORN: Anti-Employee, Anti-Union, Big Business” with the latest details on ACORN’s involvement in what appears to be widespread voter registration fraud. The report includes statements from former ACORN employees on the illegal nature of the organization’s promotion of the ballot initiative to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $6.15 per hour.

“This report reveals ACORN’s pattern and practice of deception and fraud,” said EPI research director Craig Garthwaite. “The latest allegations of widespread voter registration fraud should prove to be the last of ACORN’s nine political lives.”

Former ACORN Miami-Dade field director Mac Stuart has declared an intent to sue ACORN and has made charges of rampant voter fraud operations. Stuart was employed and specifically tasked by ACORN to generate 103,000 new voter registrations from Dade County. He reports that ACORN threw out Republican registrations while paying for Democratic ones. Stuart also charges that ACORN targeted ex-cons and that he personally set up registration tables outside the Miami police department and Dade County jail. He went on to state, “The voter registration project has been operating illegally since it started.”

ACORN has paid workers for every voter registration card collected—a felony in Florida and also illegal in Missouri and Pennsylvania. ACORN also routinely accepted signatures for Amendment 5 from individuals who were not currently registered to vote—a requirement under Florida law.

Voter registration and petition fraud is just the latest chapter in ACORN’s long sordid history. The EPI report also reveals:

ACORN Involved in Union Embezzlement -- In the late 1990s, ACORN's Project Vote was involved in an $850,000 embezzling scheme, where union funds and kickbacks were used to illegally aid the 1996 re-election bid of then-Teamsters President Ron Carey. A New York federal jury found the Teamsters political director guilty of the conspiracy.

ACORN bilks AmeriCorps – In 1996, the Inspector General of the AmeriCorps program stripped a $1 million grant from the ACORN Housing Corporation (AHC). When applying, AHC had denied any connections to ACORN, since the grant was not intended for political advocacy organizations. Evidence later uncovered by the Inspector General found that not only was AHC created by ACORN, engaged in numerous transactions with one another, and sharing staff and office space -- but it utilized the AmeriCorps grant to increase ACORN membership, a violation of federal guidelines.

ACORN Union-Busts Own Workers – On March 27, 2003 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that ACORN had violated the National Labor Relations Act and was required to rehire and pay restitution to employees terminated for attempting to form a union. The NLRB ruling is just the latest in a trend of ACORN’s union-busting tactics. ACORN employees have historically demanded higher wages, safer working conditions and more timely contracted wages. These efforts have been repressed behind closed doors by the hypocritical ACORN leadership, which publicly advocates higher pay and better working conditions for private sector workers.

ACORN and Minimum Wage Hypocrisy – Most egregiously, ACORN promotes ballot initiatives and local ordinances to force businesses to pay higher minimum wages, as they are currently doing with the minimum wage proposal in Amendment 5. In 1995, however, ACORN sued the state of California to have its employees exempted from the state minimum wage. ACORN argued that being forced to pay higher wages would mean that they would hire fewer employees—the very dilemma faced by businesses. Incredibly, ACORN stated that paying its employees a lower wage would allow them to be more sympathetic to the low- and moderate-income families they were attempting to help. ACORN argued that abiding by the state minimum wage would limit their ability to promote their agenda and would therefore be a violation of their First Amendment rights. The trial court judge dismissed ACORN’s suits, stating, “leaving aside the latter argument’s absurdity … we find ACORN to be laboring under a fundamental misconception of constitutional law.”

“ACORN’s history of voter registration fraud, hypocrisy, abuse of federal grant programs, and disregard for sound economics should raise a red flag for voters considering support for Amendment 5,” Garthwaite said.

The full report is available online at www.EPIonline.org

The Employment Policies Institute is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues surrounding entry-level employment. ###