On April 4 I wrote about the testimony of Heather Heidelbaugh who appeared before Congress to speak about the various shady, if not criminal, actions perpetrated by ACORN (the Association of Community Activists for Reform Now) and its Project Vote offshoot over the last few years — and especially during the late campaign for the White House. There was vote fraud and financial misdealings galore and it was all perpetrated by a group intimately tied to presidential candidate Barack Obama. Not only that, but it seemed the Old Media was trying to cover it up.
That testimony has been the talk of the country since the end of March. But, as the story has progressed, some of the details that have been accepted as fact have turned out not to be true. It’s high time some of these misconceptions be cleared up.
There are fallacies about this case both big and small knocking about the pundocracy. TV pundit Bill O’Reilly, for instance, recently wrote an Op Ed with the misinformation that ACORN whistleblower Anita Moncreif had testified before Congress. Moncrief, however, did not testify before Congress (her information had merely been read into the record by Heidelbaugh).
Additionally on his show “The O’Reilly Factor,” O’Reilly played audio from New York Times reporter Stephanie Strom that made it seem as if the only reason that the Times scrubbed further ACORN stories was because of ACORN’s connection with Barack Obama. In fact, the case is probably much more complicated than that, though the Obama angle is certainly a part of it all.
O’Reilly also got the facts wrong on the position that whistleblower Marcel Reid has with ACORN. Actually Reid is not just an “ACORN employee,” but is current chair of the D.C. board of ACORN and remains so at least until the election on April 19th. Reid is one of the members of the group of ACORN executives attempting to look into the various criminal activities of some of ACORNs members.
This story is also seems to be a bit more involved than just Old Media bias angle that has been flogged up to now.
I had a conversation with ACORN whistleblower Anita Moncrief, one of the principal players in this drama, on Sunday, April 5, during which she expressed a desire to get some of these facts straightened out. Not only that, but the story she had to tell revealed a much deeper and complicated saga than the simple O’Reilly media bias narrative.
Mrs. Moncrief is a former ACORN employee out of the Washington D.C. office who was the Development Associate for Project Vote and ACORN political operations. After seeing the troubles spawned by ACORN, she became a whistleblower. She came to frustration with the progressive cause in which she still passionately believes after seeing up close and personal all the corruption in which ACORN (and the Service Employees International Union – SEIU) is mired.
One of my questions was about her, personally. Was she a shill for the right as some have accused her of being? Mrs. Moncrief answered definitively that she is still “the most liberal person in the world.” Moncrief says she is a believer in gay rights and that when Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as the first female Speaker of the House, she “was crying” because “it was just that big” to her. Moncrief insists that she has never lost her hopes for progressive causes. She also says that she does not consider herself a tool of the right, “I think I’m just disillusioned with the left.”
So, why was she speaking out against organizations with whose goals she agrees? It’s about principle, she says. Mrs. Moncrief feels that if her side wins by cheating, then it is no win at all. So, she wants the true, albeit sordid, tale of ACORNs financial misdeeds and unprincipled machinations revealed for everyone to see. She wants correction, not destruction.
One of the things that Moncrief wanted cleared up right away was that she had no desire to attack New York Times writer Stephanie Strom. She considers Strom a friend and a victim in this tale. She told me, “it was never a contentious relationship. I’m not after Stephanie Strom.” Moncrief further points out that Bill O’Reilly only played part of the tape on which Strom revealed that her Times bosses had killed any further ACORN stories.
On April 3, Moncrief played the entire message for writer Mike Gaynor and he posted the full transcript at that time.
“Here is the part that is missing. It was cut right after the ‘stand down’ part. I have been working to make sure that audio will be available soon. Thanks in advance for your time.
“‘Ah, we’re running a story tonight for tomorrow that, ah, pretty well lays out the partisanship problems that Project Vote may have, ah, based on a report that I got. So, ah, they think that going to do, — that’s going to be the story about the partisanship issue, and so they want me to hold off on coming to Washington.”
That story, by Ms. Strom, is titled “Acorn Report Raises Issues of Illegality” and was published on October 21, 2008.
