John Edwards Should Separate Self From ACORN’s Baggage On Columbus Minimum Wage Tour

Voter Fraud, Union Busting, Embezzlement and Federal Grant Violations Are Just The Tip of The Iceberg of ACORN’s Long, Sordid History
  • Publication Date: July 2005

  • Topics: Minimum Wage

Columbus, OH – The activist group to which former vice-presidential candidate John Edwards has attached his minimum wage crusade once sued the state of California to exempt itself from paying its own employees the minimum wage. This stunning hypocrisy is just the beginning of a lengthy history of duplicity, fraud and illegalities committed by Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)—all of which were detailed in a letter to Edwards today by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI).

“Earlier this year, you stated that the best anti-poverty program is ‘a job.’ We wholeheartedly agree. It is concerning that in your enthusiasm to address this critical issue, you have allowed yourself to become aligned with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). While ACORN claims to work for the benefit of low-income employees, its actions betray a troubling disregard for this very group,” wrote EPI Research Director Craig Garthwaite in the letter to John Edwards.

The Employment Policies Institute highlighted for Edwards the findings in its report, “The Real ACORN: Anti-Employee, Anti-Union, Big Business” including:

ACORN and Minimum Wage Hypocrisy – Most egregiously, ACORN promotes ballot initiatives and local ordinances to force businesses to pay higher minimum wages, as they are currently doing with Edwards in a number of cities. In 1995, however, ACORN actually sued the state of California to have its employees exempted from the state minimum wage. ACORN argued that being forced to pay higher wages would mean that they would hire fewer employees—the very dilemma faced by businesses. Incredibly, ACORN stated that paying its employees a lower wage would allow them to be more sympathetic to the low- and moderate-income families they were attempting to help. ACORN argued that abiding by the state minimum wage would limit their ability to promote their agenda and would therefore be a violation of their First Amendment rights. The trial court judge dismissed ACORN’s suits, stating, “leaving aside the latter argument’s absurdity … we find ACORN to be laboring under a fundamental misconception of constitutional law.”

ACORN Involved in Florida Voter Registration Fraud — In 2004, ACORN was at the center of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement statewide investigation into widespread fraudulent voter registrations tied to its ballot initiative campaign to raise the minimum wage. An ACORN whistleblower reports that ACORN illegally threw out Republican registrations while paying gatherers for Democratic ones. He also charged that ACORN targeted ex-cons and that he personally set up registration tables outside the Miami police department and Dade County jail and went on to state, “The voter registration project has been operating illegally since it started.”

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ACORN bilks AmeriCorps – In 1996, the Inspector General of the AmeriCorps program, Luise Jordan, stripped a $1 million grant from the ACORN Housing Corporation (AHC). When applying, AHC had denied any connections to ACORN, since the grant was not intended for political advocacy organizations. Evidence later uncovered by the Inspector General found that not only was AHC created by ACORN, engaged in numerous transactions with one another, and sharing staff and office space — but it utilized the AmeriCorps grant to increase ACORN membership, a violation of federal guidelines. AHC also utilized its government-funded loan counseling program to steer low-income families toward ACORN memberships. Jordan found that AHC had distributed leaflets stating that low income, first-time homebuyers were required to join ACORN, at an annual cost of $60, in order to receive the government-subsidized counseling.

ACORN Union-Busts Own Workers – On March 27, 2003 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that ACORN had violated the National Labor Relations Act and was required to rehire and pay restitution to employees terminated for attempting to form a union. The NLRB ruling is just the latest in a trend of ACORN’s union-busting tactics. ACORN employees have historically demanded higher wages, safer working conditions and more timely contracted wages. These efforts have been repressed behind closed doors by the hypocritical ACORN leadership, which publicly advocates higher pay and better working conditions for private sector workers.

“ACORN’s history of voter registration fraud, hypocrisy, abuse of federal grant programs, and disregard for sound economics should raise a red flag for John Edwards or anyone lending their name to this group,” Garthwaite said.