THE BLOG

Blocking the Vote: It's Time to Apply the ACORN Rule and Defund the GOP

10/29/2012 08:52 am ET | Updated Dec 29, 2012

The New York Times today called for a thorough federal investigation of the consulting firm, Strategic Allied Consulting run by Nathan Sproul, a well-known Republican campaign operative and former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. Sproul shares a Virginia headquarters' address with American Crossroads - the super PAC founded by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, a senior advisor to Mitt Romney.

The Times cites Sproul's Republican Party ties and real voter registration abuse taking place in Florida, Colorado, Nevada and Virginia, key swing states, in the November election. Charges include registering dead people and altering and faking registrations. Colin Small, a Republican voter registration supervisor in Virginia, and former Allied employee was arrested last Thursday and charged with 13 counts of voter registration fraud.

According to the Times, Sproul's various companies have collected more than $17.6 million since 2004 from Republican committees, candidates and super PACs.

We need more than an investigation. The U.S. Congress must apply the Bill O'Reilly Rule. A few years ago after Republicans accused ACORN, the community organizing group, of voter fraud and successfully pressured the U.S. Congress to cut the group's federal funds, O'Reilly hatched his rule. He thought any group that violates the law or abuses the constitution should lose its federal funding. Back in 2010, immediately after National Public Radio fired commentator Juan Williams because of his remarks about Muslims, O'Reilly said, "This is like the ACORN deal." The Fox News pundit reasoned that the government should cut all federal funds for NPR because it "abused freedom of speech." During the current presidential campaign Mitt Romney said he's going to apply this standard to Planned Parenthood, which hasn't been convicted of any wrongdoing, but which conservatives like Romney oppose because the group supports abortion and contraception.

In 2004 Sproul and Associates trained its staff to register only Republican voters and destroy any other registration cards. In 2006, one hundred and sixty-seven voters from Orange County, California, had their registrations switched from Democrat to Republican without their permission. Mark Anthony Jacoby, owner of a for-profit group called Young Political Majors (YPM), pled guilty to voter registration fraud in Los Angeles in 2009 for this crime.

There's a big difference between the Republican Party and ACORN. ACORN did not engage in voter suppression or any kind of fraud at all. Indeed, as Republican Congressman Chris Cannon observed, the difference between ACORN and Republicans is that "ACORN doesn't throw away or change registration documents after they have been filled out." As I document in my book Seeds of Change, ACORN self-reported suspicious materials to election officials, which unscrupulous Republicans used as evidence of ACORN's alleged fraud.

In fact, for four decades ACORN built the largest and most effective anti poverty organization in the country by reinventing the field of community organizing. In 2008 this antipoverty group, which had a long history of engaging young people, minorities and the poor to vote, registered over 600,000 voters in swing states.

Because Republicans suspected that most of the low-income people that ACORN registered would likely vote for Democrats, ACORN's efforts put the group in the crosshairs of the Republican Party's voter suppression machine.

Without any evidence, but with a well-organized media campaign orchestrated by Karl Rove and the national GOP, local republican officials around the country accused acorn of voter registration fraud.

The U.S. Congress defunded ACORN of its federal grants, without even bothering to hold a public hearing to investigate the charges provoking many of ACORN's supporters to withdraw their support, eventually leading to the group's demise in 2010.

In the process of destroying the anti-poverty group, the GOP created what O'Reilly called "the ACORN deal."

So now it's time to turn the tables. Not only should there be a federal investigation, but Democrats and progressives should also use the so-called "ACORN rule" to cut Federal funding to the Republican Party. Democratic officials and activists should begin pressuring their representatives, especially Democratic Party Congressional Committee Chairs to immediately hold hearings and begin investigating whether the Republican Party violated the GOP-inspired ACORN rule and if so the party should be sanctioned, perhaps cutting their congressional staff budget.