In our interview, Moncrief explained further:
The article she is referring to was the last one she wrote on ACORN in which they report that ACORN’s own lawyer Beth Kingsley released that Project Vote and ACORN were basically shared staff, the same things… so they couldn’t tell whether the money that was being spent for the C3 was actually being used for C4 activities. And of course she mentioned that the Obama campaign denied all ties with ACORN. At the time she had the information, she had the donor list, she had the donor list since August and she had got evidence from myself and other whistleblowers that there had been a meeting that had taken place between the Obama camp and ACORN. None of that stuff was printed. But we actually have emails, the emails were given to the O’Reilly Factor but they weren’t mentioned. But we have emails that start in July of ’08 and go all the way up until November. Because even after Stephanie and I stopped communicating about ACORN we were still talking.
The ACORN/New York Times connection seems to run deeper than just a desire to help out the Obama campaign by killing further ACORN stories. Moncrief informed me of some rather cozy financial ties between the Times, the Forest City Ratner corporation and ACORN that she discovered from the inside.
I do feel that The New York Times was complicit in all of this. It wasn’t just in killing the Obama story, they killed several stories in relation to ACORN. Including one where the Forest City Ratner owned by Bruce Ratner, the same people that own 48% of the Times’ building, gave ACORN a 1.5 million dollar loan. This was interesting because that’s news in New York City, there’s been a lot of contention over the Atlantic Yards deal where they’re bringing the Nets to Brooklyn?
Moncrief speculates that another reason that the Times suddenly ceased writing stories that might embarrass ACORN is that one of its leading investors and partners had suddenly become close associates financially with ACORN. This situation occurred because ACORN had done an about face on Ratner’s sports deal and was rewareded by that generous “loan.”
ACORN has also been known to be helping Forest City Ratner to get federal stimulus money since the $1.5 million kickback “loan” that Ratner gave to the community organizers. Sadly, at the same time Forest City Ratner was giving ACORN that princely sum, they were laying off workers claiming they were about to go bankrupt.
Even when the Times was publishing ACORN stories, Moncrief believes that they were written in such a way as to abjure the organization itself from any blame, pointing all fingers at the Rathke family — ACORN’s founders.
ACORN Chicago is also hip deep in this thickening mess. A few years ago it was discovered that ACORN leader Wade Rathke’s brother had been stealing money from the organization. The Rathkes tried to cover up the embezzlement of perhaps as much as $5 million. A group of ACORN board members from around the country, later dubbed the “ACORN eight,” banded together to begin court proceedings to try and find out what happened to all that money and who covered it all up and how it as done.
But the Chicago branch of ACORN saw an opportunity, says Moncrief. During the ensuing confusion inside ACORN, a coup of sorts was spearheaded by Madeline Talbot, Obama’s ACORN mentor, a long-time ACORN boss in the Chicago offices.
In 2008, March 2008, she took over the Chicago office, locked ACORN out and changed it to an organization called Action Now which has the same address as the old Chicago ACORN. ACORN was able to get back their telephone number but that was about it. And that was her way of distancing herself from ACORN right before the scandal broke.
There’s evidence that Chicago folks knew of Rathke’s embezzlement, Moncrief told me. “They talked about it between SEIU, ACORN Housing and ACORN how best to handle it in the election year,” she explained. “So, there was basically a coup, it was not an uncovering of an embezzlement. The embezzlement was known within private circles for years. I knew about it and they considered me to be a low-level employee as they liked to say.”
Finally, Moncrief told me she is disgusted that there are so many connections between ACORN and the SEIU in Obama’s administration. “It’s an obvious payoff,” she told me alluding to the fact that Obama included so many of them in his new administration.
So, it turns out that this is a tale of deep financial misdeeds, political machinations free of any principle, and incestuous relationships between government and these supposed community organizers. Unfortunately, it seems that many of these troubling connections are not being revealed to the public as this story is being reported.
Anita Moncrief finished our interview with a shake of her head. “So, it’s a very interesting story and I think it’s a little bit more complex than when people get involved with their different agendas it becomes ‘New York Times controls Barack Story’ or ‘Obama is involved with this’ and it’s really much deeper than that.”