Finally, House Republicans Call for Zombie ACORN Probe

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 8 2011 9:39 AM

Finally, House Republicans Call for Zombie ACORN Probe

I'm a little surprised that Rep. Darrell Issa would distract from a week of focus on the botched Fast and Furious gun-walking scheme in order to follow up on an anonymously-sourced Fox News report about how a zombie ACORN affiliate was behind Occupy Wall Street. But so he has. The letter to the U.S. Attorney:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics


The Issa excerpt cuts off before this anonymous quote:

All the money collected from canvasses is pooled together back at the office, and everything we’ve been working on for the last year is going to the protests, against big banks and to pay people’s salaries—and those people on salary are, of course, being paid to go to the protests every day.

We've only seen one person come out to claim this, and she was still quasi-anonymous: Channing Kehoe, who was interviewed by Lee Stranahan and Brandon Darby, occasional contributors at Andrew Breitbart's Big Government.

Here's a problem I didn't see teased out: Is it "fraud" to pool money when the group is running multiple campaigns and explicitly saying so? NYCC's anti-PCBs campaign is happening in tandem with an anti-foreclosure campaign. NYCC also supports the OWS movement, and has done so publicly since September 30. It claims that it doesn't pay protesters now, but the Fox News reports don't actually claim that the money is going to OWS -- which has a collection fund for a newspaper, food, etc. -- or that protesters are being paid. They claim, without specifics, that people "on salary" at NYCC are going to the protests. This was given some heft in the second anonymous Fox story, about how NYCC responded to the first story by paranoically trying to minimize the number of people who'd run to the press. 

“They reminded us that we can get fired, sued, arrested for talking to the press,” the source said. “Then they went through the article point-by-point and said that the allegation that we pay people to protest isn’t true.”
 “‘That’s the story that we’re sticking to,’” [NYCC's Jonathan] Westin said, according to the source.
The source said staffers at the meeting contested Westin’s denial:
“It was pretty funny. Jonathan told staff they don’t pay for protesters, but the people in the meeting  who work there objected and said, ‘Wait, you pay us to go to the protests every day?’ Then Jonathan said  ‘No, but that’s your job,’ and staffers were like, ‘Yeah, our job is to protest,’ and Westin said, ‘No your job is to fight for economic and social justice. We just send you to protest.’
“Staff said, ‘Yes, you pay us to carry signs.’ Then Jonathan says, ‘That’s your job.’ It went on like that back and forth for a while.”

So... is NYCC taking money and shelling it out to protesters for $10/h to put more warm bodies at OWS? Or does NYCC, which endorsed OWS on September 30, have some salaried employees who show up at OWS? A question that hasn't been asked, really: Is money really being diverted from other NYCC campaigns if NYCC members are at OWS? The anti-PCBs campaign is a pressure campaign aimed at "demanding that the Department of Education devises a plan to immediately test EVERY New York City public school built or renovated between 1950 and 1978 for high levels of PCBs." Is that goal contradicted by spending some time and effort on the most prominent protest movement in New York right now?

What this story needs is someone who donated money to NYCC because they wanted it to focus on the PCBs issue, and now feels ill-served. But hey, I'm assuming the story is about an outcome, and not the initial synapse-crackle of connecting OWS to the fearsome ACORN. The two Fox News stories about NYCC have 19,000 and 32,000 Facebook shares. There's enough FUD* out there now to beg the questions.

*fear, uncertainty, doubt

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics


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