Acorn WTF? #2: The Zero Tolerance Policy

ACORN Talking Point: “ACORN hired 13,000 field workers to register people to vote. In any endeavor of this size, some people will engaged in inappropriate conduct. ACORN has a zero tolerance policy and terminated any field workers caught engaging in questionable activity…At the end of the day, as ACORN is paying these people to register voters, it is ACORN that is defrauded.”

Of course, in every bushel, you’re going to have a few bad apples, right? That’s exactly the argument that ACORN is making here: that with all of those people that they hire through Craigslist ads and employment agencies, they’re eventually going to hire someone who is a bit shady. After all, it happens to the best of us, and certainly happens in the hallowed halls of Congress — and millions of people vote in that hiring process — so of course an organization of community organizers is going to have a few quesitonable characters in their ranks, right?

Well, yeah. But there, of course, are a few ways to thin the herd of questionable applicants when you’re hiring for a job. A quick Google search or simple employee background check — the kind required for you to get a job at McDonalds or at a retail outlet at the local mall — would turn up, say, previous criminal activity and certainly arrest and conviction records…something that ACORN apparently misses on a regular basis.

Fortunately, New Mexico local news didn’t.

In New Mexico, ACORN missed the fact that they hired someone who had two counts of child rape (along with one count of car theft), as well as someone with two counts of forgery on her record (with seven counts pending and three additonal counts of identity theft). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The cast of characters that ACORN recruited to be a part of its voter registration initiative reads a bit like the intake list at a county prison. All of these people were in charge of aspects of the process that involved sensitive personal information including social security numbers and birthdates. Even if they lasted “on average eight days” as ACORN claims, they were still at the organization long enough to come into contact with plenty of information.

And that’s not an isolated incident: in Wisconsin, ACORN went out of its way to recruit felons — and was even proud of its effort to glean from this marginalized community:

At least seven felons convicted of crimes including cocaine possession and robbery were recruited by a liberal group to register voters in Milwaukee, raising fears they may have committed voter fraud.

All seven were designated as special registration deputies, which allows them to solicit and keep voter registration applications before turning them in to local election officials.

“We have a lot of folks with felony records and, frankly, they need jobs,” said Carolyn Castore, political director in Wisconsin for the group that hired them.

That’s very sweet. Of course, at least its sweet until those felons managed to use their positions to commit vote fraud, as one of the Wisconsin felons did. In all, Milwaukee ACORN hired seven felons, two of which were still on parole. One additional person had a heroin possession charge on their record.

Sounds like a very reliable bunch, right?

Even if we give ACORN the benefit of the doubt and consider these isolated incidents; the natural consequence of being a compassionate organization willing to give people who have had past indiscretions second chances at a profitable career, they still aren’t going to be able to claim that they didn’t know that something might be amiss in Nevada, where ACORN used a work-release program as an employment office.

See the YouTube video here.

There’s really no excuse for not knowing that this motley crew had a spotty past: work-release programs, which are administered by the state of Nevada, involve allowing felons who are in prison for “minor” crimes or who present only a “low-level” threat to society to go out into the community to work during the day and return to prison at night to sleep. ACORN had to go to the state of Nevada to request to be a sponsor for participants in this program and knew beforehand that the people they were hiring were in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections. The predictable result of ACORN’s compassionate hiring policies? 59 ex-cons working for them translated into 300 fraudulent voter registrations.

You have to ask yourself, if ACORN was so concerned with a quality product — if they were so concerned about quality control when it comes to registering people to vote — why would they go out of their way to hire people who common sense would indicate cannot be trusted? If ACORN was serious about hiring honest people, and was serious about making certain that their process produced the best quality voter registrations, why would they go directly to the prison to recruit?

It seems disengenuous, then, to say that ACORN had no ability to predict the outcome of their hiring processes, or could have had no way of knowing that their employees were not going to return with armfuls of voter registrations that contained fradulent, missing, incorrect or plainly fabricated information.

It is impossible to say that, then, that ACORN was “defrauded” by the people that they hired. When you go into the hiring process with your eyes wide open, its hard to say you were misled.

Of course, there’s also this little point, made by the Washington Post about how ACORN treats its employees once they’re officially on the payroll:

Pushed to meet daily quotas and bullied by bosses if they didn’t, Ohio ACORN workers faked voter registrations, signed up people more than once and even paid off registrants to keep from being fired, its canvassers told The Post.

“Every day, there was pressure on us. Every single day,” said Teshika Elder, a Cleveland single mom of three who worked for ACORN this summer.

“We had meetings every morning where they’d go over your quota; they’d yell at you if you were low,” said Elder, 21. “They’d sit us down and say if you didn’t do better, they’d suspend you. They’d say, ‘Try harder next time,’ [and] if you didn’t get it, you’d be fired.”

Desperate canvassers sometimes resorted to trading cigarettes, cash and food in exchange for registrations, according to Elder and two other former ACORN workers, Jaymes Sanford, 18, and Selvin Cunningham, 23.

ACORN continually stresses that its endeavor is to register people to vote who have been in a perpetual voter “underclass,” right? Their work is a public service which focuses on making certain that everyone who is legally able to cast a ballot is registered to do so. If that’s true, though, why the quotas? Registering a minimal number of voters who are legitimate should, in their mind, be more valuable to the goals of their organization than registering a large number of voters, most of whom turn out to be either already registered, ineligible to vote or fake. ACORN could accomplish the goal of empowering a community to vote simply by turning employees out onto the street with minimal supervision; browbeating employees into producing huge numbers of applications is counterproductive to that goal.

Additionally, flooding the system with thousands of useless registrations slows down the effectiveness of state electoral boards by giving them more work to do — work that could have been avoided if organizations gathering registrations focus on quality and not quantity.

And with all that oversight, you’d think they would have noticed a few people who were pushing the limits of professional behavior, right?