A full-page ad appeared in the New York Times today from what purports to be an advocacy group called RottenAcorn.com, claiming that, in addition to “ACORN’s voter registration scandal,” the group “intimidates and fires its own employees if they try to unionize,” “works for its political allies, not for the poor,” and “has misappropriated millions of dollars from taxpayer-funded government grants,” among other charges.
The charge that ACORN fights efforts to unionize is interesting to say the least, given that, on page 11 of a .pdf available from the group’s web site (listing all of ACORN’s alleged offenses), it is stated that, “ACORN has adapted its broader ‘living wage’ effort to ‘foster union organizing among low wage workers.’”
And as far as working for “political allies and not the poor,” I searched the .pdf for the phrase “political allies” and came up only with this…
ACORN’s SEIU Local 880 in Illinois (which files its financial disclosures from ACORN’s office in New Orleans) reported 10,580 members in 2000. Local 880 now claims to represent 80,000 employees. Thus, in roughly five years, it grew by 750%.
This astounding growth can largely be explained by political machinations involving support for the candidacy of Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The two major events that sent membership skyrocketing from 10,000 to 30,000, and from 30,000 to 80,000, resulted from a political quid pro quo that first signed up homecare workers and then childcare workers. In each case, Blagojevich forced the state to recognize the union and negotiate with it, costing the taxpayers of his state but benefiting his candidacy and his political allies.
In an academic article written in 2004, former ACORN organizer Fred Brooks predicted:
Local 880’s role in the fall 2002 Illinois gubernatorial campaign may hasten recognition of the [childcare] union by the state. Local 880’s political action committee, with major support from the International Union and the SEIU state council, worked hard to elect Rod Blagojevich as the first Democratic governor in Illinois in over twenty years. In return, Blagojevich agreed to support recognition and collective bargaining rights for both homecare and family child-care providers if he were elected governor. In February 2003, he signed Executive Order 2003-8 granting collective bargaining rights to over twenty thousand personal assistants (homecare workers) from Local 880’s DHS/ORS unit … Although Blagojevich has committed to recognizing the child-care workers union, he has not yet signed an executive order to that effect.44
So, the year after he received election help, Blagojevich signed an order giving Local 880 20,000 new homecare members. He waited until 2006—the year of his reelection— to make good on the promise of nearly 50,000 new child-care members.
Notwithstanding the unsubstantiated charge that union membership was costly to taxpayers (and assuming that we’re talking about the unvarnished truth here otherwise), does anyone see anything illegal in that last excerpt? I don’t.
And as far as the charge of “misappropriation of funds,” I searched the .pdf for “misappropriate” or “misappropriated” and found nothing.
Well then, if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering just who’s behind RottenAcorn.com, and at the bottom of the group’s web site, it provides the address for the Employment Policies Institute.
As this Sourcewatch article tells us…
The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) is one of several front groups created by Berman & Co., a Washington, DC public affairs firm owned by Rick Berman (pictured), who lobbies for the restaurant, hotel, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries. While most commonly referred to as EPI, it is registered as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization under the name of Employment Policies Institute Foundation. In its annual Internal Revenue Service return, EPI states that it “shares office space with Berman & Company on a cost pass through basis”. 
The Sourcewatch article also tells us that Berman named the group as he did to create confusion with the Economic Policies Institute, a “much older, progressive think tank with ties to organized labor.” The article also tells us that you can count on Berman and his fellow propagandists to poke their heads out from under their respective rocks and scream whenever minimum-wage legislation is introduced affecting, in particular, workers in the fast-food industry, continuing as follows…
(The Employment Policy Institute’s) standard tactic is to trot out a study using contrived statistics designed to show that hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost if the wage is raised. (In reality, studies by labor economists show that the job-loss effect of increasing the minimum wage is either small or nonexistent and that its benefits to low-wage workers and their families far outweigh the costs. Even the Food Institute Report, an industry trade publication, admitted in 1995 that “the weight of the empirical evidence suggests that the effects [on the number of available jobs] of a moderate raise from its current level are likely to be negligible.”)
Berman continued to fight against mandated insurance in 1992 and 1993, when president-elect Bill Clinton attempted to make health care reform one of his first legislative priorities. Berman created yet another front group, called the Partnership on Health Care and Employment, representing mostly large companies known for paying low wages and high worker turnover. It sponsored a study in 1992 claiming that compulsory insurance for business would wipe out nine million jobs. During the health reform debate in 1994, the Employment Policies Institute issued its own “study,” claiming that the Clinton plan would wipe out 3.1 million jobs. The EPI study was cited in TV commercials sponsored by the Republican National Committee, which continued to air even after Berman admitted that his study had actually been produced before the Clinton administration even formulated the details of its health plan.
And to find out about more of Berman’s rancid ventures, click here (I don’t begrudge the Times accepting ad revenue from Berman, but some actual reporting to counterbalance Berman’s odious charges would be a good thing, I must say).