Special Report

ACORN’s Unlikely Allies

The Catholic bishops funded left-wingers for too long.

By 10.23.08

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The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) recently cut off its over $1.1 million in funding for the left-wing community organizing group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), citing a million-dollar embezzlement case. Of course, news of the malfeasance first came out four months ago, whereas most have regarded ACORN as radically liberal for years. What explanation could the Catholic outreach program possibly offer for funding until now a group that is defrauding the electorate to help Barack Obama, the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever?

None -- except for that maybe they thought they'd get away with it, before ACORN became a fixture in the evening news. The CCHD, which is run by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has funded far-left organizations with missions diametrically opposed to that of the Catholic Church for years, including, in the '90s, the pro-abortion group National Organization for Women and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The CCHD filed its grants for dozens of ACORN outfits under such left-wing euphemisms as "Economic Justice" and "Civil Rights." While some of the funding most likely went toward some kind of economic justice through immigration reform (for which John McCain also collaborated with ACORN) and helping impoverished families claim their Earned Income Tax Credit refunds, there is no doubt a substantial portion of those grants also went to voter turnout initiatives -- not to mention voter registration fraud. It would have been impossible to oversee the actions of these numerous ACORN affiliates.

Ralph McCloud, the director of CCHD, told Catholic News Service that he was aware that some of the money must have been used for voter registration drives in the past. "But by the same token, we didn't find any voter registration irregularities, the allegations we are finding now," he claimed.

Perhaps they didn't, although that's hard to believe considering the memorable stories of registration fraud from past elections, like the one in 2004 when ACORN offered a man crack cocaine to sign a registration form.

But even so, the bishops should have been aware that the vast majority of ACORN's initiatives are at odds with the Catholic Church's mission. Patrick Reilly, the president of the Cardinal Newman Society who has researched the CCHD's activities in the past, noted that ACORN's Saul Alinsky-inspired community organizing methods should have been a red flag for a Catholic outreach program.

"ACORN as a program is oriented towards empowering... it's a struggle for power. And that ultimately is not what the Catholic Church ought to be focused on. We have a different concept of where power comes from, and it doesn't come from governmental structures." Reilly added, "It's one thing to be engaged in charity, but it's another thing to be struggling for political and government power."

IF ACORN'S TACTICS didn't tip off the bishops, their thinly veiled efforts to elect Barack Obama should have. Although ACORN is a nonpartisan entity under law, its targeting of low-income areas only in key swing states shows that it is very much interested in the outcome of the presidential election. In Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other swing states, it has registered hundreds of thousands of low-income voters, many of them fraudulently. Is there any doubt who it hopes these folks will turn out for on November 4? In all of dependably Democratic Massachusetts, ACORN has registered only about 700 people. Why isn't ACORN helping underrepresented Bay Staters make their voices heard?

The November issue of Labor Watch, published by the Capital Research Center, will delve into just how explicitly ACORN is aligned with Obama. For instance, in a 2004 issue of Social Policy magazine, ACORN National Association Board member Toni Foulkes wrote that the group "invited Obama to our leadership training sessions to run the session on power every year, and, as a result, many of our newly developing leaders got to know him before he ever ran for office." Foulkes recorded that ACORN members worked on his campaign, and that "by the time he ran for U.S. Senate, we were old friends. "

Labor Watch also references an ACORN-sponsored forum on December 1, 2007, when Obama "agreed to meet with ACORN in his first 100 days [as president] and said 'before I even get inaugurated, during the transition, we’re going to be calling all of you in to help us shape the agenda. We’re going to be having meetings all across the country with community organizations so that you have input into the agenda for the next presidency of the United States of America.'"

Barack Obama, then, has not only associated with ACORN since 1992, but the group also boasts of its work in getting him elected senator, and will expect favors in return if he's elected president.

In June, ACORN acknowledged that Dale Rathke, brother of founder Wade Rathke, had embezzled almost $1 million eight years ago. This month, the CCHD deemed that misdemeanor cause enough for cutting off its funding.

Clearly, the CCHD won't stand for misappropriation of Church funds. When it comes to supporting a left-wing group promoting the most extreme pro-abortion candidate in history, however, the bishops are not quite as severe. 

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About the Author

Joseph Lawler, former managing editor of The American Spectator, is editor of Real Clear Policy. Follow him on twitter: @josephlawler.