On this Election Day, when Democrats stand to suffer at the polls, and fewer voters have registered than in previous midterm elections, it seems sadly ironic that ACORN has declared bankruptcy. This is the final chapter in the long and winding rightwing witch hunt against an organization that stood for poor and working people on issue after issue. As Bill Moyers described the community-based group: “More than any group I’ve covered over my long career in journalism, ACORN was devoted to helping poor people become their own best champions.”
Yet despite ACORN’s mission and history, when the rightwing echo chamber targeted it for destruction too few Congressional Democrats stood in the way. Fox played “shocking” videos of a “sting operation” against ACORN ad nauseam, and rather than questioning the source and content, too many Democrats failed to do due diligence and instead acted cravenly in passing unconstitutional legislation to defund the group.
Never mind ACORN’s track record of registering millions of new voters, fighting predatory lending, rebuilding homes in New Orleans, helping wage and hour enforcement—rightwing operative James O’Keefe had racy videos featuring a pimp, a prostitute, and complicit ACORN employees.
Except that he didn’t.
When Rachel Maddow and others exposed that the videos were fabricated, and the Congressional Research Service, former Massachusetts Attorney General, Brooklyn District Attorney General, and California Attorney General—in all there were at least 46 federal, state, and local investigations—cleared ACORN of wrongdoing, it was too late. Eighteen months of screaming headlines and brutal attacks against the anti-poverty group had taken their toll.
ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis wrote in a letter posted on the organization’s website today, “The pressure and cost of defending ourselves in multiple investigations as a result of the falsified videos has eroded our organization. As a result we will be filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy by close of business today.”
You can bet the leaders and activists of this storied organization aren’t going anywhere. There will be new organizing efforts and new campaigns. Hopefully this time around they will be able to count on their allies when an emboldened rightwing tries to take them down again.