Thursday, June 11, 2009

New York and Los Angeles Mayors Engage in Crisis PR for ACORN

After 39 years of organizing in the communities, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has made a lot of enemies. However, what many people fail to realize is that they have made even more friends. An article on Politico yesterday highlighted the fact some politicians have taken time away from the growing economic crisis in their respective cities to focus on a more important issue: defending ACORN.

”Some House Republicans, led by Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), have tried to block Acorn from getting federal housing cash, citing voter registration fraud cases against the group in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

Nonetheless, many big-city mayors are now looking to Acorn -- which has been organizing tenants, counseling homeowners and monitoring conditions in low-income neighborhoods for decades -- for help in cutting their rising foreclosures rates.

The banks' success in killing the bankruptcy modification "cramdown" bill in Congress has prompted New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the US Conference of Mayors to call for expansion of programs like an Acorn pilot in Philadelphia that mediates mortgage renegotiations between distressed homeowners and lenders.”

After weeks of getting hammered in the press, the article is the sort of feel good puff piece that ACORN proudly splashes on its website. The only problem is that the two mayors mentioned by name happen to be Bloomberg and Villaraigosa. We will come back to Villaraigosa in a minute, but Mayor Bloomberg's storied history with ACORN deserves a moment's attention.

Bloomberg's relationship with ACORN spans a number of years and goes back to when Bertha Lewis, ACORN's CEO and Chief Organizer, was the Executive Director of the New York ACORN. Though Lewis and Bloomberg have engaged in the occasional street theater, they have managed to push through lucrative deals including the highly controversial Atlantic Yards project. A deal so financially lucrative to ACORN that it earned Bloomberg a kiss on the lips.

Bloomberg, who is running for a third term as Mayor, obliges ACORN by participating in crisis PR aimed at securing ACORN's minority and low income voters.

Unlike Bloomberg, who is a billionaire, Antonio Villaraigosa appears to owe his electoral victory entirely to ACORN, thus he has a vested interest in their survival. Villaraigosa, no stranger to scandal himself, has openly supported ACORN for years and according to city records, directed almost $5,000 towards the group when he was a City Council member. One has to wonder what kind of professional services ACORN Associates provided Villaraigosa with in 2003 (must have been lighting and sound).

In 2001, ACORN provided massive resources to the failed Villaraigosa mayoral campaign:

The ACORN Political Action Committee (APAC) endorsed Carl Washington for Los Angeles City Council from the Ninth Ward and Antonio Villaraigosa for mayor. Both candidates were the top vote getters in the recent elections and will be on the ballot in upcoming runoffs. APAC covered half of the precincts in the district. Volunteers registered voters, knocked on doors for several weeks, held weekend rallies and car caravans, and pulled out our voters on Election Day.

...APAC's work for Villaraigosa in this district also helped propel him into the runoff, and members are excited to elect the first Latino mayor in over a century.... Villaraigosa has also committed to theaffordable-housing requirement. For more information, contact Amy Schur at CaAcornLA at Acorn.org ..."

In a 2005 presentation to staff, ACORN presented the following slide:

With an eye on the governors office in 2010, Villaraigosa has wisely decided to circle the wagons and participate in ACORN's attempts to deflect attention from voter fraud indictments and the growing grassroots efforts to stop Federal funding. The problem with ACORN can be found in the last sentence of the above slide, "and one who knows who he has to thank!" Local politicians start off as school board and city council members; then they become mayor and so on. If a politician is constantly beholden to a group like ACORN, who has a habit of "calling in favors" one has to wonder if they are public servants or ACORN servants.

Luckily America has politicians like Michele Bachmann who are willing to stand up to an organized political machine and demand that taxpayer dollars should not fund criminal enterprises.

1 comment:

Sheena said...

Perhaps these mayors are just worried about the large numbers of foreclosures in their cities, and are aligning themselves with people that are working to slow them down.

I'd imagine if you had a city whose homelessness population was going up every year, property values and taxes were declining steadily, and the local economy was tanking, you might kiss an ACORNer or two, if they did real work to help fix the problem. Of course, people with no responsibility for the mess that the current market is creating can afford to shoo away every group they have a beef with, even if their work is effective.

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