No doubt responding to criticism from the likes of Glenn Beck that they were missing out on a "huge" story, The New York Times published an article today on the series of videos targeting ACORN produced by conservative activist and filmmaker James O'Keefe and TownHall.com columnist Hannah Giles. Titled "Conservatives Draw Blood From Acorn, Favored Foe," the article manages to soft-peddle to an incredible extent the conservative movement's – and the conservative media's – ridiculous, over-the-top, absurd obsession with the group. The Times' Scott Shane writes:
For months during last year's presidential race, conservatives sought to tar the Obama campaign with accusations of voter fraud and other transgressions by the national community organizing group Acorn, which had done some work for the campaign.
It was Acorn's election activities that drew opponents' attention last year, including registration cards filled out by Acorn workers in the name of Mickey Mouse and other imaginary voters. Republicans highlighted the fact that the Obama campaign had paid more than $800,000 to an Acorn affiliate for get-out-the-vote efforts
As we noted at the time, the obsession with ACORN's voter registration activities was wide of the mark, with media figures almost always ignoring 1) that the statutes of most of those states require third parties registering prospective voters to submit all registration forms they receive; and 2) that actual instances of illegal votes being cast as a result of registration fraud are extremely rare. Indeed, Fox's Megyn Kelly actually mocked ACORN's accurate statement that Florida law required them to turn in all voter registration cards they received, even if they were filled out by "Mickey Mouse." And as Jamison noted, there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for why Florida has that law – while names may seem obviously fake to the likes of Kelly, that doesn't mean they are – just ask the 32 people named "Mickey Mouse" listed in the White Pages nationwide, including two in Florida.
But contrary to the Times' suggestion, it's a lot more than the group's "election activities" that have drawn "opponents' attention" – the group is one of the conservative noise machine's favorite bogeymen, and has been blamed for, well, pretty much everything that has ever happened, up to and including the financial crisis. They claimed ACORN stole the 2008 Senate election in Minnesota, and invented billions of dollars in funds supposedly earmarked for the group in the stimulus bill. These people even found a way to tie the group in to Obama's comments on the arrest of Henry Gates.
Then there's the conservative media's constant attempts to smear progressives with the ACORN brush. Obama was deemed unworthy to be president because he once represented the group in a lawsuit -- but the Department of Justice joined with ACORN as a plaintiff in the suit, which sought to force the State of Illinois to implement a federal voter registration law. The conservative media slammed David Hamilton, Obama's nominee for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because of his purported "ties" to ACORN – ties which reportedly consisted of "raising contributions door-to-door for the advocacy group ACORN for one month after college" in 1979. And, of course, there's Beck's attempts to smear AmeriCorps, AARP, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, PRLDEF, and SEIU by linking them to ACORN.
If the Times wants to declare Beck their new assignment editor and give this story oxygen, that's their right. But they should be aware – and make their readers aware – that the conservative fixation over ACORN is much deeper than a concern with the group's "election activities."