ACORN Whistleblowers Produce Shocking Testimony on Capitol Hill

Late last week, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, called for a hearing to investigate ACORN.  You read that right.  At a Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties subcommittee hearing entitled “Lessons Learned from the 2008 Election” last Thursday, witness testimony not only drew Conyers to the subcommittee hearing but events led to Conyers strongly urging that subcommittee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) conduct a full hearing on ACORN, calling allegations made at the hearing “serious.”

The shocking testimony that began the chain of events came from Pennsylvania attorney Heather Heidelbaugh, who in October of last year represented “a candidate, voters and the Republican State Committee of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” seeking a preliminary injunction against ACORN and the Secretary of the Commonwealth.  The complaint alleged violations of the election code, fraud and misrepresentation, and violations of equal protection and due process.

Heidelbaugh brought with her to the hearing ACORN whistleblowers, including Anita MonCrief, a former Washington, D.C., ACORN  employee who came forward to testify last October in the Pennsylvania case.  MonCrief, a Democrat who voted for and still supports President Obama, made allegations including the exposure of Obama maxed-out donor lists illegally shared with ACORN, allegations of illegal intermingling of non-profit employees between ACORN and Project Vote, and the use of intimidation tactics and training methods to skirt regulations, among many other assertions.

Testimony also revealed ACORN’s unofficial “Muscle for the Money” program directed at fundraising from corporations.  Allegations were made of payments from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to ACORN’s D.C office to harass The Carlyle Group and specifically David Rubenstein, a founder of the company.  Even though ACORN D.C. had no interest in The Carlyle Group, they were allegedly paid by SEIU to go break up a banquet and protest at Rubenstein’s house.  

It was called “Muscle for the Money” because they would go “intimidate people and protest.”  Targets of the protests included Sherwin-Williams, H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Money Mart among others, testimony revealed.  The apparent purpose was to get money from the targeted entities for ACORN.

Perhaps the most controversial accusation revealed by whistleblower testimony was the scheme by which ACORN and Project Vote are paid by foundations per voter registered and the submission of copies of actual voter registration cards to the foundations, which is a violation of federal law.  

I spoke with whistleblower Anita MonCrief at the hearing.  “ACORN itself is sometimes paid by foundations per registration and, in some case,s they would send copies of the voter registration cards straight to the funder,” MonCrief said.  “Workers are improperly trained. … They are trained to never ask, ‘Are you registered to vote?’ because if the person says ‘Yes,’ they have to move on.  They ask, ‘Did you vote in the last election,’ and if the person says ‘No,’ they register them again.  This is how they duplicate registrations and flood the offices.”
When these allegations began to surface in hearing testimony, Conyers suddenly appeared at the subcommittee hearing and asked to be recognized, saying that he was “… unaware that this was a hearing on ACORN.”  Conyers probed those assembled, asking if any representatives of ACORN were present to defend the organization.  Conyers called the accusations made against ACORN a “pretty serious matter.”  When no one from ACORN came forth, he asked subcommittee chairman Nadler to hold a hearing on ACORN so the organization could defend itself, to which a shocked Nadler replied, “I’ll take it under advisement.”  

Conyers pressed the matter, saying, “I think that it would be something that would be worth our time.  We’ve never had one person representing ACORN before the committee. … I think in all fairness we ought to really examine it.”  An exasperated Nadler said he would hold a hearing when he had “credible allegations of misconduct.”

Nadler abruptly dismissed the panel shortly thereafter.

“I would encourage chairman Conyers in his call for a hearing and investigation into ACORN,” Heidelbaugh told HUMAN EVENTS in the hallway outside of the hearing.  “The Judiciary Committee has oversight of the voting system in America, and ACORN is interfering in it in a large, large way.  The federal government in some cases is providing the funding for that interference.”

I also spoke with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a member of the House Judiciary Committee as well as the Constitution subcommittee, who questioned Heidelbaugh during the hearing.  

“We’re about to appropriate even more money, and we’ve already appropriated some money that may very well be directed to ACORN,” Gohmert said.  “If we know that an organization is guilty of fraud, and we provide them the money and the wherewithal to continue the fraud, then we are accessories to fraud.  The only difference between us and a criminal is that we have the ability to pass laws that say even though we’re criminals we’re doing our criminal work legally. It doesn’t make it moral, it doesn’t make it ethical, it just makes it legal to say we can be accessories to fraud by providing the money.”