ACORN's Calling

In its heyday, ACORN sent platoons of voter registrars out into urban neighborhoods all over the land.  They seemed to be everywhere–and so did their cell phones. You probably saw clips on the evening news of them coordinating their routes of march with one  another by cellphone.

In those balmy days of the nation’s leading community organizer outfit, the sky was the limit. One team in Las Vegas registered the starting lineup of the St.Louis Cardinals as local voters. The Cards of course weren’t there, but no problem.  In Seattle, other teams scoured telephone books at public libraries, carefully filling in names on their voter registration forms and signing them.

As soon as a mission was accomplished, the platoon leader would call the good news in to the local ACORN headquarters. In some jurisdictions officials took a dim view of these registration practices. Any time these came to public attention, the local and national ACORN headquarters would behave like Claude Rains in “Casablanca” who was “shocked, shocked” to find gambling going on at Rick’s Cafe. They would insist all their people were carefully trained and these must have been rogues who slipped under the radar.

Those storms were weathered and the federal grant faucet was never turned off. After all, ACORN was a valuable adjunct to Democratic Party get-out-the-vote efforts.  That is, until this summer when several ACORN “housing assistance” offices’ workers were caught giving out free advice on breaking the law to a pretend bordello madam and her “pimp.”  All Hell broke loose  Congress moved swiftly, despite the debt of gratitude its Democrat majority owed ACORN for past services rendered.  Federal funding was suddenly gone with the wind and the Census Bureau, which had been planning to use thousands of ACORN’s acolytes as head counters next year, showed this band of community organizers the door.

ACORN’s national leader did a much-publicized, half-hearted mea culpa, in the hope the whole thing would slip away from the headlines. It did, but now the group’s treasury is, if not bare, getting emptier by the day.

Now, assuming all those thousands of ACORN cell phone accounts have been shut off, comes a new federal program that may be a community organizer’s dream. The government has a new web site for Lifeline Assistance, a program to provide free phone service to “income-eligible consumers.”   It says breathlessly that an eligible applicant will receive “FREE cellular service, a FREE cell phone and FREE minutes every month.”

That’s just the beginning.  The Lifeline Assistance program  also rolls over any unused minutes from  one month to the next, provides Caller ID, call waiting and voice mail. That beats paying for service any day.

The rules for being covered aren’t all that onerous. One must be a participant in a state or federal assistance program such as Federal Public Housing Assistance, Food Stamps of Medicaid, OR one’s total household income must be at or below 135 percent of the poverty guidelines (that is, about $28,000) and the applicant must have a valid postal street address in the United States (sorry, no p.o. boxes).  If you’re a resourceful ACORN worker and you don’t meet those qualifications, heck, the application is just a piece of paper and who’s going to check?

This free phone service is tailor-made for ACORN.  Why, the nation?s community-organizer-in- chief must wish they’d had something like this back in the early Nineties when he was giving legal advice to ACORN.

Free phones: just the right renaissance vehicle for getting ACORN’s voter registrars back on the street early next year. And, for the rest of us, it’s our tax dollars at work once again.