“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961
As I’m sure you all know, the right has been bending over backwards trying to use the recent ACORN scandal to attack the Obama administration, Congressional Democrats and nearly every progressive organization under the sun.
If you’ll ask them, conservatives will say they want to root out government corruption and protect taxpayer dollars. But the GOP has deep connections to taxpayer-funded companies who are far worse–and guilty of far more serious crimes–then ACORN ever was.
Want to see which party has far more troubling connections? Let’s compare ACORN with GOP-connected military contractor Blackwater Worldwide:
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, is a community organizing group who backs causes that benefit low-income individuals–particularly neighborhood safety, voter registration, health care, affordable housing.
Giving bad tax advice.
Two conservative activists–Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe–secretly filmed their visits to several ACORN offices nationwide. Posing as a pimp and prostitute, Giles and O’Keefe sought advice on how to declare their income to the IRS without disclosing the illegal nature of their business. They also indicated their intention to open a brothel and engage in child sex trafficking, for which they sought similar tax advice. In several instances, the ACORN employee O’Keefe and Giles met with agreed to provide them advice.
The employees who were caught cooperating with Giles and O’Keefe have been fired and Congress has voted to defund ACORN. It is worth noting, though, that no actual tax paperwork was filed and no actual fraud occurred, and thus no criminal charges against ACORN seem to be forthcoming. Indeed, both Maryland and California are considering filing charges against O’Keefe and Giles for violating their state’s wiretapping laws in the course of carrying out their ‘investigations.’
USA Today reports that ACORN has received $53 million in federal funds since 1994.
Even though conservatives have been drawing spurious connections between ACORN and the Obama Administration, few such connections exist. According to Fight The Smears:
Barack [Obama] was never an ACORN community organizer.
ACORN never hired Obama as a trainer, organizer, or any type of employee.
ACORN was not part of Project Vote, the successful voter registration drive Barack ran in 1992.
In his capacity as an attorney, Barack represented ACORN in a successful lawsuit alongside the U.S. Department of Justice against the state of Illinois to force state compliance with a federal voting access law.
ACORN was one of many organizations who endorsed Barack Obama for President, and Obama’s Presidential campaign paid Citizen Services–an offshoot of ACORN–$800,000 for get out the vote efforts during the Democratic primary. They did not retain Citizen Services for the general election.
Some conservatives falsely claimed that White House Political Director Patrick Gaspard used to work for ACORN; they have since been forced to rescind that allegation.
Now, let’s compare ACORN to Blackwater:
Xe, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide and Blackwater USA, is a private military contractor which provides security services to wealthy individuals and the United States government. They have operated in support of the U.S. military, State Department and CIA in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Iraqi government said Saturday that it expects to refer criminal charges to its courts within days in connection with a shooting here by a private American security company, and the Interior Ministry gave new details of six other episodes it is investigating involving the company.
The state minister for national security affairs, Shirwan al-Waili, said the government had received little information from the American side in the early days of a joint investigation of the shooting, which involved the company Blackwater USA and left at least eight Iraqis dead.
The spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, also laid out previous episodes involving Blackwater this year in which he said a total of 10 Iraqis had been killed and 15 wounded. The company would not comment on those incidents on Saturday.
The main shooting under investigation began near midday last Sunday when Blackwater guards fired at Iraqi civilians for reasons that neither the company nor the United States government, which is also investigating, have fully explained.
According to General Khalaf, the other events under investigation are a Feb. 4 shooting that killed an Iraqi journalist near the Foreign Ministry; a Feb. 7 shooting in which three guards at the Iraqi state television station were killed; a Feb. 14 episode in which Blackwater employees are accused of smashing windshields; a shooting in May that killed one person near the Interior Ministry; a Sept. 9 shooting that killed five people near a Baghdad city government building; and a Sept. 12 shooting that wounded five people in eastern Baghdad.
And illegal weapons smuggling, according to the same article:
Blackwater may also face investigation on another front: The News and Observer newspaper in Raleigh, N.C., reported that United States federal investigators were looking into whether the company shipped unlicensed automatic weapons and military goods to Iraq. The Department of Justice would not confirm whether an investigation was under way; Blackwater, in a statement issued Saturday, said it had not done anything wrong.
And unlike ACORN, where the wrongdoing occurred entirely on the bottom rungs of the organization, the CEO of Blackwater himself was implicated in facilitating both the murders and the weapons smuggling:
A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company.
In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting “illegal” or “unlawful” weapons into the country on Prince’s private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.
According to a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Blackwater received more than $1 billion in federal funds between 2001 and 2006.
That’s right–in just 5 years, Blackwater received more than eighteen times as much money as ACORN got in a decade and a half.
[EDIT: That link is no longer active, but according to Rep. Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Blackwater has received more than $1.25 billion since 2000]
Blackwater was dogged by allegations that there was a virtual “revolving door” between them and the Bush administration, particularly the CIA. As Harper’s reported in 2006:
A number of senior CIA and Pentagon officials have taken top jobs at Blackwater, including firm vice chairman Cofer Black, who was the Bush Administration’s top counterterrorism official at the time of the 9/11 attacks
Last fall, Rob Richer resigned from the post of [the CIA’s] Associate Deputy Director of Operations; he immediately took a job as Blackwater’s Vice President of Intelligence. Richer is a former head of the CIA’s Near East Division and long served in Amman, where, for a period beginning in 1999, he held the post of station chief.
Meanwhile, there’s talk at the agency that Blackwater is also aggressively recruiting Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s current top spy as director of the National Clandestine Service. Rodriguez has a number of former agency friends at Blackwater, most notably Rick Prado, with whom he served in Latin America and who is now Blackwater’s Vice President of Special Programs.
In addition, according to FEC reports, former CEO Erik Prince has been a major financial backer of the Republican establishment.
Prince maxed out to George W. Bush’s re-election campaign:
He also donated a whopping $25,000 to the Republican National Committee and a mind-blowing $45,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee:
Prince gave a total of $4,200 to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), currently the #3 Republican in the Senate:
Prince also donated $2,100 to former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), who was at the time the #3 Republican in the Senate:
Prince donated $3,100 to then-House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX) and $3,000 to Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), who is now the #3 Republican in the House:
Prince also maxed out to then-Senator (and former NRSC Chairman) George Allen (R-VA) and donated $1,000 to then-Senate candidate Jim DeMint (R-SC):
Prince also donated $2,000 to Rep. (and Ranking Member on the House Intelligence Committee) Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), $1,000 to Rep. (and 2010 Senate candidate) Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), 750 to Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), $1,000 to Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ), $1,000 fto Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), $2,250 to Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), $2,100 to former Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO), $1,000 to former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), $1,000 to former Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and $1,000 to former Rep. Max Burns (R-GA).
I wonder how all those Republican politicians feel about murder and weapons smuggling. If you use the same reasoning conservatives are using in regards to progressives and ACORN, every politician listed above must condone both murder and illegal weapons smuggling.
The truth is undeniable–ACORN’s alleged wrongdoing is far less serious than Blackwater’s, and Blackwater’s connections to the Republican Party are far deeper and far more disturbing than ACORN’s connections to the Obama administration. In the end, it’s pretty clear that he conservative crusade against ACORN is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to smear President Obama and other progressives.